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Illegal Immigration

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The United States has charmed immigrants from around the world. For generations, people sought after the protective wings of America as settlers, opportunists, pioneers, explorers, and missionaries legally and illegally. America was said to be the land of freedom, the land of opportunity and as the Declaration of Independence famously wrote a land of “certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” America has become a nation full of culture, a patchwork of people and a promise of hope for many. While so many illegal immigrants reap the benefits on American soil, America continues to strive for a balanced reform. History

America has always been a nation of immigrants. From the early 1800’s, America was the land of opportunity for many settlers and with plenty of room for growth and immeasurable hopes to live a better life. Asian immigrants were scarce in the early 1800’s. In 1850, Chinese peasants flocked to California during the gold rush. The Chinese were suppressed by poverty and over population. They were like many other immigrants who intended to work hard, make a lot of money and return to their countries rich. These Chinese workers searching for a better life were used as cheap labor to work the gold mines and build the railway. Americans viewed the Chinese’s culture and mannerisms as inferior. American’s believed the Chinese were too different to intergrade into the American culture. With a sudden burst of immigrants and an opposition from the nativists, the government imposed extreme suppression on the Chinese causing many hardships. Congress passed a law in 1882 called the Chinese Exclusion Act. This law ended recruitment of Chinese laborers and made immigrants in the country ineligible for citizenship. (WGBH Educational Foundation, 2010) Citizenship was granted to those of North and Western European descendants by the Act of 1924, completely excluding Asians. The quota system was so well established that little was done to challenge the law. The 1924 Act’s basic purpose was to preserve an ideal American society. Even in 1943, Congress repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act but didn’t touch the Act of 1924. (Wanlund, 2012) As American territory was expanding, so was the population. America obtained many territories from Mexico but the same discrimination didn’t apply to Mexicans as Asians. Numerous Mexicans were entering the country until the Great Depression as intense pressure from the government wanted a reduced number of Mexican immigrants. Then in the 1940’s, wartime labor shortages sparked a Bracero (meaning manual labor) program sending laborers from Mexico up north for jobs. A wave of unskilled Mexicans spread throughout most of the nation. In 1954, to decrease the surplus of illegal immigration, law enforcement initiated “Operation Wetback”, using a derogatory term associated with illegal immigrants who swam over the Rio Grande to get to America. “Operation Wetback” was initated over concern of illegally exploitation of Bracero workers. (Wanlund, 2012) The Bracero program legally contracted Mexican nationals. Many Braceros were experienced farm laborers and became an important part of American agriculture. An estimated 4.8 million guestworkers contributed during the length of the program. The program was intended to end with the war but remained in effect until Congress refused to renew it in 1964. (Wanlund, 2013) Immigration sat on the back burner until 1965 when Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act. Congress attempted to tie immigration to desired skills and family relationships by abolishing the national orgins quota system. The law was seen as a huge contributor to end discrimination. This policy was at the height of the civil rights movement, where ideas of freedom, democracy and equality were transforming the nation. The impact of this law may have been underestimated. New immigrants tripled in three decades after the... Show More

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