American immigration law has a long history, first coming into effect with the Naturalization Act of 1790 and undergoing a number of changes over the years. Controlled by Congress since inception, the purpose of such laws has been to control how many people could immigrate into the United States from other countries as well as to ensure that immigrants would abide by American laws and be a productive part of society. Today’s immigration law is complex and any lawyer would highly recommend that anyone seeking to relocate permanently to the United States work with a trained and experienced immigration attorney so that the law is correctly interpreted and the requirements necessary to make such a move are fulfilled.
Early Days of Immigration Law
American naturalization laws have seen steady change since inception in the late 1700’s, although some of the initial aspects do currently remain in effect. Initially, naturalization – citizenship and the right to live in America permanently – was only granted to white people and only after having lived in the country for two years. That was soon changed, with residency requirements being raised to five years, which is how the law still reads today.
Other significant changes from the 1800’s to early 1900’s included ruling that a child born in the U.S. had automatic citizenship and African-Americans could become naturalized citizens while Asian-Americans specifically could not. Yearly quotas were instated and immigration could be completely restricted if necessary.
Progression of Immigration Law
A lawyer would advise that one of the most significant changes to United States immigration laws was the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) and the formation of the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). This change made restrictions based on race illegal, changing quotas to instead be nationality-based only. The INS was created to monitor all immigration activity and document those possessing legal identification and records upon arrival (documented) and undocumented individuals; there were also other categories that applied to persons living in the United States without citizenship, termed ‘alien.’
Other positive changes in immigration law targeted fairness and equal consideration for everyone seeking relocation to this country. There have been numerous reforms to control the number of ‘aliens’ coming into the country, limiting the opportunity to work or obtain federal benefits before becoming a full-fledged citizen, and instituting ways to prevent other kinds of fraudulent manipulation of the law.
Current Immigration Law
Immigration law continues to change to protect U. S. citizens and provide immigration and citizenship opportunities to non-residents. Inspection by U.S. Customs is required of anyone relocating to this country; provisions to apply for refugee status to enter the country have also been clarified. The Dept. of Homeland Security now oversees immigration, replacing the INS. Deportation laws and visa usage have been clarified to be sure that those entering and seeking citizenship are not a risk in any way.
This is only a quick glance at United States immigration law. There is much more to know and many details that affect the ability to legally relocate to this country. Anyone interested in learning more about such laws and their application should contact an immigration lawyer for more specific information.
Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520