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History of Immigration

The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (1990-1997): “Jordan Commission”

As the Congress begins a serious discussion on immigration reform, it would be a mistake to ignore the lessons of the past.  In that vein, many members of Congress are invoking the The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, informally known as the Jordan Commission, for its chair, Barbara Jordan, a former Democratic Congresswoman from Texas.  Issued in 1990’s, the Commission’s recommendations reflect the thinking of the time, but do not necessarily provide guidance for resolving today’s immigration crisis.  This fact sheet provides a brief overview on the Commission and the necessity of tempering its recommendations with the knowledge we have gained in the past quarter of a century since its recommendations were released.Read more...

Published On: Tue, Feb 05, 2013 | Download File

Opportunity and Exclusion: A Brief History of U.S. Immigration Policy

(Updated January 2012) The United States and the colonial society that preceded it were created by successive waves of immigration from all corners of the globe. But public and political attitudes towards immigrants have always been ambivalent and contradictory, and sometimes hostile. The early immigrants to colonial America—from England, France, Germany, and other countries in northwestern Europe—came in search of economic opportunity and political freedom, yet they often relied upon the labor of African slaves working land taken from Native Americans. The descendants of these first European immigrants were sometimes viewed as “racially” and religiously suspect the European immigrants who came to the United States in the late 1800s from Italy, Poland, Russia, and elsewhere in southeastern Europe. The descendants of these immigrants, in turn, have often taken a dim view of the growing numbers of Latin American, Asian, and African immigrants who began to arrive in the second half of the 20th century.

Published On: Fri, Jan 13, 2012 | Download File

Constitutional Citizenship: A Legislative History

By Garrett Epps

Attacks against the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment have picked up in recent months, with legislators at both the national and state levels introducing bills that would deny U.S. citizenship or “state citizenship” to the children born to unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.

There are two strands of attacks on birthright citizenship.  One strand arises out of simple nativist anger at the impact of immigrants, legal or otherwise, on society.  The other argues that the current interpretation of the Citizenship Clause as covering the children of “illegal” immigrants is inconsistent with the “original intent” of the Framers of the 14th Amendment.  Originalism is often used as a method to clarify unclear portions of constitutional text or to fill contextual gaps in the document. This is not, however, how originalism is being used in the context to the Citizenship Clause.  Here, originalists use clever arguments and partial quotations to eradicate the actual text of the Amendment.  In essence, they claim the Framers did not really mean what they said. Read more...

Published On: Mon, Mar 28, 2011 | Download File

The Unwanted: Immigration and Nativism in America

By Peter Schrag

It’s hardly news that the complaints of our latter-day nativists and immigration restrictionists—from Sam Huntington to Rush Limbaugh, from FAIR to V-DARE—resonate with the nativist arguments of some three centuries of American history.  Often, as most of us should know, the immigrants who were demeaned by one generation were the parents and grandparents of the successes of the next generation.  Perhaps, not paradoxically, many of them, or their children and grandchildren, later joined those who attacked and disparaged the next arrivals, or would-be arrivals, with the same vehemence that had been leveled against them or their forebears.

Similarly, the sweeps and detentions of immigrants during the early decades of the last century were not terribly different from the heavy-handed federal, state, and local raids of recent years to round up, deport, and occasionally imprison illegal immigrants, and sometimes legal residents and U.S. citizens along with them.  But it’s also well to remember that nativism, xenophobia, and racism are hardly uniquely American phenomena.  What makes them significant in America is that they run counter to the nation’s founding ideals.  At least since the enshrinement of Enlightenment ideas of equality and inclusiveness in the founding documents of the new nation, to be a nativist in this country was to be in conflict with its fundamental tenets.Read more...

Published On: Mon, Sep 13, 2010 | Download File

The Lasting Impact of Mendez v. Westminster in the Struggle for Desegregation

By Maria Blanco

Years before the U.S. Supreme Court ended racial segregation in U.S. schools with Brown v. Board of Education, a federal circuit court in California ruled that segregation of school children was unconstitutional—except this case involved the segregation of Mexican American school children.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reached this historic decision in the case of Mendez v. Westminster in 1947—seven years before Brown.  Historic in its own right, Mendez was critical to the strategic choices and legal analysis used in arguing Brown and in shaping the ideas of a young NAACP attorney, Thurgood Marshall.   Moreover, the Mendez case—which originated with LULAC but benefited from the participation of the NAACP—also symbolized the important crossover between different ethnic and racial groups who came together to argue in favor of desegregation.

From a legal perspective, Mendez v. Westminster was the first case to hold that school segregation itself is unconstitutional and violates the 14th Amendment.   Prior to the Mendez decision, some courts, in cases mainly filed by the NAACP, held that segregated schools attended by African American children violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because they were inferior in resources and quality, not because they were segregated. Read more...

Published On: Thu, Mar 25, 2010 | Download File

Essential to the Fight: Immigrants in the Military Eight Years After 9/11

By Margaret D. Stock, Esq.

From the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, immigrants have made significant contributions to the United States by serving in our military forces. Today, immigrants voluntarily serve in all branches of the U.S. military and are a vital asset to the Department of Defense. To recognize their unique contribution, immigrants serving honorably in the military who are not yet U.S. citizens are granted significant advantages in the naturalization process. Over the past eight years, Congress has amended military-related enlistment and naturalization rules to allow expanded benefits for immigrants and their families and encourage recruitment of immigrants into the U.S. Armed Forces. Without the contributions of immigrants, the military could not meet its recruiting goals and could not fill its need for foreign-language translators, interpreters, and cultural experts. This latest Special Report reflects on the vital role immigrants have and continue to play in keeping our nation safe.

Published On: Mon, Nov 09, 2009 | Download File

De-Romanticizing Our Immigrant Past: Why Claiming "My Family Came Legally" Is Often a Myth

Many people assume that their family immigrated to the U.S. legally, or did it “the right way.”  In most cases, this statement does not reflect the fact that the U.S. immigration system was very different when their families arrived, and that their families might not have been allowed to enter had today’s laws been in effect.  In some cases, claiming that a family came “legally” is simply inaccurate—undocumented immigration has been a reality for generations.

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Published On: Tue, Nov 25, 2008 | Download File

Why Don't They Come Legally

Answers the question, "why don't undocumented immigrants simply come legally?" and provides basic information on how the U.S. legal immigration system works.

Published On: Thu, Feb 28, 2008 | Download File

Immigration: Long Term Trends and America's Future Arrival Rates, Integration Patterns, and Impact on an Aging Society

Immigration has begun to level off and immigrants are climbing the socio-economic ladder and becoming increasingly important to the U.S. economy as workers, taxpayers, and homebuyers supporting the aging Baby Boom generation.

Published On: Tue, Feb 26, 2008 | Download File

Famous Naturalized U.S. Citizens

A list of famous people who have chosen to become U.S. citizens.

Published On: Sat, Jun 30, 2007 | Download File