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History of Illegal Immigration in the US


The surging number of child immigrants from Central America has provoked another political crisis for US President Obama, who is already facing Republican opposition to his plans for immigration reform. Although both sides of politics agree that something has to be done about illegal immigration, a deal is unlikely, writes Keri Phillips.

ABCRadioNational, Excerpt: Illegal immigration in the USA Share 385 Cookie†policy

It’s a 3,200-kilometre long border. In the early 1980s there were 2,000 border patrol agents, today there are 20,000. In the early 1980s there was almost no fencing on the border; today there’s about 1,000 kilometres of relatively secure fencing.


It’s estimated that as many as 12 million undocumented migrants now live in the United States, a country with a population of just over 300 million people. Although it’s a nation with a strong immigrant history, unauthorised migration has become a political headache for both sides of American politics. It’s an issue with two main facets—what to do with unauthorised workers already in the US and how to secure the borders against further illegal entry.

The American republic was established by Europeans in the unquestioned expectation that those who came to settle would also be Europeans. The first significant restrictions on immigration were embodied in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Chinese workers had been welcomed during the building of the transcontinental railroad during the 1860s, but their perceived social and cultural differences from the white Protestant mainstream ultimately made them unwelcome migrants.

In the following decades, other categories of undesirable migrants were added to the list—criminals, prostitutes, Communists and so on. In the 1920s, quantitative limits—a worldwide quota and quotas by country—were added.

During both world wars, the United States government looked to Mexico to help with a perceived shortage of labour. During World War II, the bracero program brought hundreds of thousands of Mexicans to work as unskilled labour in agriculture and on the railways.

‘From 1942 to 1964, five million Mexican workers were admitted to the United States to perform temporary services of labour,’ says Dr Mark J. Miller from the University of Delaware. ‘Most of them went to the south-west and worked in agriculture and during that period, there was a parallel inflow of illegal or undocumented workers.’

‘It’s important to understand this in order to understand ongoing American debates about the future course of US immigration policy, because during the entire period from 1942 to 1964, more Mexicans were repatriated as illegal entrants to the United States, as were legally admitted to legal employment as temporary foreign workers.’

Read more: Is the child migration crisis of the United States’ own making?

The Second World War proved to be a watershed in the US history of immigration. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 meant an end to restrictions on the basis of nationality and led to an explosion in demand.  Professor Susan Martin from the Institute for the Study of International for legal migration, although it came from unexpected places, according to Migration at Georgetown University. ‘Legal migration began to increase, and the geographic origins of the immigrants did a definite shift. They gave priority to people entering for family reunification, the fact that they already had family members in the US. It was actually thought that this would lead to European migration restarting, but by that point in the mid-1960s, a lot of the European countries had seen their economies take off. They were actually starting to import guest workers, immigrants to come into their countries. But there was an interest in Asia and in Latin America in coming into the US.’

‘At the same time, the other thing that occurred in 1965 was an end to the bracero program, which was seen as being very exploitive of the workers, and encouraging American farmers to hire domestic workers. What ended up happening is the origin of our current illegal migration because a lot of the people who came as braceros or in the future might have wanted to come as braceros, instead came illegally and the farmers continued to hire them, only they hired them now as illegal workers rather than as guest workers.’

As the number of Mexicans and other Latin Americans working illegally in the United States continued to grow, the administration of President Ronald Reagan passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. It proposed the creation of a kind of identity card and made it illegal for employers to knowingly hire or recruit undocumented workers. It also granted amnesty to millions already in the US. It was the first attempt to really deal with illegal immigration.

‘The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 tried to satisfy what I would call admissionists, who are people who say “let more people in”, and restrictionists who say “let fewer people in”,’ explains Professor Philip Martin, from the Comparative Immigration and Integration Program at the University of California. ‘For the admissionists, we legalised 2.7 million illegal foreigners, the largest legalisation in the world until now, and most of them were Mexican, and they one day were illegal and the next day were legal immigrants with the right to try to unify their families, although there were long waiting lists for that.’

‘On the other hand, we introduced sanctions or fines on employers who knowingly hired illegal workers. So the legalisation worked [but] the sanctions did not work, and the net result was that illegal Mexico-US migration surged in part because those family members of newly legalised Mexicans did not wait, as they were supposed to, for their immigrant visas and there became a whole lot more anchor points for Mexicans to enter the US, find supportive friends and relatives and get jobs, even though they did not have legal authorisation to do so.’

