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US Immigration

U.S. Immigration Timeline

Year Immigration policies/events
1849 Chinese begin to arrive for the Gold Rush
1850 Chinese population approx. 4,000; total pop. 23.2 mil.
1852 Of 11,794 Chinese living in CA, only 7 were women; Chinese immigration increased to 20,000, most going to mining regions
1852 Reenactment of Foreign Miners' Tax Law
1854 People v. Hall, CA Supreme Court rules that a white man charged with a murder cannot be convicted on the testimony of a Chinese witness
1865 Central Pacific Railroad hires Chinese workers to build transcontinental railroad
1867 Qing government hires Anson Burlingame to advocate for trade relations with the United States and for better treatment of emigrating Chinese laborers
1868 Full ambassador in the United States representing China; Burlingame Treaty signed b/w U.S. & China to recognize right to migrate to one another's country
  14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ratified: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
1870 Naturalization law allows only whites and "persons of African descent" to become citizens
1872 - 1875 As part of modernization effort, groups of Chinese boys sent to Hartford, Connecticut as part of an official Qing educational mission; U.S. blocks them from entering Annapolis and West Point, so all students returned to China in 1881
1873 Qing consulate set up in Singapore to regulate the estimated 500,000 Chinese emigrant settlers
1873 The Zongli Yamen office commissions report on status of Chinese workers in Peru and Cuba; reforms conditions and practices of shipping procedures in Macao and Hong Kong
1882 U.S. President Chester Arthur signs the Chinese Exclusion Act, thus voiding 1868 Burlingame Treaty; Exclusion Act bans all labor immigration from China, only allows merchants, diplomats, students and scholars, tourists, and children of existing American citizens. Several months later, the first general immigration law is passed, requiring immigrants to pay a head tax of $.50 and "any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself of herself without becoming a public charge" was barred from entry.
1891 Congressional legislation creates first office to oversee immigration at federal level
1892 Ellis Island Immigration Station opens
1892 Geary Act renews 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, stating that "any Chinese person or person of Chinese descent" is deemed to be in the country illegally unless demonstrated otherwise
1898 Spanish-American War; US acquired the Philippine Islands
  Philippino-American War; Filipinos become subjects of the US
1902 Chinese Exclusion Act ratified as a permanent ban
1907 Gentlemen's Agreement with Japan regulates and restricts Japanese immigration; Meiji and U.S. governments agree to allow only approved Japanese subjects, including merchants, skilled laborers and picture brides, and excluding all unskilled laborers
1910-1940 Angel Island Immigration Station in operation
1917 New Immigration Act requires all immigrants over 16 years of age to be literate in their own language, or be directly related to a literate male entering or already living in the country. The Act also defines a new "Asiatic Barred Zone," using degrees of latitude and longitude which excludes immigrants from South and Southeast Asia, while admitting Russians and Persians. Anti-radical provisions made more stringent.
1921 Emergency Immigration Act restricts new arrivals to 3% of existing foreign-born from any one nationality in 1910 Census
1922 Cable Act, or Married Woman's Act; stated that any female US Citizen who married an alien ineligible for citizenship would then lose her own citizenship
1924 Reed-Johnson Immigration act restricts new arrivals to 2% of existing foreign-born based on 1890 Census and bars all others who are ineligible to achieve citizenship under existing laws from entering altogether; 87% of permits go to immigrants from Britain, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia.
1930 Congress passes an act providing for the admission of women who were married to US citizens before 1924
1934 Tydings-McDuffie Act provides for Philippine independence, thus changing the status of Filipinos from American citizens to aliens
1935 Public Law 162 grants citizenship to several hundred Asian military veterans who served during WWI
1942 Japanese Americans are rounded up and detained in camps throughout the desert Western United States
1943 The Magnusan Act repeals the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act; Chinese in the country have right to become citizens; annual quota of 105 immigrants set for China.
1965 Immigration and Nationality Act ends national-origins system; allows immigration on basis of family reunification and need for skilled workers. New quota system allowed for open immigration on first-come-first-serve basis with annually 120,000 slots reserved for natives of the Western Hemisphere and 170,000 for natives of the Eastern Hemisphere.
1986 Immigration Control and Reform Act offers illegal immigrants meeting residency conditions temporary asylum and the chance to become legal
1990 Immigration Reform Act lifts annual cap to 700,000, provides temporary asylum to illegal immigrants from Central America fleeing disaster
1992 Chinese Student Protection Act
1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act increases provisions for law enforcement, places restrictions on federal aid to illegal immigrants, increased penalties for violations
2003 Immigration and Naturalization Service is folded into the Department of Homeland Security, with responsibilities split amongst 3 divisions -- Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services

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