The immigration policy of the United States of America
- The United States are a nation, which is founded and formed by immigrants.
- They are influenced by a constantly increasing number of immigrants.
- The immigration policy is permanently changing because of
- different developments of international relations,
- political trends and
- economic conditions (circumstances).
- The United States and their immigration policy had different attitudes to immigrants and their treatments: Unhindered entries and also concrete exclusions of certain groups were possible.
The history of the immigration policy
- Before the year of 1875 the United States of America had an open immigration policy.
You can see it in the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York:
"Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore!
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
- Before the American Civil War (from 1861 to 1865) most immigrants came from Western Europe and the British islands; not forgetting the forced immigration of million African immigrants, who were essential for the country life in both centuries before the Civil War.
- After the Civil War the immigrants mainly came from China, Japan and Korea. They changed the whole structure of the American immigrants.
- From 1880 to 1920 twenty million European immigrants entered the United States. With these European immigrants the agrarian society became an industrialized nation.
- During this time and later the flow of immigrants was regulated through resolutions by the government to limit or completely hinder the immigration of certain nationalities.
Because earlier immigrants from Protestant West Europe felt threatened by immigrants from Catholic countries of South and Eastern Europe and Asian immigrants.
Several laws to limit the immigration appeared:
Chinese immigrants were excluded from 1882.
From 1921 there was a quotan system about the immigration from Europe:
The number of immigrants from Europe was limited to three percent of the number of the abroad born relatives of the same nationality.
- In 1924 the law about the national origin appeared:
- Immigrants from South and Eastern Europe were discriminated.
- Immigration from North-Western Europe was furthered.
- Immigration from Far East was forbidden.
150000 North-Western European could immigrate every year.
But during the Second World War many Eastern Europeans couldn't imigrate.
- In 1965 the law of immigration was changed:
The quotan system of the national origin was abrogated.
Less European immigrants came to the United States, but more immigrants from the third world, usually from Asia and Latin America.
The visas of immigrants from non-Western countries were limited to yearly 170000. The visas of immigrants from the Western hemisphere were limited to yearly 120000.
- In 1978 both systems (of the Eastern hemisphere and of the West hemisphere) were combined: There was a global upper limit of 270000 immigrants.
But oversteppings because of exceptional circumstances of immigration were possible: In the eighties more than 700000 immigrants yearly entered the United States.
- A law about refugees appeared in 1980.
Refugees and immigrants were distinguished:
Immigrants imigrate because they are (only) searching for better economic or other conditions.
But refugees imigrate, because they absolutely have to be afraid of pursuit because of their race, religion, nationality or political convictions.
Program of integration: Refugees will be helped by voluntary relief organization for at least thirty days to get economic independence. They will be provide with board and lodging and clothes and get information about health care, job opportunities, teaching in English language and professional training.
Refugees mainly came from the countries from South-Eastern Asian, but after the political upheaval of the former Soviet Union almost just as many refugees came from that part of the world and also from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
- In 1986 a law about reforming and controlling the immigration was directed to illegal immigrants, because of the realization, that America was mainly flooded by illegal immigrated Mexicans and non-white sections of population, who edge out American workers.
- In 1990 the immigration legislation was extensively reformed concerning the numerical limit and the priorities of immigration.
- From 1995 there was a new upper limit about 700000 immigrants. (Immigrated children and parents of American citizen are counted, but there is no limit.)
- There are 12000 visas for employees of American companies.
- More immigrants with more valuable professional qualification were let in.
- Extensive changes of the (United States) American social system in 1996 gave rise to changes in the immigration legislation, too:
- Food aid and social subsidy for non-American were abolished.
- Every single state aid for non-American legal immigrants can be refused, so for example medical benefits in non-acute cases or transitional aid for families.
- There is no state aid for needy people for the first five years.
- In 1996 law about immigration controls and financial responsibility as a reform to contain illegal immigration and to cut the right of legal immigrants for income support.
- Illegal immigrations were contained by more severe border controls.
- The access of non-American for social benefits was drastically limited, concerning social subsidy (Sozialhilfe), medical aid, accommodation, unemployment benefit and other subsidy (Beihilfen).
Legislation about the naturalization today
If you want to become naturalized to the United States of America...
- You have to stay for five years in the United States. (Short absences are possible.)
- Your application is examined by the INS.
- You will be invited to examine the conditions: knowledge of language, understanding about the American history and the form of government, lifestyle (changes).
- The application and the opinion of the INS are submitted to the locally relevant federal court.
- The utterance of your naturalization will be in a public sitting.
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List of sources:
Pröhl, Marga (Hrsg.): Multikulturelle Gesellschaft - Integration in der Kommune. Gütersloh: Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung 1998.
Ostendorf, Berndt (Hrsg.): Multikulturelle Gesellschaft - Modell Amerika?. München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag 1994.