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The US Immigration Laws: Movement Regulation


The United States of America is a country of immigrants. People from almost every part of the world and nationality inhabit the American territories at the present moment. The nation would not exist without individuals who decided to take their families and started to live new lives in the USA back in the eighteenth century. Nowadays, there are many laws aimed at regulating the immigrant movements in the Commonwealth that have increased rapidly due to various career opportunities and higher living standards. Conditions for immigration to the US include the protection of refugees, the reunification of families, and the admission of immigrants with skills that are valuable to the economy. Examples of US immigration laws include the Naturalization Act, Alien Friends Act, Equal Nationality Act, Immigration and Nationality Act, Immigration Reform and Control Act, Immigration Act, Illegal Immigration Reform, and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, and the REAL ID Act. This paper is intended to discuss the legal topic of immigration in the USA, its historical analysis, appropriate changes in the law, and other aspects of the given issue.

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Description of the Legal Topic

As it is mentioned above, many nationalities are living in the territory of the United States of America. As individuals in developing countries seek decent job offers, they are always tempted to move to the most attractive and financially independent country in the world. Therefore, the American government was obliged to set particular laws that were supposed to regulate the number of people who crossed the national border (Anderson 39). Also, the rights of tourists and immigrants are legally limited to prevent various misunderstandings and situations that might cause harm to local inhabitants.

The law described above is necessary as it helps to eliminate particular demographic issues (such as overpopulation or the lack of the country’s inhabitants). The majority of individuals who stay in the USA territory illegally are the citizens of Mexico, Colombia, Puerto-Rico, and other developing states that are situated close to the American borders (Anderson 41). According to the law, every immigrant or tourist is obliged to have an appropriate document to pass one of the multiple control-posts (Weissbrodt et al. 102). Unfortunately, many travelers violate governmental regulations and circumvent the law related to immigration or tourism. It would be proper to state that a significant part of foreigners come to the USA to give birth to their children here, which makes them local citizens officially. As a result, parents do not return to their motherland.

USA Immigration Law Historical Analysis

As mentioned above, people from Europe were invited to inhabit American territories in the eighteenth century. In several decades, immigrants of Asian nationalities started to populate the United States of America due to the lack of well-paid jobs in their motherland (Fine and Lyon 445). The immigration waves were influenced by the US government, and all people had to undergo medical examinations at Ellis Island in New York to pass the border control. As the number of people in these territories was enough to maintain a strong economy and the nation in general, local politicians closed the borders and established new laws that required every visitor to have specific documents that described one’s traveling purpose.

The United States began to regulate immigration for the first time after gaining independence from Great Britain. Laws enacted during those times were highly biased as they favored immigrants from European countries and restricted the entry of immigrants from other regions of the world (Anderson 64). This situation changed after the enactment of legislation that allowed immigration from other parts of the world. In recent times, immigration laws have focused on refugees, illegal immigration, and counterterrorism. The Naturalization Act of 1790 was the first immigration law enacted by the United States (Hing 43). The Act only outlined rules that governed naturalization but did not place restrictions on immigration. For instance, it did not allow non-white people to become American citizens. Enactments to the act extended the number of residency years for naturalization eligibility (Hing 43). Immigration restrictions were first enacted in 1875. For instance, criminals, beggars, traffickers of prostitutes, polygamists, anarchists, and people with contagious diseases were denied entry into the country. Also, for the first time, the US restricted the immigration of Chinese people, and later, extended the restriction to immigrants from other Asian countries.

The early years of the 1900s were characterized by immigration from southern and eastern Europe. Between 1921 and 1924, immigration laws focused on capping total annual immigration by restricting the number of immigrants that entered the US based on nationality (Hing 47). The new laws led to increased immigration from northern and western Europe. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 created landmark changes in America’s immigration policy because it allowed the immigration of family members and skilled individuals (Jaggers 10). Another landmark law was enacted in 1986 by Congress. The Immigration Reform and Control Act provided amnesty to millions of immigrants, illegalized the hiring of undocumented immigrants, enhanced border security, and commenced sanctions for the hiring of illegal immigrants (Hing 54). These provisions tightened the admission eligibility of immigrants.

Recent immigration laws have been criticized for being lenient on immigrants. For instance, in 2012, President Obama issued an executive order that enabled young illegal immigrants to apply for deportation relief and work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (Kerwin 548). In 2016, President Donald Trump said that he wanted to reduce the number of the country’s illegal residents by mass deportation. Also, he aims at establishing new rules for people who want to receive American visas (Hirota 1098). This political strategy is caused by multiple individuals who do not pay taxes and work in the USA, which hurts the Commonwealth’s economy. It would be proper to mention that Trump wanted to build a concrete wall in the territory where the USA and Mexico merge to make it impossible for people to cross the border illegally.

