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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora