The History of the United States’ Laws and Acts on Immigration

On September 17, 1787, the United States’ Constitution was adopted. Article I, section 8, clause 4 of the Constitution expressly gives the United States’ Congress the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization. Naturalization is the legal action or procedure by which a non-citizen within a country may possibly receive citizenship or nationality of that country. According to the United States’ Department of Homeland Security, before the 18th and 19th century, Americans were comparatively receptive to immigration and rarely questioned it up until after the Civil war as soon as the Supreme Court in 1875 declared regulation of immigration a federal obligation. Subsequently, the Naturalization Act of 1790, 1795, 1798, the Naturalization Law of 1802, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Chinese Exclusion Act, along with the Geary act which came into order because of America’s decision to take on the new responsibility of immigration to its land. Interestingly enough, a number of the acts’ and laws’ individual purposes were to broaden or restrict the regulations of the previously established ones often due to religious freedoms, economic conditions, and an extravagant quantity of immigrants arriving on the United States’ soil. Without a doubt, if America would not have chosen to take on the responsibility of controlling the immigration of the land and had taken the time to set rules and requirements for the process of naturalization, the country would most certainly not be as virtuous as it is today. In 1790, the Naturalization Act of 1790, often referred to as the Nationality Exclusion Act, was the first statute in the United States to put into effect a naturalization law which provided the first rules to be followed in the granting of national citizenship. Informingly, this Act limited citizenship to “any alien, being a free white person of good character” who had been in the U.S. for two years with an oath to support the Constitution. Sadly, this excluded many people such as slaves, servants, most women, free blacks, American Indians, and eventually Asians. Surprisingly, it stated nothing regarding the citizenship status of non-white persons born on American soil and was generous enough to grant citizenship to all children of citizens, but denied the right to grant naturalization towards “persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States” which meant that a majority of the immigrants had no political voice.

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