List of United States immigration laws
This article needs to be updated.March 2017)(
A number of major federal statutes, executive actions, and court decisions relating to immigration procedures, and enforcement have been enacted for the United States. Proposed laws, state, and municipal laws, court decisions, and regulations relating to immigration are not listed on this page.
|Year||Name of legislation or case||Major highlights|
|1790||Naturalization Act of 1790||Established the rules for naturalized citizenship, as per Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, but placed no restrictions on immigration. Citizenship was limited to white persons, with no other restriction on non-whites. Note: this is a restriction on naturalization (voting and office-holding), not on immigration.|
|1795||Naturalization Act of 1795||Lengthened required residency to become citizen. Again, this is a restriction on naturalization, not on immigration.|
Naturalization Act (officially An Act to Establish a Uniform Rule of Naturalization; ch. 54, 1 Stat. 566)
Alien Friends Act (officially An Act Concerning Aliens; ch. 58, 1 Stat. 570)
Alien Enemies Act (officially An Act Respecting Alien Enemies; ch. 66, 1 Stat. 577)
|1802||Naturalization Law of 1802||
|1870||Naturalization Act of 1870||
|1875||Page Act of 1875 (Sect. 141, 18 Stat. 477, 1873-March 1875)||
|1882||Chinese Exclusion Act||
|1882||Immigration Act of 1882||
|1885||Alien Contract Labor Law (Sess. II Chap. 164; 23 Stat. 332)||Prohibited the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States|
|1891||Immigration Act of 1891|
|1892||Geary Act||Extended and strengthened the Chinese Exclusion Act.|
|1898||United States v. Wong Kim Ark||The Supreme Court ruled that a child of Chinese descent born in the United States - whose parents at the time of his birth are subjects of the Emperor of China but who are domiciled in the United States as permanent residents; are carrying on business there; and are not employed in any diplomatic or other official capacity under the Emperor of China - is a citizen of the United States by virtue of having been born "in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof," per the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Several years later, in the wake of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, a number of Chinese immigrants who were otherwise subject to the Chinese Exclusion Act were nonetheless able to claim American citizenship by alleging they were born in San Francisco, and that their birth certificates had been destroyed along with those of everyone else who had been born in San Francisco. "Papers for fictitious children were sold in China, allowing Chinese to immigrate despite the laws." 
|1903||Immigration Act of 1903 (Anarchist Exclusion Act)||Added four inadmissible classes: anarchists, people with epilepsy, beggars, and importers of prostitutes|
|1906||Naturalization Act of 1906||
|1907||Immigration Act of 1907||Restricted immigration for certain classes of disabled and diseased people|
|1917||Immigration Act of 1917 (Barred Zone Act)||Restricted immigration from Asia by creating an "Asiatic Barred Zone" and introduced a reading test for all immigrants over sixteen years of age, with certain exceptions for children, wives, and elderly family members.|
|1918||Immigration Act of 1918||Expanded on the provisions of the Anarchist Exclusion Act.|
|1921||Emergency Quota Act||
"An unintended consequence of the 1920s legislation was an increase in illegal immigration. Many Europeans who did not fall under the quotas migrated to Canada or Mexico, which [as Western Hemisphere nations] were not subject to national-origin quotas; [and] subsequently they slipped into the United States illegally." 
|1922||The Cable Act of 1922 (ch. 411, 42 Stat. 1021, "Married Women’s Independent Nationality Act")||Reversed former immigration laws regarding marriage, also known as the Married Women's Citizenship Act or the Women's Citizenship Act. Previously, a woman lost her US citizenship if she married a foreign man, since she assumed the citizenship of her husband, a law that did not apply to men who married foreign women. The law repealed sections 3 and 4 of the Expatriation Act of 1907.|
|1924||Immigration Act (Johnson-Reed Act)||
|1924||National Origins Formula||
Federal officials deported "Tens of thousands, and possibly more than 400,000, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans... Many, mostly children, were U.S. citizens."  "Applications for legal admission into the United States increased following World War II — and so did illegal immigration."  Some used fraudulent marriages as their method of illegal entry in the U.S. "Japanese immigration became disproportionately female, as more women left Japan as "picture brides", betrothed to emigrant men into the U.S. whom they had never met." 
|1940||Nationality Act of 1940||Pertains chiefly to "Nationality at Birth," Nationality through Naturalization," and "Loss of Nationality"|
|1943||Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943 (Magnuson Act)||Repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act and permitted Chinese nationals already in the country to become naturalized citizens. A quota of 105 new Chinese immigrants were allowed into America per year.|
|1952||Immigration and Nationality Act (McCarran-Walter Act)||
|1953||Kwong Hai Chew v. Colding, 344 U.S. 590 (1953)||The Supreme Court found, "The Bill of Rights is a futile authority for the alien seeking admission for the first time to these shores. But while an alien lawfully enters and resides in this country he becomes invested with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all people within our borders".|
|1954||Operation Wetback||Immigration and Naturalization Service roundup and deportation of illegal immigrants in selected areas of California, Arizona, and Texas along the border. The U.S. Border Patrol later reported that more than 1.3 million people (a number viewed by many to be inflated and not accurate) were deported or left the U.S. voluntarily under the threat of deportation in 1954.|
|1965||INA Amendments (Hart-Celler Act)||
|1966||Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act||Cuban nationals who enter, or were already present in the United States, legal status.|
The United States saw a total number of illegal immigrants estimated at 1.1 million, or half of one percent of the United States population.