The enforcement mechanism was not at all effective. Employers did not have to verify that a worker’s documents were genuine and the 1986 law simply sparked a new industry—one creating false documents, available for as little as $25-$30. During the 1990s, the Commission on Immigration Reform was set up to advise the US government on illegal immigration, but the Clinton administration also failed to adopt a counterfeit-resistant identification document or provide the funding necessary for the enforcement of employer sanctions. Instead, by 1996, the US government was looking to border control, not labour law enforcement, to deal with illegal migration.

In 2006, President George W Bush, then in his second term in office, signed a law authorising the construction of more than 1,000 kilometres of fencing along the United States-Mexico border. ‘It’s a 3,200-kilometre long border,’ says Professor Martin. ‘In the early 1980s there were 2,000 border patrol agents, today there are 20,000. In the early 1980s there was almost no fencing on the border; today there’s about 1000 kilometres of relatively secure fencing. Initially people came without the services of a local guide or smuggler, or coyote, and as the number of border agents increased and as the fences got built, more people turned to smugglers.’

‘One way to think of the increased difficulty of getting into the United States is the cost of being smuggled from Mexico to Los Angeles, which in the early 1990s was in the order of $200 or $300 and today it’s in the order of $2,000 or $3,000.’

‘So what has happened is that today almost all migrants use smugglers, the smugglers often use stolen vehicles, often covered trucks. They often have teenage drivers and they may come with several vans, one of which may have drugs, one of which may have migrants, and a couple that might be empty decoys, and the effort is made to come across the desert where there’s no fence in Arizona, and to have the trucks with the things being smuggled into the US elude the border patrol and make it in.’

Although almost half of unauthorised migrants enter the US legally on tourist or student visas, the rest, mostly Mexicans, slip across the southern border. About a quarter of undocumented migrants live in California, although many now live and work far from the border states. The landmark 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act continues to apply the same maximum number of visas to all countries, regardless of their population.

Related: Hazaras in a state of legal limbo

Although family reunion and migrants with special skills or education still remain the focus of legal migration, these country limits have severely restricted the legal immigration of people outside those categories wanting to come from places like China and the Philippines, as well as Mexico. The lag for a legal migrant visa to the US for an unskilled worker from places like the Philippines and Mexico is over 20 years: a long time to wait if you are trying to immigrate to seek economic opportunity during your most productive working years.  For most people most of the time, legal status doesn’t make a big difference day-to-day. ‘It does limit how far they can rise in an organisation, however,’ says Professor Martin. ‘There is clearly a 10 per cent to 15 per cent wage disadvantage for being illegal in many cases. The biggest danger is state and local police who do not enforce immigration laws but do enforce traffic laws, stopping people and discovering they don’t have a drivers licence or they don’t have insurance.’

‘That stop, which can be for something totally unrelated to immigration, can in the end lead to deportation. So that’s a real fear. Somebody is driving to work but without a licence or without insurance because they can’t get a licence and can’t get insurance because of their status, can wind up encountering the police and being removed from the US.’

Although immigration law is a matter for the federal government, many states, cities and towns have tried to make life more difficult—and in some cases,easier—for undocumented migrants. ‘St Paul and Minneapolis, where I live, have declared themselves sanctuary cities where they would not have local police look for immigrant status or explicitly try to root out undocumented immigrants,’ explains Erika Lee

from the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota.

‘But there are other places that are passing what might be called nuisance laws. So in the areas that they do have jurisdiction over, such as rental, you cannot rent to someone unless they show a valid form of a certain type of ID. Or there were some places, I believe in Georgia, that also allowed certain cities to deny utilities—electricity and water—unless you had a certain type of documentation, and it is absolutely trying to target undocumented immigrants from Mexico.’

Although both the Bush and the Obama administrations tried to introduce comprehensive immigration reform, neither succeeded, despite immigration becoming a political issue at campaign time. ‘George W. Bush ran in 2000 and 2004 on immigration reform and he was supporting a path to citizenship for some of these illegal immigrants,’ says historian Robert Fleegler from the University of Mississippi. ‘In 2006, 2007, I think he was hoping to make this kind of a legacy issue, and there were many Democrats who supported him, so it looked to be an area where Bush and the Democrats could come together but there was a strong opposition from the conservative wing of the Republican Party, from talk radio, and it fell through.’

Illegal immigration in the USA   Sunday 17 August 2014

Listen to this episode of Rear Vision to find out more.

Comments (3) Add your comment

‘President Obama ran on it in 2008 but got caught up in the recession and

with Iraq and with Afghanistan and then healthcare, and it sort of fell by

the wayside as an issue. I think many people expected after 2012, given the

really poor performance the Republicans had with Hispanics, there was a

lot of talk that, okay, now Republicans are going to support immigration

reform because of they don’t get the support of this growing Hispanic

community, they won’t be able to win national elections.’

