Home / Articles / Article / Immigration policy dynamics of the US

Immigration policy dynamics of the US

Policy, Diaspora, and immigration:
The United States addressed the issue of migration with different policies in different time space. According to the Naturalization Act of (1790) prohibited naturalization of non-white subjects. But the case with the Irish Diaspora was different. Apparently they were white, but their whiteness was questionable at the mainstream social order in the United States. The first anti-immigration feeling surfaced publicly in the US as the Anti-Irish sentiment or Hibernophobia.  It was targeted to the Irish people who escaped into the US for their survival following the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1852).  But, their integration remained difficult. In the work places, a discriminating signboard of No Irish Need Apply (NINA) was a common during that time. Who discriminates whom was debatable, for some scholars it was the mainstream US communities who discriminated the Irish, for many others it was the British.  Jensen (2002) argues that the Irish in America were victimized not by the others but by their own people, the British, who had a prejudice against them in their homeland.
Another important immigration act was the  Page Law of 1875. It is also known as the Asian Exclusion Law. It was the first restrictive federal immigration law of the United States. It not only prohibited entering of anyone from China, Japan or any Asian countries for immoral purposes but also criminalized the transporter of the United States.  The idea was to prevent forced laborers and prostitution from the Asian countries. However, scholars do not agree with the pretext of the Act, they argue that the Page Law was crafted to “restrict Chinese immigration while maintaining a veneer of inclusiveness” (Abrams 2005, p641). This Law is also considered as the precursor of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
For the first time in the American history, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banded a specific ethnic group, Chinese in this case, to enter into the United States. Initially it was intended for ten years, but later, according to Geary Act 1892, extended the restriction. A shortage of labor in the region that includes USA, Canada and Mexico, could not stop the Chinese, rather  gave rise to the first great  wave of commercial human smuggling, initially it was the Chinese, but later other ethnic groups were also included in the massive human trafficking (Zhang, 2007). This Act was repealed in 1943 and granted a token quota to the Chinese.
The First World War (1914-1918) brought another immigration policy in the US. It was the 1917 Immigration Act (the Asiatic Barred Zone Act). The act describes as people from any country not owned by the U.S. adjacent to the continent of Asia were barred. Additionally, this act restricted entry to individuals considered to be idiots, imbeciles, epileptics, alcoholics, poor, criminals, beggars, insane, diseased and disabled, polygamists, prostitutes, and anarchists, among others. The prospective immigrant has to pass the literacy test and medical examination. In the same way, after the First World War, the 1921 Emergency Quota Law was imposed to limit numerically the quota of the immigrants allowed to enter the country. This Law set two criterions in the US Immigration policy: numerical limitation and quota system based on the rule of proportionality.
To supplement the Quota Law after the World War I, the Immigration Act of 1924 (the Johnson-Reed Act) came into effect. It set quotas that limited annual immigration from particular countries. The quota was fixed according the number of people in the USA from that country as per the census. The idea behind Act was to maintain the ideal of American homogeneity. This period observed the immigration policy as to intensify the national border patrol and identify illegal aliens and deport them to their country of origin. However, it could not deny entry to the documented workers of the Western hemisphere. Likewise, it gave way in to the Jew fleeing the Holocaust or the Cubans fleeing the Cuban revolution of 1959. When the US entered into the Second World War, American youngsters were in war with Germany in the foreign soil. The US shifted its policy by adopting the Bracero program (1942-1964) to fill the labor market vacuum by the Mexican labors under strict conditions.  The Quota Law remained active with minor alternation until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as the Hart–Celler Act.
Meanwhile, after the Second World War, the United States seemed liberal in her immigration policy. The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 (the McCarran-Walter Act) ended the Asian Exclusion Act, but at the same time imposed other parameters as the preconditions to be eligible to get the US visa. Some of those conditions were objectively measurable like disease but many other conditions were abstract and not measurable objectively like ideology, morality willingness, et cetera. This policy aimed to block communism from Asia and Europe and at the same time empower the federal agencies in the visa matters. For example, the Operation Wetback of 1954 was meant to stop illegal border-crossing of the Mexican through security measures.
Another notable reform in the US immigration policy is the Refugee Act of 1980 to enable the Southeast Asian nationals to enter into the US after Vietnam War. Likewise, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, also known as the Simpson–Mazzoli Act, offered the illegal aliens to apply for the Green Card if they meet certain conditions. Millions of the undocumented workers were benefitted by this policy shift during the President Ronal Regan’s administration. However, a counter opinion is that this policy shift did not favor the illegal immigrants from the southern borders. But these newly accepted Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) of the US were not excited to apply for naturalization at the beginning but scenario changed when President Bill Clinton’s administration passed three laws namely the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), LPRs applying for naturalization skyrocketed for the opportunities available for the US citizen only (according to Zong&Balatova, 2016).
The Immigration Act (1990) is one of the prime step that enabled Nepalese to enter the US. Under the Diversity Visa Lottery (DV) program, many Nepalese with their families have migrated to the US as permanent resident. In the same way, the H-1B visa program has also brought many Nepalese to the US to work. Recently, after the earthquake of 2015 April in Nepal, the US government provided the temporary protected status (TPS) to the Nepalese making many Nepalese to work legally in the US. Like H-1B, similar types of temporary work visa are also issued annually like H-2B and H-2A intended to fill the labor shortage in non-agriculture and agriculture industries in the US.  USCIS has several immigration relief measures that may be available to Nepali nationals who are affected by the earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015. Measures that may be available to eligible Nepali nationals upon request include as following:
Relief measures under TPS for the Nepalese
Change or extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the United States, even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired;
A grant of re-parole;
Expedited processing of advance parole requests;
Expedited adjudication and approval, where possible, of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate;
Consideration for waivers of fees associated with USCIS benefit applications, based on an inability to pay; and
Assistance replacing lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as Permanent Resident Cards (green cards).

Check Also


Nepal’s peace and constitutional reform an inspiration for other countries

BY LASSE BJØRN JOHANNESSEN Today, all over Norway, we are celebrating the Norwegian constitution day. …