|1980||The Refugee Act of 1980||Created a policy for admitting refugees with the United Nations’ definition of refugees|
|1982||Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982)||The court also stated that illegal immigrants are "within the jurisdiction" of the states in which they reside and, therefore, are under the equal protection laws of the fourteenth amendment, and stated, "We have never suggested that the class of persons who might avail themselves of the equal protection guarantee is less than coextensive with that entitled to due process. To the contrary, we have recognized [457 U.S. 202, 212] that both provisions were fashioned to protect an identical class of persons, and to reach every exercise of state authority."|
|1986||Immigration Reform and Control Act||
Over 5.8 million illegal immigrants entered the US in the 1990s. Mexico rose to the head of the list of sending countries, followed by the Philippines, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, and China.
|1990||United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez||The court reiterated the finding of Kwong Hai Chew v. Colding, 344 U.S. 590, 596 (1953), "The Bill of Rights is a futile authority for the alien seeking admission for the first time to these shores. But while an alien lawfully enters and resides in this country he becomes invested with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all people within our borders".
Stated, "those cases in which aliens have been determined to enjoy certain constitutional rights establish only that aliens receive such protections when they have come within the territory of, and have developed substantial connections with, this country. See, e. g., Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 212 ."
|1996||Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRaIRA)|
|1999||Rodriguez v. United States, 169 F.3d 1342, (11th Cir. 1999)||Held that statutes which discriminate within the class of aliens comport with the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment (and the equal protection principles it incorporates) so long as they satisfy rational basis scrutiny.|
|2002||Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act|
|2002||Homeland Security Act of 2002||
|2005||REAL ID Act||
|2012||Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (executive action)||
- Chinese Laborers Work on a Railroad How Illegal Immigration Was Born. American Heritage. By Claire Lui. Retrieved: March 7, 2008. Archived July 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- James P. Smith and Barry Edmonston, Eds. The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration, (1997). The National Academic Press. page 23, 3rd paragraph. ISBN 0-309-06356-6.
- Hester, Torrie (2010). "Protection, Not Punishment: Legislative and Judicial formation of U.S. Deportation Policy, 1882-19044". Journal of American Ethnic History.
- "2 Background to Contemporary U.S. Immigration - The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration - The National Academies Press". doi:10.17226/5779.
- "FindLaw's United States Supreme Court case and opinions".
- James P. Smith and Barry Edmonston, Eds. The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration, (1997). The National Academic Press. page 26, 4th paragraph. ISBN 0-309-06356-6.
- U.S. urged to apologize for 1930s deportations. USA Today, April 5, 2006. By Wendy Koch. Retrieved: March 7, 2008.
- James P. Smith and Barry Edmonston, Eds. "The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration", (1997). The National Academic Press. page 27, 2nd paragraph. ISBN 0-309-06356-6.
- Japanese Immigration via Fraudulent Marriage.
- How Eisenhower solved illegal border crossings from Mexico, John Dillin, July 6, 2006, Accessed April 2, 2013
- "How U.S. immigration laws and rules have changed through history". Pew Research Center. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- PLYLER v. DOE, 457 U.S. 202 (1982) Argued December 1, 1981 Decided June 15, 1982
- Until 1986 the US had never forgiven the act of illegal immigration.
- Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the Undocumented Population March 21, 2005 Page 8.
- James P. Smith and Barry Edmonston, Eds. "The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration", (1997). The National Academic Press. page 28. ISBN 0-309-06356-6.
- Immigration Act of 1990 (Pub.L. 101–649, 104 Stat. 4978, enacted November 29, 1990.)
- "FindLaw's United States Supreme Court case and opinions".
- Kirsch, Michael S. (2006). "The Tax Code as Nationality Law" (PDF). Harvard Journal on Legislation. 43 (2): 375–436. Retrieved May 18, 2012.[permanent dead link]
- More Mexicans migrating to U.S. than die in Mexico
- Rubén Martínez. The New Americans. (New York: The New Press, 2004). Page 22.
- "The Reasoning and Implementation of the Decision". myattorneyusa.com. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
- Lemay, Michael and Elliott Robert Barkan (editors). U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Laws and Issues: A Documentary History. Greenwood Press, 1999. ISBN 0-313-30156-5
- Zolberg, Aristide. A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America. Harvard University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-674-02218-1