This year, the Goldfarb Freedom of Expression Symposium, will focus on US immigration policy. Below are some resources to familiarize you with the topic. Stay tuned for more news articles, reports, podcast suggestions, and our upcoming Between, Truth, and Error.

Our first speaker Roberto Gonzalez, Professor of Education at Harvard, will be talking about what DACA’s termination means for young immigrants and their families on September, 24th at 7 p.m. You can find out more about his work here. Also be sure to check out his book, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America

1790: The Naturalization Act was the first law to specify who could become a citizen. The law allowed free whites of “good moral character” who had lived in the U.S. for at least two years to be citizens.

1870: Citizenship was extended to those of African origin.

1875: Restrictions on immigration began. Bans were placed on criminals, people with contagious diseases, polygamists, anarchists, beggars, and importers of prostitutes. Other laws restricted the number of Asian immigrants by limiting migration from China then banning immigration from most Asian countries.

1920s: After the immigration flow shifted away from northern and western Europe toward southern and eastern Europe, laws were passed to cap total annual immigration and impose numerical quotas based on immigrant nationality that favored northern and western European countries.

1940s: Long standing restrictions began to subside. In 1943, a limited number of Chinese were allowed to immigrate. In 1952, a limited number of visas were given to other Asians and race was formally removed as grounds for exclusion.

1965: The landmark Immigration and Nationality Act created a new system that favored family reunification and skilled immigrants over country quotas. This created the first limits on immigration from Latin America. Prior to this law, Latin Americans faced few restrictions.

1970s: Laws in this era focused mostly on refugees. New laws paved the way for Indochinese refugees fleeing war violence and later gave relief to Nicaraguans and Haitians. In 1990, a law created “temporary protected status,” TPS, that has shielded immigrants from deportation to countries facing natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions.

1986: Congress enacted the Immigration Reform and Control Act, another landmark law, that granted legalization to millions of unauthorized immigrants, mainly from Latin America, who met certain conditions. To balance this out, the law imposed sanctions on employers who hired unauthorized immigrants.

1990: New legislation created the current category system.

1996: Bill Clinton passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). 

2000s: Laws in 2002 and 2006, responded to concerns account terrorism and unauthorized immigration by emphasizing border control, prioritizing enforcement of laws on hiring immigrants, and tightening admissions eligibility.

2012: Obama took executive action to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA allowed young adults who had been brought to the country illegally to apply for deportation relief and a work permit.

This timeline was taken from: The Pew Research Center’s article, “How U.S. immigration laws and rules have changed through history,” by D’Vera Cohn.

More Timelines: 

  • ICE
  • Congress
  • President
  • State Actors
  • Prisons
  • Immigrants

American Bar article on local vs federal authority over immigration. 

News and Analysis

New York Times, March 5: “The deaths of two children in Border Patrol custody point to shortfalls in health care provided to migrants, who sometimes arrive with serious illness and injury.”

Washington Post, March 12: “House Democrats propose offering 2 million immigrants the chance to apply for U.S. citizenship.”

The Justice Gap, March 29:  “The Catch 22 trapping people in immigration detention.”