The 20th Century’s Illegal Immigration to the United States

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Numerous documents exist that demonstrate illegal immigration to the US between 1882 and the 29th century

According to reports, more than 12 million undocumented immigrants entered the US through Ellis Island on January 2, 1892. It did occur while the Island was still being built, and it was a small island in New York Harbor. The Anarchist Exclusion Act, which barred immigration based on political philosophy, was passed in 1903. It was believed that immigrants from countries with political extremists sparked public anxiety and exacerbated religious tensions between Catholic and Protestant immigrants. This effect of the illegal immigrants sparked a Congress action, and in 1903, the law provided an exclusion to the deportation of the alien anarchists.

The immigrants grew forces of violence to the US government and drove the assassination of the public officials

The expansion of the existing illegal immigrants raised the alarm in 1906 that made the Congress pass the Naturalization Act. The Act of Naturalization along with the bureau of immigration put charges on the "all matters concerning the naturalization of aliens". Thus in 1906-1940, the primary operations of the Department of Justice directed at curbing the illegal immigration into the US. In the 1906 act, each naturalization petition culminated into being a case for examination by the officials of the Bureau of Immigration. Besides, there was the establishment of basic procedures through the act of naturalization in the period of 1906-1952. The procedural aspects started with the filing of the declaration of intentions that strict provided the record of the people who came to the US. For any immigrant to establish a permanent stay in the US, the person had to provide his or her information, and it would be possible within 2-7 years after completing the filling of the declaration form. Nevertheless, the applicant was given the mandate to petition the court. The petition would then become subject to investigations, and preliminary examinations that would be accessed if the subject was to be granted the right to establishing a permanent stay.

In 1920, it was estimated that approximately 17, 300 Chinese people entered the US illegally

This was fueled by the passing of the 1882 "Chinese Exclusion Act". Notably, the passing of this bill significantly provided a hindrance to the Chinese movement into the US. It served as a total barrier to the potential Chinese immigrants who aspired to establish their business and other interests to the US. The Chinese illegal immigration happened through the back door entry of the Mexico and Canada and began in 1882 to 1920. The American Immigration Bureau account indicates that these illegal immigrants entered the US through Buffalo, Seattle, El Paso, and San Diego. Besides, the immigrants utilized San Antonio, New York, and California as the entrance points into the US.

Sheryazdanova documents that many entrance points also existed in the southern and northern borders of America

In 1921 May, the First Quota Act became law and drove at limiting the number of immigrants from some nations. The passing of this law was sponsored by the American Federation of Labor and American Legion. It limited the number of immigrants and provided restriction to illegal immigrants that hailed from Asiatic Turkey, Africa, Australia and Europe. Besides, many illegal immigrants who came from Persian, and New Zealand was vehemently restricted through the Act. The first Quota Act managed to achieve two primary objectives. First, it fundamentally reduced the total number of immigrants that came into US and secondly, it gave favoritism and stimulated of the "Protestant Northwestern Europeans and excluded most of the Catholic southern and eastern Europeans". The increased numbers of the undocumented Chinese immigrants raised many economic questions.

The history of illegal immigration is also majorly documented to have happened in 1927

The American labor secretary estimated that moved than 1,000,000 immigrants particularly from Mexico were illegally residing in the US. According to Reville, by 1900, only 1000, 000 Mexicans were in the US. However, in a report done in June 1927, it indicated that the immigrants came from Mexico and Canada, and smuggling of drugs was the driving force behind the increased numbers. These illegal actions occurred along the Mexican and the US borders. According to Reville's report, it was indicated that for every one Mexican who legally entered America, there were other two who illegally came into the nation. In 1965, the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationally Act abolished the immigration process that was particularly based on Race and country of origin. The idea that propelled the enactment of this Act was the escalated numbers of Europe's that resided in the America. Terrio asserts that, "between 1820 and 1960, 34.5 million Europeans immigrated to the U.S." Also, the Asians that were registered were one million and these were majorly Japan's and Chinese illegal immigrants. The Hart-Celler Immigration landmark gave limitation to the illegal immigration that happened basing on race. Nevertheless, the act also provided a route to the immigration of the Indians who provided skills to the nation. In 1980, the census tabled estimates of 2-4 million illegal US immigrants and about half of them were Mexicans. The "undocumented Mexican population in 1980 was in the 1-2 million range, with the total number of all countries falling in the range of 2-4 million". These estimates implied a high proportion to the illegal immigration that had entered the US from 1960.