‘The Senate passed a bill last year but then it got bogged down in the House

for all the same reasons. Conservatives feel it’s rewarding unlawful

behaviour to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.’

Rear Vision puts contemporary events in their historical context,

answering the question, ‘How did it come to this?’

ABC, Sunday 12pm Repeated: Monday 5:30am, Tuesday 2pm, Thursday 12am

Presented by Annabelle Quinceand Keri Phillips

My New Blog – UTI Info and Advocacy


During ten years of struggling with UTIs I have found doctors to be of no help in getting to the cause. They simply prescribe antibiotics for periodic infections and estrogen to reduce the number of occurrences. So I am taking matters into my own hands.

First I searched the web and found enough information to start a little archive – my new blog:  utinotes  Now I am seeking a clinical study to join or some research project to volunteer in. I’ll begin with my primary care unit, University of Michigan Geriatrics Center. They are part of a huge medical complex and may have suggestions.

Do you, dear reader, have any ideas? Please share them either or both in comments to this post or on my UTI blog.

I look forward to hearing from you.


In Veterans Courts, Prosecutors become Social Workers for Accused Veterans

In Veterans Courts, prosecutors become social workers for the accused | PBS NewsHour.

Why Do Disco Clams Put On Brilliant Underwater Light Shows?

Why Do Disco Clams Put On Brilliant Underwater Light Shows?

A pair of disco clams share a crevice in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.


Photo by LINDSEY DOUGHERTY, University of California, Berkeley

#MakeHealth was AMAZING – Hashtags of the Week (HOTW): (Week of August 18, 2014)

Here is a fine example of how one serious blogger Uses IT to educate and faciiitate with daily blogs based on research and communication:  

Emerging Technologies Librarian

It’s always a delight to have the opportunity to show off a University of Michigan event in these posts. It’s even more of a delight to show off an event of which I was so intimately a part, even though I have to confess I feel like I did very little and it was the community that really drove this magical event! I was just lucky to be among the core team at the front, along with the incredible Joyce Lee and Emily Hirshfeld! There are so very many incredible people who were involved I can’t possible thank them all.

One thing you’ll notice in these tweets is the range of media included — many photos and videos that may or may not display. To get a more engaging sense of the event as displayed in the tweets you may need to click through.

View original post 553 more words


Places Without Locations

Ron Scubadiver's Wild Life

Farmland II Farmland II

8 Photos in This Gallery

Many photos are of recognizable places, like the Manhattan skyline. None of these landscapes are of instantly identifiable locations. The two aerials were photographed somewhere between Houston and LA, but I can’t tell you even what state is pictured. Remaining images are from Kauai, but without the Hawaii tag, nobody would ever know.

View original post

Picture quiz: Do you know your world cities?

Picture quiz – do you know your world cities? | Travel | theguardian.com.

via Picture quiz – do you know your world cities? | Travel | theguardian.com.

The World Today: How Mobile We Are!

People change location and adopt new countries more often then we might think.  

For a fascinating graphic illustrating the extent of those migrations along with some of their broader impacts click the following link:  http://www.feedbacq.com/blog/world-expat-population-the-numbers/

Or check the following preview . . .


A New Leaf

True to the introduction I have been experimenting on this site, but I have to confess it got away from me.  When I created a ScoopIt! curation site I connected it with this blog so all posts would appear here, too. Then I forgot I had done it. If you are still with me it may even be because for a while this blog was almost a proxy for ScoopIt! In any case I hope you enjoy those posts as much as I do.

But it’s time to resume my personal sharing and meandering. I hereby declare the ScoopIt! experiment a success and disconnected. I return to comments on my life and thoughts  with some obserations on air conditioning and tree trimming via this link: http://bit.ly/13fhs6m

If you miss the ScoopIt! posts as they scroll out of sight below you can find them all under both Facts and ScoopIt! in the menu at the top. And feel free to visit my complete curation site at  http://www.scoop.it/t/our-physical-world for many more fascinating posts!

10 Awe-Inspiring Weather Phenomena

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

There are reported cases of fish and frogs raining from the sky, as well as ice bombs attacking earthlings from above.

See on www.top10zen.com

Stunning map charts every river in U.S.

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

The U.S. is often thought of as a nation connected by roads—since the 1960s the Interstate Highway has defined American culture and led to untold economic prosperity. But a new map of the nation’s rivers tells a very different story.

