Notes on Immigration and Citizenship

A history of immigration policy

Article I section 8: "The Congress shall have Power...To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization"

Federal law on naturalization and immigration

19th Century general Naturalization Acts of

  • 1790: free white person of good character, residing in U.S. at least 2 years; automatically extended to all their children
  • 1795: time period lengthened to 5 yrs, and at least 3 yrs after making a formal declaration of intention
  • 1798: lengthened to 14 yrs, and 5 years after declaration
  • 1802: returned waiting periods to 5 yrs & 3yrs; directed federal court clerks to record entry of aliens

Modifications later in 1800s included

  • 1855 act granted citizenship to women, otherwise qualified, upon marriage to a citizen; and to children whose fathers are U.S. citizens
  • 14th Amendment Citizenship Clause?
    • Pulliam article: universal birthright citizenship is a later gloss; can be reversed by statute (and some claim, by executive order)
    • The opposing viewpoint is well outlined in this Atlantic piece by Garrett Epps (not assigned; also in shared folder).
  • Immigration Act of 1870: "persons of African descent" can be naturalized; revoked citizenship of some naturalized Chinese; prohibited immigration of Chinese women
  • Chinese Exclusion Act 1882 prohibited immigration of Chinese laborers

Major 20th-century acts

  • Immigration Act 1924
  • Immigration and Nationality (McCarran-Walter) Act 1952 ends Asian exclusion; bans “subversives”
  • Immigration and Nationality Act 1965
  • Simpson-Mazzoli Act 1986 “amnesty”
  • Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act 1996: prohibited noncitizen voting in federal elections

State law: who can immigrate; who can vote

  • Early republic: citizenship was not a criterion for voting in 18 states at some time
  • In late 19th c more than 20 states at some point enfranchised foreign-born who declared intention to become U.S citizens
  • Last to allow noncitizen voting in state elections: Arkansas up to 1926
  • Currently a few jurisdictions permit non-citizen voting in certain local elections.

21st century immigration policies and politics

  • multiple failures of DREAM Act ("Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors") & other reforms
  • Obama executive actions on DACA ("Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals," 2012) and DAPA ("...for Parents of Americans," 2014)
  • Border detentions and the Flores settlement
  • The Trump administration ban on travel from certain Muslim countries and certain others: court intervention and administrative adjustment
    • statutory challenges under Immigration & Nationality Act of 1965 and under the Administrative Procedure Act
    • Constitutional challenges as violating Establishment Clause or denial of Due Process
    • June 2018 Supreme Court upheld 3rd iteration of the ban in Trump v. Hawaii

Nativism: a recurring theme

  • Three sources of opposition: labor competition; political competition; and racial or cultural objections. When the latter become prominent, it's "nativism".
  • Federalists vs. French & others with bad political views
  • The Know-Nothings: brief 1850s movement, esp. against Catholic immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Italy
  • 1910s-20s "racial" and political concerns
  • presently
    • 1994: California passed Prop. 187 prohibiting state services for undocumented immigrants; implementation enjoined in federal court. In 1999, governor halted appeals.
    • 2007 U.S. Senate killed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, which included, among other things, the entirety of the "DREAM Act" (around since 2001)
      • bipartisan oppositon & support
      • strong Bush admin. support
  • 2013 Senate's bipartisan "gang of 8" proposes Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 passes in Dem-majority House with support of 14 Republicans; House Repub majority refuses to consider, following Maj Ldr Cantor's primary loss June 2014.
  • Immigration enforcement and reduction become major themes of the Trump campaign.