U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Laws and Issues: A Documentary History

By Michael Lemay; Elliott Robert Barkan | Go to book overview

Introduction

Immigration policy is a topic of substantive and perennial interest to many Americans. Obviously, the influx of millions has had a profound impact on the nation's economy, culture, and politics. Although it is a cliché, it is nonetheless true that the United States is a nation of nations. To understand the process of immigration to the United States, one needs to grasp the laws concerning immigration and naturalization. The magnitude of the problems associated with the complex process of permanent immigration has led to many and varied laws, the most important of which are presented in this volume.

Scholars consider immigration policy a type of intermestic policy, an inherent interweaving of international and domestic policy. Immigration law performs an essential gatekeeping function, determining at any given time who shall or shall not be allowed entry into the United States.

This reference volume, which chronologically traces the major laws regulating both immigration and naturalization, provides a historical overview of U.S. immigration and naturalization policies. Those policies inevitably blend several essential elements: economic interest, foreign policy, racial values, and a sense of national identity--who should be allowed to be "an American." Since 1860 the relationship of these elements, as embodied in immigration and naturalization laws, has changed as the nation has responded to various situations and concerns. Periods of economic recession or depression as well as social unrest and cultural shift, such as the Cold War period after the Korean War and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, have given rise to fundamental changes in immigration law. As the flow of immigration changed, in terms of the race or national origin of the tens of thousands pouring into the nation annually, concern for our ability to assimilate and even the desirability of absorbing these new "strangers in our midst" has led to

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