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Cases Integral to USA Immigration Laws

The first case is the cancellation of birthright citizenship. As it is mentioned above, President Donald Trump wants to deprive immigrants of the right to give their children born in the US territory citizenships and appropriate documents (Kerwin 554). This law is one of the main reasons for drug industry prosperity in the southern part of the country as many individuals have a right to stay in the USA if they have relatives here. Another case presents the changes to legal immigration that implies reducing the number of illegal USA residents. President Trump initiated the campaign of halving the number of issued green cards (Kerwin 556). Also, the politician claimed that his goal is to deport approximately twenty-five hundred thousand people (without legal rights to stay here) from the country. The last case is Kate’s law that Donald Trump promised to discuss and ask Congress to pass. This law will give police officers a legal right to arrest and jail foreign criminals when they remain in the US territory (Jaggers et al. 9). The given regulation is named after a victim that was shot by an illegal immigrant who was deported from the state several times before.

Vartelas v. Holder

In this 2012 case, Panagis Vartelas was appealing a decision by the United States to remove him from the United States after taking a trip to Greece. The enactment of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) began the permanent removal of residents who traveled out of the country and who have prior crime convictions (Lively and Broyles 237). Vartelas had been convicted of conspiracy to forgery and had served a four-month prison sentence. The Supreme Court gave Panagis Vartelas legal permanent residency because the Act was not applicable at the time of conviction, and therefore, the enforcement of the aforementioned provisions was unconstitutional.

Plyler v. Doe

In this landmark case, the Supreme Court of the United States maintained that it was illegal for the State of Texas to deny funding for the education of the children of illegal immigrants. The state had implemented a statute that imposed an annual $1000 tuition fee to the children of illegal migrants in addition to denial of education funding (Lively and Broyles 246). The court maintained that this decision violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution that protects the rights of undocumented immigrant children from discrimination. This ruling had an immense influence on immigration policy, though its application has been limited to public schools only.

Lopez V. Gonzales and Toledo-Flores v. United States

The Immigration Act revoked the right of any individual convicted of aggravated felony to political asylum and cancellation of removal. In this case, Jose Antonio Lopez and Reymundo Toledo-Flores were convicted of drug crimes (Lively and Broyles 253). At the state level, the crimes are felonies, but at the federal level, they are misdemeanors. Lopez’s request for a deportation waiver was rejected and Toledo-Flores was subject to a harsh sentence under federal law. The Supreme Court ruled that it was unlawful for the government to impose mandatory deportation for individuals convicted of drug crimes at the state level (Lively and Broyles 255). The ruling had an immense influence on the federal government’s approach to sentencing and immigration policy.

Personal Opinion

Immigration is one of the most hotly debated issues in the United States. Opponents and proponents of immigration are divided as to whether increasing immigration or restricting immigration is the right legal decision for the United States. I think that it is important for the federal government to enact more stringent immigration laws that will include extensive and thorough vetting of potential immigrants. Illegal immigrants who entered the US as refugees should be granted citizenship, but those who entered the US in search of economic opportunities without documentation should be deported.

I believe that US immigration laws have over the years become lenient with immigrants, especially during the tenure of President Obama. Recent cases of terrorism can be attributed mainly to relaxed immigration laws that allow individuals affiliated with extremist groups to enter the US and plan attacks on its citizens. To secure the US borders and enhance the safety of its citizens, the government must enact into law more laws that regulate immigration. Preference should be given to refugees and immigrants with skills that can benefit the United States. I think that in the future, the US will consider enacting more immigration laws to mitigate the current surge of immigrants into the US. This will mainly depend on whether the government is controlled by Democrats or Republicans. Their diverse ideologies and perspectives on immigration are critical to the future of the immigration policy.


The law of immigration in the United States of America has changed several times due to various decisions made by the country’s government as to the regulation of its population. Since the enactment of the Naturalization Act of 1790, the US has experienced several new laws and enactments to existing ones that have aimed at regulating the number of immigrants that enter the country and their rights. Examples of key changes to immigration laws include the exclusion of communists and Chinese immigrants, the creation of refugee provisions, elimination of the quota system, refugee changes, and immigration based on skilled labor. As there are many illegal immigrants to American territories, politicians are obliged to impose a particular restriction on people who violate appropriate laws. President Donald Trump wants to reduce the number of unregistered foreigners by fifty percent within the next ten years.

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Works Cited

Anderson, Bridget. Us and Them? The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Control. Oxford University Press, 2015.

Fine, Janice, and Gregory Lyon. “Segmentation and the Role of Labor Standards Enforcement in Immigration Reform.” Journal on Migration and Human Security, vol. 5, no. 2, 2017, pp. 431–451.

Hing, Bill Ong. Defining America: Through Immigration Policy. Temple University Press, 2012.

Hirota, H. “The Moment of Transition: State Officials, the Federal Government, and the Formation of American Immigration Policy.” Journal of American History, vol. 99, no. 4, 2013, pp. 1092–1108.

Jaggers, Jeremiah, et al. “The Devolution of U.S. Immigration Policy: An Examination of the History and Future of Immigration Policy.” Journal of Policy Practice, vol. 13, no. 1, 2014, pp. 3–15.

Kerwin, Donald. “Moving Beyond Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Trump: Principles, Interests, and Policies to Guide Long-Term Reform of the US Immigration System.” Journal on Migration and Human Security, vol. 5, no. 3, 2017, pp. 541–576.

Lively, Donald, and Scott Broyles. Contemporary Supreme Court Cases: Landmark Decisions since Roe v. Wade, 2nd edition. ABC-CLIO, 2016.

Weissbrodt, David S., et al. Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell. West Academic Publishing, 2017.

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