A sillhouette of the Statue of Liberty with the American Flag in the background, with the words, history of US immigration.

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Immigration has played a huge part in the United State’s history and it continues to make headlines today. From new advancements in technology and the spread of new ideas to the introduction of new cultures and food and helping change the economy, immigrants have helped the United States grow and thrive. Last month, Hernandez Law Group celebrated the history of immigration by shedding light on major changes that occurred during the 1700s-1800s. This month, we seek to continue that celebration by focusing on immigration history from the 1900s – the present.


The Immigration Act was passed in 1917 and established that literacy was a requirement for immigrants entering the country. This was to help reduce the communication gap which had become an issue within the port cities and immigration stations. However, this act also had the adverse effect of halting many Asian immigrants from entering the country because Asian languages are drastically different from English, making the learning curve pretty steep.

May of 1924 saw the passing of the Immigration Act of 1924; this limited the number of immigrants allowed into the United States. It accomplished this by setting a yearly nationality quota. Visas for immigration were issued to 2% of the total number of people from each nationality already living in the United States. These numbers were based on the 1890 census. These numbers heavily favored northern and western European countries. Southern, central, and eastern Europe saw their immigration chances extremely limited and Asain immigrants were completely excluded.

The passing of this act was followed by a rise in illegal immigration. The United States then created the United States Border Control to help catch illegal immigrants and keep them from entering the country. At this time, many of the border hoppers were of Asian ethnicity because they were banned from legally entering the country.

World War II

1942 brought about a huge change in the United States. Many of the able-bodied American men had been sent off to fight the Axis Powers in the Second World War. This resulted in a labor shortage. In order to help the United States and gain access to some of its resources, Mexico formed the Bracero Program. This program, under the acceptance of the United States, allowed for Mexican agricultural workers to enter the United States temporarily. This program helped solve some of the food shortage problems in the United States and made up for the gap in the country’s labor forces. This program remained in effect until 1964.

The McCarran-Walter Act was passed in 1952 and brought about an end to the exclusion of Asian immigrants. With Asian immigrants allowed to enter the country, the amount of legal Asian immigrants began to rise while the country saw a decrease in illegal attempts to enter.

The United States ended its origin quotas with the passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965. It radically changed the immigration system by replacing the quotas with a new 7 category preference system. These categories concerned family relations, what the immigrant could offer in terms of skill to the United States, and refugees from areas of violence.


In 2001, United States Democratic Senator Dick Durbin along with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch created the first development, relief, and education program for Alien Minors called the DREAM Act. This act would have put in place a legal pathway for the children of undocumented immigrants brought illegally by their parents to gain legal status and avoid deportation. This law and revisions of the law were shot down by the House and Senate and never came to pass.

President Barack Obama signed into effect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, also known as DACA, in 2012. This act temporarily halted the deportation of Dreamers from the United States. It did not, however, provide them a way to gain legal status within the country.

In 2017, President Donald Trump issued two executive orders. Both of these orders were known as, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” These orders were designed to limit the amount of travel and immigration from six majority Muslim countries. The countries included on this list are the following:

  • Chad
  • Iran
  • Libya
  • Syria
  • Yemen
  • Somalia

This order also included the countries of North Korea and Venezuela. These travel bans were quickly challenged by the Supreme Court, and they are still under ethical debate today.

In 2018, the travel restrictions on Chad were lifted, which created a crack in Donald Trump’s executive orders. The Supreme Court upheld the ban on the remaining countries, claiming that it was for the country’s security that these bans remain in effect.

As you can see throughout its history, the United States has always been shaped by its immigrants, and the topic of immigration is still very much alive today. If you are looking to leave your footprints in the United State’s history, chances are you will need an immigration lawyer to help you gain citizenship or visas. Contact the Immigration Law Firm of Hernandez Law Group, P.C. Hernandez Law Group is proud to support hard-working immigrants who are trying their best to make a positive change for their families and the United States. Call Hernandez Law Group today to see how you can take the next step towards achieving your American Dream.