See on www.digitaljournal.com

California’s biggest dam removal project in history begins in Carmel Valley

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

In a project that will be watched by engineers and biologists across the nation, construction crews today will begin a three-year, $84 million project to tear down the hulking San Clemente Dam in Californias largest dam-removal project ever.

See on www.mercurynews.com

Yosemite’s Iconic El Capitan Mapped in High-Resolution 3D

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

New geologic map helps scientists understand ancient volcano’s roots and contemporary rock falls.

See on news.nationalgeographic.com

A parched Syria turned to war, scholar says; Egypt may be next

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

Prof. Arnon Sofer sets out the link between drought, Assad’s civil war, and the wider strains in the Middle East; Jordan and Gaza are also in deep trouble, he warns

See on www.timesofisrael.com

Before and after: Tornado cuts devastating path through Oklahoma

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

Explore the Bing map, or Google map of Moore, Okla. More on the Oklahoma tornado:

See on photoblog.nbcnews.com

NWS – National Mosaic Enhanced Radar Image: Full Resolution Loop

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

Latest weather radar images from the National Weather Service

See on radar.weather.gov

An Underground Pool Drying Up

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

Portions of the High Plains Aquifer are rapidly being depleted by farmers who are pumping too much water to irrigate their crops, particularly in the southern half in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Levels have declined up to 242 feet in some areas, from predevelopment — before substantial groundwater irrigation began — to 2011.

See on www.nytimes.com

As coast erodes, names wiped off the map

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

For decades, south Louisiana residents have watched coastal landmarks disappear as erosion worsened and the Gulf of Mexico marched steadily inward.

See on www.houmatoday.com

Aral Sea Basin

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

“Dust blows from what was once the Aral Sea floor. Tragic mismanagement of a natural resource.”

See on twitter.com

Melting Glaciers Transform Alpine Landscape

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

Climate change is dramatically altering the Swiss Alps, where hundreds of bodies of water are being created by melting glaciers. Though the lakes can attract tourists and even generate electricity, local residents also fear catastrophic tidal waves.

See on www.spiegel.de

Night Sky Comes Alive With Aurora Borealis

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

“Peak season to spot rare, dazzling night skies over Canada and Alaska.”


See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

“Geocube is an attractive online resource about Geography. Geocube is based on the principle of the Rubik Cube with six faces and 54 topics. It is a virtual and easily accessible website which is available online for free. Move the Geocube around with your mouse and explore the faces and topics.Geocube provides an accessible way to read, see and watch what Geography is and geographers do.”

Dazzling Northern Lights Anticipated Saturday Night

See on Scoop.itOur Physical World

“A solar flare that occurred around 2 a.m. Thursday morning may create a spectacular display of northern lights Saturday evening. The midlevel flare had a long duration and was directed at Earth.  Solar flares create auroras when radiation from the sun reaches Earth and interacts with charged protons in our atmosphere. The effects are greater at the magnetic poles and weaken as they move south from the Arctic or north of the Antarctic. In the northern hemisphere the results are called the aurora borealis, with the aurora australis being its southern counterpart. The result is a spectacular display of light and color for areas with clear enough views.”

See on www.accuweather.com

WomanStats Maps

See on Scoop.itToday’s Issues

“The WomanStats Project is the most comprehensive compilation of information on the status of women in the world. The Project facilitates understanding the linkage between the situation of women and the security of nation-states. We comb the extant literature and conduct expert interviews to find qualitative and quantitative information on over 310 indicators of women’s status in 174 countries. Our Database expands daily, and access to it is free of charge.  Click here if you are a new to the project.”

Mary Rack‘s insight:

Amazing and thought-provoking.

See on womanstats.org

Top 10 Ways to Go Green this Holiday Season

See on Scoop.itGeography Education

10 ways to go green this holiday season. Zero Waste holiday tips from Eco-Cycle.

This infographic combined with these recommendations are some simple reminders that mass consumption and waste does not contribute to global joy or cheer.

See on ecocycle.org

Unnatural Landscapes

See on Scoop.itGeography Education

In a world where photoshop has made the unreal seem ordinary, these unearthly seemingly landscapes might seem likely fakes.  The world can be that extraordinary.  Pictured above is the “Door to Hell” in Turkmenistan.  Rich with natural gas, Soviets were drilling in 1971 when the drilling rig collapsed and left a huge (230 feet wide) hole.  In an attempt to stop gas leaks they hoped a fire would burn off any discharge, but it is still burning today.  Enjoy this gallery of 25 ‘unnatural’ images.

See on www.buzzfeed.com