Negative Impact of Undocumented Immigrants

Studies that focus on the economic impacts of undocumented immigrants reveal detrimental outcomes of the illegal immigration. Undocumented immigration resulted in high poverty levels and low wages. The damaging effects of the unskilled illegal immigrants affected the American workers. The dysfunction of the immigration process was responsible for the socioeconomic conditions that affected the US nation. Many immigrants lived in poverty and near the poverty lines. The illegal migration procedures meaningfully contributed to the already over-supply labor and made an increase to the job competition in the nation. To cater for the increase labor supply, many employers resolved at cutting down the wages they offered. This significantly drove down the salaries and positioned the labor market at the undesirable scale. Reville documents that "The presence of a large illegal workforce perpetuates a vicious cycle as degraded work conditions discourage Americans from seeking these jobs". The employers became dependent on the illegal workforce as it was thought to be cheap compared to the domestic workers. The US illegal alien population and the massive low-skill labor force permitted the US employers to provide low wages along with deplorable conditions.

These negative effects of illegal immigration were recognized by the American Commission on Immigration Reform in 1995

and it enacted measures that would see the US translate into a stronger society. These reforms drove at ending the family family-based chains of immigrations and curbing immigrants to end the stiff competition that was evident in the job market. These undocumented immigrants also led to a population increase that majority strained the country's facilities. The illegal immigrants significantly hurt the US economy. These immigrants were counterpart of poverty and did not add to the GDP of the nation. Many labor economist heavily documents adverse impacts of these immigrants in driving the economy down through the acceptability of low wage pay. Besides, the immigrants particularly from the Mexico deteriorated the society through the smuggling of drugs and thus raised a moral hazard. Many of the US citizens got access to illegal drugs and young people got access to drugs like heroin. Besides, there was the emergence of the black market through these drugs that affected the economy. Notably, the undocumented immigrants caused economic challenges that proved to be harmful to the economy.

Addressing the Problem of Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration in the US was a major problem and thus major attempts were enacted to curb the illegality of the process that resulted into negative impacts. In 1885, the alien labor contract law prohibited the immigration of works. The immigration had primarily soared in the 1880s that made the country officials to be concerned. According to Reville, this move particularly aimed at banning the Chinese immigrants along with reducing the immigration inflow from other countries. The 1885 contract ban worked its way to the Congress, and the alien contract act ended up being called the "Foran Act". The law intended to prohibit the immigration of workers that significantly drove down the wages and caused adverse economic effects. Indeed, the Foran Act saw the indentured servitude, and it managed at exempting the local workers and skilled workforce that was required in the trading or industry.

In 1891, the Congress did establish the initial federal administration agency that aimed at administering the rampant illegal immigration in the nation

Later on, the Congress worked to reformulate and strengthen the control of illegal immigration. It formulated the statutes that restricted the undocumented immigration and thus having an impact on the immigration of the 20th century. These laws were enforced by the Supreme Court and the constitutional power regulated the immigration. In 1898, the US Supreme Court confirmed that the 14th amendment would allow citizenship to all persons that were born in the US. This citizenship also caused a reduction to the illegal immigration particularly from the countries liked Europe.


Jones, Richard C. "Using US Immigration Data: Undocumented Migration From Mexico To South Texas". Journal of Geography 83, no. 2 (1984): 58-64.

Reville, Patrick J., and John E. Cullen. "Impact Of Undocumented Immigration On US Wages". Journal of Diversity Management (JDM) 9, no. 1 (2014): 1.

Sheryazdanova, Kamilla. "Illegal Immigration And Fight Against Illegal Migration In Member States Of The European Union". Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, European and Regional Studies 8, no. 1 (2015).

Terrio S. Illegal Aliens In The United States. 1st ed. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 2000.

Todaro, Michael P., and Lydia Maruszko. "Illegal Migration And US Immigration Reform: A Conceptual Framework". Population and Development Review 13, no. 1 (1987): 101.

June 26, 2023

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