Leviticus 19:33-34 – “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
This post will kick off a series of posts about immigration reform and the affect it has on missionaries since the founding of our country. This first one is going to be a little tough to digest. It was for me. This is going to lay out the actual immigration policies since 1790.
Almost 52 years ago the United States enacted the Immigration and Nationality Act which replaced the previous immigration program that we had which favored Europeans. The policy put in place 52 years ago opened visas to people from other countries and gave increased priority to people with relatives who are American citizens.
Prior to that, over 65% of the visas allowed in America were given to only 3 countries: Ireland, Germany, and the UK. Today, only 10% of the visas approved come from those 3 countries and the majority of them come from countries in Asia or Latin America.
All the way back to 1790 we have documentation of immigration policies. The Naturalization Policy of 1790 excluded anyone who was non-white from being a naturalized citizen. In order to be naturalized, you must have 2 years of residency, “good moral character,” and be a “free white person.” In 1795 it was extended to 5 years of residency, in 1798 it was extended to 14 years. BY 1802 it dropped back down to 5 years.
In 1798, the president was given the ability to deport or imprison anyone who was deemed dangerous to the United States. It was the first act to authorize deportation of immigrants. Another 1798 policy, which is still alive today in modified form, was the Alien Enemies Act. It allows the deportation of men (aged 14 and older) from a hostile country during times of war. This was used widely during World War II and, even though modified, currently permits the president to detain, relocate, or deport aliens during war times.
Fast forward to 1864. An Immigration Department is formed under the Secretary of State and the “Act to Encourage Immigration” was enacted. Because of the labor shortages after the Civil War, this act allowed for the government to create contracts with other countries to provide immigrant labor.
By 1870, naturalization was given to those of African nativity or descent. By this time, our immigrant population was at its highest since the inception of the country at 14.4%.
In 1875, the country released its first restrictive immigration legislation with the Page Law, also known as the Asian Exclusion Act. This prohibited the immigration of criminals into the country and also made it a felony to contract with forced Asian laborers. By 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese laborers from immigrating for the next 10 years and authorized deportation of unauthorized Chinese immigrants. Anyone of Chinese descent who immigrated prior to 1880 was given amnesty, but could not naturalize. By 1892 the amount of time Chinese could not immigrate to the USA was increased to 20 years and they must show documentation and proof of identity.
The 1891 Immigration Act was pretty large. It increased the list of people banned from immigrating to include polygamists and those with a contagious disease. It also permitted deportation of ANY unauthorized immigrants and it made it a federal misdemeanor to illegally immigrate.
1903 brought about a policy that barred people from immigrating because of their political beliefs. This act prevented anarchists, beggars, and importers of prostitutes from immigrating to the country.
By 1916 we start seeing more exclusions. Almost every Asian country was now excluded from being able to immigrate to the United States and any immigrant over the age of 16 must be able to demonstrate basic reading ability.
In 1921 the Emergency Quota Act was passed. It created numerical quotas for immigration based on nationality. Quotas were to be 3% of the foreign born population of that nationality in the 1910 census. Asian countries were still barred from immigrating. Also, the total amount of people allowed to immigrate to America was capped at 350,000.
1924 saw the creation of U.S. Border Patrol. Also in 1924, the immigration cap was decreased from 350,000 to 165,000. The quotas were also changed. The quota change favored countries that had a longer immigration record with the United States than those with shorter. It also denied entry to the United States of anyone who was ineligible to become a citizen. This meant that only whites and people of African descent were allowed entry.
In 1942 the Bracero Agreement allowed temporary visas to Mexican nationals for the purpose of working in the agricultural fields. This agreement stayed in effect until 1962.
In 1943, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed and they were added to the quotas. Also with this, Chinese people were able to naturalize in the United States.
In 1952, the McCarren-Walter Act formally removed race as an exclusion for immigration and naturalization. Also under this law, political views, ideology, mental health, and other criteria were used a basis for exclusion and deportation. It also created priority immigration status for those who were skilled workers and those who were immigrating to reunite with their families.
In 1953, the Refugee Relief Act authorized special visas for 200,000 refugees and allowed these immigrants to become permanent residents.
President Kennedy, in 1961, provided medical care, financial aid, assistance with resettlement, and child welfare services for Cuban refugees. The Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 assisted individuals in the Western Hemisphere fleeing from “persecution or fear of persecution on account of race, religion, or political opinion.”
