2 percent, only 2 percent of the US population is native American, meaning the other 98 percent is not and immigrated to this country. These are not recent immigrants, or their parents, or their parent’s parents, but down their family line there was once an immigrant who came to the US, and that holds true for 98 percent of Americans (US Census Bureau). No matter what the reason, no matter at what time, a huge majority of families in America were once immigrants. How has the land of the free’s immigration policy evolved over time and transformed to accept and deny immigrants? So why do we exclude certain groups of people and let in certain groups; whether it is based on their race, political ideology or religion? I am going to be taking a look at the numerous acts that have excluded many immigrants but also look at those acts that have helped bring in many immigrants.
Here is a picture of Ellis Island and new immigrants coming into the country to settle, the majority from Europe (“Newly Released Photographs of Ellis Island Immigrants in Early 20th Century”).
I’m really interested in how systemic discrimination against certain immigrant groups began because I find it ironic that it contradicts what we stand for and what we are known for as the land of immigrants. With everyone in America once originating from another country (besides native Americans). However, we feel that we should discriminate against certain groups of races, religions, and even people with different political beliefs for national security reasons even though only small portions of these communities, are proven to be an actual threat.
Political cartoon from the late 19th century mocking the act by having a poster that says, different types of groups that could have been perceived as much worse, were allowed into the US, but not the Chinese (Wade).
In 1882, The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, it banned all Chinese from entering and naturalizing in the US. It was the first act that banned people based on race (US History 10). A few decades later in 1903, the US passed the Anarchist Exclusion Act, due to the increasing violence caused by anarchists. It banned anarchist from entering the US and was the first Act that banned people based on political ideology(Cohn). In 1921 the quota system was put into place where only 3 percent of the total population of any ethnic group already in the US, based on the 1910 census could be admitted in 1921. This heavily favored western European countries, who had a huge number of former citizens already living in the country(Alchin “Warren Harding”). By 1924, the quota system was lowered now to 2 percent, and based on the 1890 census. It also included Japan into the Asiatic Barred zone, essentially excluding all of Asia from the US, besides the Philippines, a US colony at the time(U.S. Department of State). In 1952, the McCarran-Walter Act was passed, it ended Asian exclusion from the US and gave preference to immigrants based on skill set and family reunification. However, Asians were let in based on quotas, so around maybe a hundred a year were let in( U.S. Department of State, history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/immigration-act).By 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, finally repealed the quota system and allowed for mass immigration from Asian, and the Eastern Hemisphere. It also emphasized, even more, the huge priority given to relatives of US citizens, children, wives, parents, etc… Also set visa caps on both Hemispheres, the first time for the Western Hemisphere. It helped make it fairer for all people trying to emigrate (Chisti). Later down the line with the Refugee Act of 1980, the government set up a system to not only let in more immigrants but also have an emergency protocol where more refugees can be brought in. Also, each year Congress and the President are required to consult with each other about the current situation of immigration (“Refugee Act of 1980).
Shows the highs and lows of immigrant flow to the US and how the groups of immigrants who come to the US have changed over the years (“200 Years of US Immigration Data Put Trump’s Ban into Context).
The justification for the travel ban was that countries, like these ones stated below, are threats to American lives, but they really aren’t (foothilldragonpress.org/cartoon-of-the-week-29/).
Modern Day Problem:
Today our government fears threats from countries that they think have terrorists, and extremists, they also wish to stop the influx of undocumented immigrants. Recently the third iteration of President Trump’s travel ban was expected to go into effect. Aka as Proclamation of 9645, “which restricts the entry of nationals of Chad, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, North Korea, and Venezuela, for the protection of US citizens” ( “Presidential Proclamation Fully Implemented Today”). Some are angered that 6 of the 8 countries on the banned list are of the Muslim majority. They believe that the government is assuming that a majority of the people in their country, who are Muslim, are extremists or threats to national security (Liptak). President Trump says he also wants to build a wall spanning the whole US-Mexico border, to keep out illegal immigrants. He said it will cost around 10 billion, but others estimate it would cost north of 25 billion dollars. And while he originally said that it would be funded by Mexico, it doesn’t seem so. Now he says the initial payments will be through taxpayers money, and after that, he will raise tariffs to help pay for it. People are also angry that taxpayer money will go to fund this wall, which could prove to not even be effective (“Donald Trump’s Mexico Wall: Who Is Going to Pay for It?”).
I think a solution for those who want to emigrate here, such as refugees and immigrants from various countries, is to make a city/state, kind of like a reservation. However with the intention of integrating into US society, like the original intentions of Native American reservations. I think maybe keeping them in a controlled environment, like a refugee shelter or a reservation for a few months would be good. We could conduct background checks, teach them basic English and knowledge about the country. Also, some basic training to acquire skills to get a job if they don’t have any skills when they arrive, and other things like that could be really good. It’s like the refugee shelters out in other countries, but once they are fully done with the process they could go on and start their life in society. Ikea recently made housing for refugee camps that could house 5, and had electricity, and was very durable, and only cost around 1000 dollars. With this Ikea homes, more people could live more comfortably while being in this sort of town. And with an affordable cost of 1000 dollars, it makes it a possibility to actually happen (Atherton).
I think with the extra vetting done to get in, to a shelter/reservation like that, and more done to teach them, and additional vetting throughout the process, not only can we assure safety, but also the integration of those who want to come here, while also upholding our core ideals.
The step by step process of setting up the affordable housing alternatives to tents made by IKEA (Atherton).
Call to Action:
To assure your voice is being heard, make sure that your representatives and senators are advocating the ideas and messages you believe is right. And if they are not, then register to vote, if you are old enough, to vote them out. If you are not old enough, call and talk to your local leaders, go out spread the message, and do what you can to get across your ideas to ensure you live in the future you desire.
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– Alchin, Linda. “Linda Alchin.” For Kids ***, Siteseen Limited, 1 Jan. 2018,
-Alchin, Linda. “Warren Harding.” US History for Kids ***, Siteseen Limited, 9 Jan. 2018,
-Atherton, Kelsey D. “A $1,000 Ikea House For Refugees.” Popular Science, 19 Sept. 2013, www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-09/thousand-dollar-ikea-house-refugees-big-pic.
-Chishti, Muzaffar, et al. “Fifty Years On, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act Continues
To Reshape the United States.” Migrationpolicy.org, 2 Mar. 2017, www.migrationpolicy.org/article/fifty-years-1965-immigration-and-nationality-act-continues-reshape-united-states.
– Cohn, D’Vera. “How U.S. Immigration Laws and Rules Have Changed through History.”
Pew Research Center, 30 Sept. 2015, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/09/30/how-u-s-immigration-laws-and-rules-have-changed-through-history/.
-“Donald Trump’s Mexico Wall: Who Is Going to Pay for It?” BBC News, BBC, 6 Feb.
-“Presidential Proclamation Fully Implemented Today.” U.S. Department of State, U.S.
Department of State, 8 Dec. 2017, www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/12/276376.htm.
-“Newly Released Photographs of Ellis Island Immigrants in Early 20th Century.” Untapped
Cities, 10 May 2016, untappedcities.com/2015/11/03/newly-released-photographs-of-
-“Refugee Act of 1980.” National Archives Foundation,
-“200 Years of US Immigration Data Put Trump’s Ban into Context.” STAT, 12 Feb. 2018,
–U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, history.state.gov/milestones/1921-
-U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State,
-US Census Bureau. “Newsroom.” FFF: American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month:
November 2015, 2 Nov. 2015,
-Wade, Lisa. “Cartooning the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act – Sociological Images.” Sociological
Images Cartooning the US Chinese Exclusion Act Comments,