Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Immigration History: Naturalization and Deportation

Previous: The Constitution

Exercising its authority to enact a uniform law of naturalization, Congress passed a naturalization law in 1790 which allowed any white alien over twenty-one to petition for citizenship after two years of residence provided that they had "good moral character." The residency requirement was lengthened to five years in 1795.

Then, in 1798, Congress passed and President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts. Most known for their attempt to suppress criticism of the government, these acts also had naturalization and immigration implications. Motivated in part by the fear of a war with France, and the increased levels of immigration from France after the French Revolution, these acts increased the residency requirement for citizenship from five to fourteen years. They also permitted the President to order the removal of any alien that the President determined was "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States" and required all ship commanders, upon arrival at any United States port, to report any aliens on their ships. Finally, in the event of a war, the President was authorized to proclaim that all non-citizen male aliens who were subjects of the hostile government could be "apprehended, restrained, secured and removed, as alien enemies." This last provision remains in effect today at 50 U.S. Code § 21 and was used during World War II against Japanese, German, and Italian nationals.

These laws were immediately unpopular and only loosely enforced and I was unable to find whether any deportations actually took place during this era. Ultimately, many of the more objectionable portions expired.

In 1802, Congress again revised the naturalization requirements, this time moving the residency requirement back down to five years. It also required all aliens who sought citizenship to report  to the clerk of their respective District Court at the time of their migration, who in turn kept a record of all aliens migrating to the jurisdiction. Although many of the details and other requirements have been tinkered with, this five year residency requirement remains in place today at 8 U.S. Code § 1427.

However, during this entire era, there were no federal restrictions on who could enter the country. Instead, such restrictions were left to the states.

Next: State Based Policies
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...