In 1965, the antiquated quota system was removed and replaced with a preference system that included standards such as family reunification and skilled immigrants. The visa cap was also removed for the Western Hemisphere and the Eastern Hemisphere was given a 120,000 cap on visas.
President Ford, in 1975, approved the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act. This gave 130,000 Vietnamese funds for relocation and resettlement. This was due to the the fact that South Vietnam would fall to the communist north.
Then in 1976, the visa caps went back into play when Mexico was given a cap of 20,000 visas annually and the entire world was given 290,000. Prior to this, Mexican immigration was at its highest.
The Refugee Act of 1980 adopted the UN’s definition of refugee admission standards. It also included deportation relief and admission based on region or nationality. This means it paved the way for emergency immigration relief for the persecuted and unprotected around the world. A short time later in 1986, the Simpson-Mazzoli Act gave permanent residency to illegal immigrants who lived in the US and worked certain agricultural jobs. This provided amnesty to over 2.7 million illegals. Reagan added to that the minor children and spouses of those who became legal under the 1986 law.
In 1990 the cap was briefly increased to 700,000 and then reduced to 675,000 on the number of visas granted. Of that, 480,000 must be family-sponsored visas, 140,000 are employment visas, and 55,000 are what are known as “diversity immigrant” visas. These are for people who come from countries with low immigration to America.
1996 brought about more protections. President Clinton approved the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. This increased enforcement at the borders and allowed the building of fences and walls at the highest points of entry in the United States. It tightened workforce enforcement, removing criminal and deportable aliens from the country. It also increased the restrictions on aid that immigrants can receive, especially illegal immigrants.
By 2002 we digitized the admissions and removal of immigrants and the visa program. Also, in the wake of 9/11, the Homeland Security Act transfers almost all of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) to DHS (Department of Homeland Security).
In 2006, Bush 43 got the Secure Fence Act passed. Due to the failure of immigration reform, the law mandates a 700-mile double-layered fence to be constructed on America’s southwest border. It also beefed up staffing of border security there as well.
In 2012, President Obama, through executive action, signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act. This law affected illegal immigrants between the ages of 15-30 who were brought to America illegally as children to apply for temporary deportation relief and a 2-year work visa. Over 750,000 people applied for that relief.
In 2014, a second executive order allowed illegal immigrant parents who have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years and have children during that time who are U.S. citizens to apply for deportation relief and a 3-year work visa.
This year, so far, President Trump put through executive action to change immigration policies. These policies will affect 4 distinct groups of people:
- Criminals who are immigrants. Trump has promised that he will remove 2-3 million criminal immigrants. He has taken a broad stroke on the definition of “criminal” as most partisan and non-partisan groups place that number significantly lower at under 1 million.
- Immigrants who arrived as children. Over 750,000 qualified for the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act. While Trump pledged to remove DACA, he has since softened his stance saying that he is willing to work with those who qualified for it. If it was rescinded, those people would face unemployment, the inability to attend college, and possible deportation. There is currently legislation in the Senate that would provide this group “provisional protected presence” but no path to citizenship.
- Immigrant parents of American citizens. About 4 million people qualified for the 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program. Again, Trump wanted to immediately rescind both DAPA and DACA, and he may still do so. But they will likely be a low enforcement priority.
- Workers and recent arrivals. While they may remain low on the immigration totem pole, if Trump decides to follow Bush 43’s lead, there could be an increase in workplace raids. Many recent arrivals were already targeted for prioritized deportation under Obama, such as children from Central America fleeing violence. Trump has considered maintaining their deportation priority.
Trump also recently put a temporary ban on entrance from 7 Muslim-majority nations and an indefinite ban on entrance from Syria. So far this has led to only 109 people being detained nationally. according to his numbers. According to the lawsuit put forward by the states, that number is over 100,000. This isn’t new. Obama did a very similar action in his second term. Unfortunately, whether it is 100,000, 109, or even 1, with a president as polarizing as Trump, the media will be in a firestorm, which will embolden other countries to stand up to Americans.
Beginning next week, I want to look at the potential effect of Americans abroad, especially missionaries, when countries lash out against America for current legislation.
Exodus 22:21 – “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.