News / archive

    Timeline of US Immigration Policy

    This is a 1924 photo of the immigration registry room at Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
    This is a 1924 photo of the immigration registry room at Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
    1790 Naturalization Act is adopted, stipulating that immigrants can apply for citizenship if they are a free white person of good moral character and have lived in the U.S. for at least two years.
     
    1882 Immigration Act is passed, imposing a 50 cent tax on every immigrant and banning the entry of "any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.”
     
    1891 Office of Immigration is established under the U.S. Treasury Department.
     
    1892 Ellis Island, in New York Harbor, becomes the first federal immigration station. Between 1892 and 1954, more than 12 million immigrants entered the U.S. through Ellis Island.
     
    1903 -1917 New restrictions on immigration are imposed. People with physical or mental defects, beggars, imbeciles, illiterate adults, unaccompanied minors and most Asians are excluded.
     
    1921 Quota Act caps annual entries at 350,000 immigrants.
     
    1924 U.S. Border Patrol is established in part to stop a smuggling business that grew out of Prohibition, which outlawed the manufacturing and transport of alcoholic beverages.
     
    1929 National Origins Act bars Asian immigrants and reduces the annual immigration limit to 150,000 as the U.S. struggles with the Great Depression. The act stipulates 70 percent of admissions should come from northern and western Europe, while the rest should come from southern and eastern Europe. 
     
    1942 Bracero Program, instituted by the U.S. and Mexico, establishes a guest-worker treaty for Mexican farm workers in the U.S. 
     
    1948 Displaced Persons Act adopted during World War Two, allowing entry of 400,000 people displaced by the war. 
     
    1954 Operation Wetback, a drive to deport undocumented immigrants primarily from Mexico, is launched.
     
    1964 Bracero Program ends after sponsoring  more than four million Mexicans to work U.S. fields. 
     
    1965 Immigration and Nationality Act ends the nationality quotas but caps the number of immigrants welcomed from the eastern and western hemispheres.
     
    1980 Refugee Act creates a system to process refugees separately from other immigrants. The immigration ceiling is separately capped at 270,000 people.
     
    1986 U.S. President Ronald Reagan passes the controversial Immigration Reform and Control Act, giving undocumented immigrants a chance to gain legal status. Nearly three million are granted amnesty. The act also intensified efforts to crackdown on U.S. employers hiring undocumented workers and increased the annual limit on immigration to 540,000 people.
     
    1990 National Immigration Act creates the “diversity” lottery system to encourage immigration from underrepresented countries, and increases the annual immigration ceiling to 700,000.
     
    1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act boosts border enforcement and calls for construction of fences along heavily trafficked areas of the U.S.-Mexico border. Social programs for legal immigrants are reduced and virtually eliminated for undocumented immigrants. Congress mandates jail time for some immigrants accused of committing crimes.
     
    2001 September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks prompts new concern about “homeland” security and prompts heightened scrutiny of incoming travelers at airports, borders and ports. 
     
    2001 U.S. Supreme Court prohibits immigration authorities from detaining deportees indefinitely in the case Zadvydas v. Davis. This ruling is referenced frequently in cases involving foreign-nationals jailed after the September 11 attacks.
     
    2003 Department of Homeland Security is created in response to the terrorist attacks, taking over U.S. customs and immigration agencies. Immigration and Naturalization Services turns into Immigration and Customs Enforcement, joining Customs and Border Protection, Citizenship and Immigration Services and nearly 20 other agencies under the newly formed DHS. 
     
    2004 A controversial group called the “Minuteman Project” sets up in Arizona, deploying regular citizens not employed by the law enforcement agencies to track down undocumented immigrants. 
     
    2006 The Secure Fence Act authorizes the construction of 1,127 kilometers of double-layered fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. 
     
    2007 Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act fails to pass the U.S. Congress. Major immigration rallies take place across the country.
     
    2012 President Barack Obama passes an executive order allowing hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country without the threat of deportation. The order also allows the so-called “Dreamers” under 30 years old to work.
     
    2013 U.S. Congress debates the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which would boost border security and give an opportunity for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to gain legal status.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora