The (First) Thirty Years War For Immigration Reform - Timeline
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Great graph on U.S. immigration ebb and flow  1790-2000

1607-1875 Immigration responsibility of states, which repeatedly legislate against paupers, criminals etc.


1875 U.S. Supreme Court rules immigration federal, not state, responsibility.

1880 Treaty with China gives US right to restrict, but not exclude Chinese immigration.

1881 President Chester Alan Arthur sends message to Congress stating immigration problem and requesting legislation.

1882 First Immigration Law passed. Chinese immigration effectively excluded – i.e. before the 1880-1925 "Great Wave" from Southern, Eastern Europe.

1885 Legislation restricts importation of contract labor. Reflects labor unions' historic concerns.

1889 Standing Committee on Immigration and Naturalization established in House of Representatives.

1889 In  Chae Chan Ping v. United States, the Supreme Court explains that there is no constitutional right to immigrate.

1890 Committee determines that no radical change in legislation is necessary but current laws should be better enforced. But elected officials in 23 states demand better regulation of immigration.

1891  Act of 1891 federalizes immigration, especially that by sea. Office of Superintendent of Immigration established.

1892 Steerage passengers from Hamburg bring cholera epidemic to New York. Quarantine imposed.

1892 Immigration station opens at Ellis Island in New York . Of the 37 million who entered between 1880 and 1920, 20 million will enter through Ellis Island.

1893 Cholera epidemic in New York brought by steerage passengers.

1894  Immigration Restriction League formed in Boston by Robert DeCourcey Ward.Century Magazine

1895 Thomas Bailey Aldrich writes  The Unguarded Gates. Explicit opposition to Lazarus poem.

1896 Henry Cabot Lodge , a supporter of the Immigration Restriction League, sponsors a bill that would require immigrants to read 40 words in any language. Grover Cleveland vetoes it.

1897 Grover Cleveland vetoes Immigration Act due to literacy test.

1901 McKinley shot by anarchist Leon Czogolsz.

1903 Years after the erection of the Statue of Liberty,  New York philanthropist Georgina Schuyler, a friend of Emma Lazarus , has Lazarus' sentimental poem, The New Colossus, engraved on a bronze plaque and placed inside pedestal on Bedloe's  Island.

1903 Congress bans anarchists from entering.

1903 Immigration transferred to newly created Department of Commerce and Labor. 

1905 A commission on Naturalization procedure reports little or no uniformity among the nation's 5,000 naturalization courts.

1906 Basic Naturalization Act sets nation-wide rules.

1907 Senator William P. Dillingham' commission starts hearing testimony immigration.

1907 Immigration act toughened. Attempt to reduce flow by barring undesirables.

1908 Zangwill's The Melting Pot opens on Broadway.

1908 "Gentleman's Agreement " with the Empire of Japan. Immigration from Japan stopped.

1910,  Henry Cabot Lodge says in a speech : I shall not attempt to argue the question with you, but will merely point out the number of persons who would have been excluded since 1886 if the illiterates over fourteen years of age had been thrown out. During that period the number of illiterates who, by their own admission, could neither read nor writer in any language, numbered 1,829,320.

1911 Dillingham commission  report fills 42 volumes. Many of its recommendations will be adopted in 1917, 1921, and 1924.

1913 President Taft vetoes immigration bill with literacy test attached.

1913 Woodrow Wilson elected. US population will grow  by 15 percent during his eight years in office with  6 million post-1910 immigrants.

1915 Woodrow Wilson vetoes literacy test for immigrants.

1917, Congress finally passes Immigration Act with a literacy test and  "Asian Barred Zone."  Wilson vetoes it again, but Congress passes it anyway. Immigration Restriction League has a victory dinner.

1920 January. Palmer Raids. Foreign radicals deported

1921 William Walter Husband, secretary of the Dillingham commission, appointed Commissioner General of Immigration.

1921 Johnson Act (vetoed by Wilson,  then signed by Harding) introduces a quota system.

1920 September. 500 pound dynamite bomb exploded in front of 23 Wall Street. Wall Street support for immigration takes sudden drop.

1924 Johnson-Reed  act signed by Coolidge. National Origins and Quota system in place. Great Pause begins. The Immigration Restriction League.

Immigration Restriction League disbands.
Immigration Reformers let their guard down.

November 17, 2001

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