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U.S. Immigration Timeline

Timeline 1924-1996

1924 Immigration and Naturalization Act imposes the first permanent numeric limits on immigration. The category of "Entry without Inspection" is created, officially labeling those who cross U.S. borders without immigration documents. The U.S. Border Patrol is created, in large part to control Chinese immigration to the U.S. across the U.S.-Mexico border.

1935 Repatriation Act offers Filipinos transportation back to the Philippines if they promise to never come back to the U.S.

1940 Alien Registration Act requires registration and finger-printing of "aliens."

1942 Bracero Program (1942-1964) provides temporary residence permits to bring Mexican workers to farmland due to labor shortage because of World War II, but it provides no means for permanent residence or any labor protections, housing guarantees or rights to bring family members.

1945 Large-scale Puerto Rican immigration begins as people try to escape crushing poverty on the island, only to find similar conditions in New York.

1952 McCarran-Walter Immigration and Naturalization Act extends token immigration quotas to Asian nations for support during World War II.

1965 Cuban Refugee Airlift begins; Cubans are admitted under special quotas.

President Johnson signs the Immigration Act, which eliminates race, creed and nationality as a basis for admission to the U.S. As soon as the old quota system is removed, non-European immigration levels rise.

1980 Responding to a wave of Cuban Refugees coming to the U.S. on the "Freedom Flotilla," the Refugee Act systematizes processes for refugees and codifies asylum status.

1982 More than 250 churches provide "sanctuary" to Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees.

1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act imposes employer sanctions, making it illegal for employers to hire undocumented workers and, for the first time, a crime to work without immigration authorization. It also increases border enforcement.

1990 Immigration Act increases legal immigration ceilings by 40 percent; triples employment-based immigration, which emphasizes skills; creates a diversity admissions category; and establishes temporary protected status for those jeopardized by armed conflict or natural disasters in their native countries.

1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (popularly known as "welfare reform") ends many forms of cash and medical assistance for most legal immigrants and other low-income individuals. Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) expands INS enforcement operations, eliminates basic rights of due process for immigrants and cuts down on avenues for immigrants to legalize their status. Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act groups provisions regarding immigrants with those designed to curb terrorism, including a new court to hear cases of alien deportation based on secret evidence submitted in the form of classified information.


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