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An immigration policy is any policy of a state that deals with the transit of persons across its borders, but especially those that intend to work and to remain in the country. Immigration policies can range from allowing no migration at all to allowing most types of migration, such as free immigration. Often, racial or religious bias is tied to immigration policy (for example, a country might only allow commonwealth citizens admission). Ethnic relations policy within a county can usually be broadly categorized as either 'assimilationist' or 'multiculturalist'.

Nowadays immigration policy is often closely related to other policies:

  • Tax, tariff and trade rules that determine what goods immigrants may bring with them, what services they may perform while temporarily in the country, etc., and who is allowed to remain, e.g. the European Union has few immigration restrictions within it if any. Any citizen or resident of any of the signatory nations (with the possible exception of a few new member states) may move and seek work anywhere within the E.U. and there is nothing that member states can do to stop it without leaving the E.U. or renegotiating the treaty.
  • Investment policy that permits wealthy immigrants to invest in businesses in exchange for favorable treatment, early issuance of passports and permanent resident status.
  • Agricultural policy that may make exemptions for migrant farm workers, who typically enter a country only for the harvest season and then return home to a developing nation (such as Mexico or Jamaica which often send such workers to US and Canada respectively).
  • Overcrowding which can be blamed for the spread of Tuberculosis or a house price boom
  • Birth rates which are low in developed nations

An important aspect of immigration policy is the treatment of refugees, more or less helpless or stateless people who throw themselves on the mercy of the state they enter, seeking refuge from poor treatment in their country of origin.

With the rise of terrorism worldwide, another major concern is the national security of nations that let people cross borders. The belief is that terrorists can come from overseas. These concerns often lead to intrusive security searches and tighter visa requirements, which can discourage immigration, temporary visitors, and even movement within countries or birth within countries.

There is often pressure on nations to loosen immigration policy or inspections to enable tourism and relocation of businesses to a country, from a destabilized region.

References

Throughout time, immigrants have wanted to come to America. Public and political attitudes towards these immigrants have been contradictory, ambivalent, and sometimes hostile. For the first hundred years, our country did not have any direct regulations concerning immigration. When these regulations were firmly put in place, they were extremely biased against certain nationalities. It seems that immigration policies are formed from fears of the people instead of the best interests of the country.

Unrestricted Immigration: After the American Revolution (1783), the newly founded federal government left the immigration policy up to each individual state. The Naturalization Act of 1790 was the first real step of uniting the states regulations of who could become a US citizen. Though, this was not a law directly concerning immigration, it only considered who could become a citizen not who could enter the country. The first immigration laws were the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798), which allowed the President to deport any dangerous foreigners. The first federal law, which reported immigration to the government through registers aboard all ships, was the Steerage Act of 1819. (USCIS)

First “Exclusion” Laws and Centralized Control of Immigration: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was renewed in 1892 and 1902, was introduced to suspend immigration of all Chinese workers for 10 years, barred Chinese immigrants from becoming US citizens, and allowed for deportation of Chinese immigrants. In 1891, the first comprehensive national immigration law was introduced, the Immigration Act of 1891. This law created the Bureau of Immigration in the Treasury Department, and allowed of the deportation of immigrants who entered the country illegally. (USCIS)

The National-Origins Quota System and End of Anti-Asian Exclusion: In 1921, the Quota Law was introduced. This was the first law to put numerical limits on the number of immigrants allowed into the country, capping overall immigration to about 350,000 people per year. This law also limited the percentage of people allowed from a particular country (3%). The National Origins Act of 1924 reduced the numerical values allowed, reducing the number of immigrants to about 160,000 and the country cap to 2%. In 1940 the Alien Registration Act was enacted and made it so that all foreigners over the age of 14 had to be fingerprinted. During WWII, the United States instituted a large-scale importation of temporary workers from Mexico. This became known as the bracero program- and eventually 5 million Mexican workers were working in the United States, sometimes under very poor conditions. In 1954, a system was set up to round up and deport about 1 million immigrants. puchy rocks!(USCIS)

Further reading

http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=53

  • Jeffrey S. Passel, Senior Research Associate; Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the Undocumented Population; Pew Hispanic Center (March 2005)

http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=44

  • Jeffrey S. Passel; Growing Share of Immigrants Choosing Naturalization; Pew Hispanic Center (March 2007)

http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=74

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