A Unique Source of Authoritative Information about
Administrative Enforcement by Federal Agencies

Immigration Enforcement

The regulation of immigration has been a subject of contentious national concern almost from the founding of the United States. It remains so today. The very first law on the subject — the U.S. Nationality Act of 1790 — provided citizenship to "free white persons" of "good moral character" after two years residence in the U.S. and one year in a specific state. George Washington signed the legislation into law shortly after he was inaugurated as the first president.

Eight years later, President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Supporters said these laws were designed to protect the U.S. from alien enemies — often Irish and French political activists — and to prevent seditious acts from undermining the government. Thomas Jefferson attacked Adams for signing the legislature and the acts became a core political issue.

For the first half of the 19th Century, most of the immigrants came from Northern Europe. But beginning early in the 20th Century an increasing proportion of the newcomers came from the nations of southern and eastern Europe. As a result of a range of nativist concerns Congress approved a series of different restrictive programs. Meanwhile, on the west coast of United States, the rapid growth in immigrants from China eventually led to the clearly labeled "Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882."

Beginning in the mid-1960s, the number of immigrants from Latin America began to surge and Congress passed a series of new laws. (As was the case with the Chinese in the late 19th Century, a number of states weighed in and passed their own laws.) This debate continues today.

The menu on the left provides access to information about both current and historical regulation efforts through federal criminal and administrative enforcement mechanisms.

Copyright 2011 TRAC Reports, Inc.