There has been a great deal of talk here in the United States regarding immigration for decades despite Donald Trump’s claim that he introduced the topic when he decided to run for President. What few citizens truly understand is the changing nature of immigration rules and patterns over time and the efforts to improve policies to meet the most current needs of the country. The discussions of immigration reform tend to center on false rhetoric and emotions rather than facts and the law.
For almost one hundred years the borders of the United States were essentially wide open. Whoever wanted to come needed no permission to either enter the country or to stay. At the turn of the nineteenth century low cost steamship travel made it easier for immigrants to reach American shores from across the Atlantic. My own grandparents boarded boats in Bremen, Germany to reach Galveston, Texas from their native land in the far north of the Austro-Hungarian empire around nineteen twelve and thirteen. In 1882, the Congress had passed the first immigration law ever. It banned people from China from entering the country as immigrants but access of other groups of people was virtually unfettered until 1917, when a new law created a long list of undesirables who would no longer be welcome in our country including those from Japan, India, Middle Eastern countries, as well as Europeans over the age of sixteen who were not literate. My own grandmother would have been barred from coming here had her journey not occurred earlier for she never learned to read or write. Continue reading “Rational and Humane”