But immigration is not a monolithic issue; there is no one immigration question. There are more like three: How should the United States treat illegal immigrants, especially those brought to the country as children? Should overall immigration levels be reduced, increased, or neither? And how should the U.S. prioritize the various groups—refugees, family members, economic migrants, and skilled workers among them—seeking entry to the country?

“Congress launched the beginnings of our modern immigration regime in the post-Civil War period…


The Reconstruction Congresses expressed concern for the mistreatment of immigrants in their debates on the Thirteenth Amendment "involuntary servitude" clause, the Anti-Peonage Act of 1867, the Civil Rights Act of 1870, and the Padrone Act of 1874—particularly Chinese immigrants in the western United States, Mexican immigrants in the southwest, and even Italian children in the eastern cities.


Soon thereafter, however, Congress began to enact laws directing the exclusion at ports of entry of certain undesirable persons, and later, the deportation, or removal from within the country, of others.


Many of these early grounds for federal exclusion or deportation reflected the same concerns as prior state laws with poverty, disease, and criminality. Other federal laws became explicitly racial, initially targeting Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian nationals, but eventually establishing national origins quotas and discriminating against Mexican and other Latino nationals as well.”

-Michael Wishnie
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“In 1917, lawmakers enacted legislation that required a literacy test for immigrants over 16 years old to enter the United States and banned those from what was called the Asiatic Barred Zone. That act paved the way for a 1924 immigration law, known as the Johnson-Reed Act, that imposed a quota system based on national origin.”

-Priscilla Alvarez
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Remember, remember always, that all of us, you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.

-President Franklin D. Roosevelt

“In the wake of the global depression of the 1930s and the waning of international migration, internal migration and movement within the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking Americas dominated population movement in the region.


In the years after World War II, the United States, which was in desperate need of labor, created programs to recruit workers from Mexico and the Caribbean.”

-Steven Hyland
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“[T]the U.S. Border Patrol enacted “Operation Wetback,” a campaign to deport Mexican workers who were in the country illegally…to respond to the unintended consequences of another American policy, the Emergency Farm Labor Program…

Though the agreement was initially supposed to relieve the wartime labor shortage, American farmers developed a penchant for imported farm workers and had the program renewed repeatedly for 22 years. Between 1942 and 1964 the Bracero Program, as it was popularly known, brought over 4 million Mexican men to the U.S. through renewable six month contracts.

The program intentionally recruited only men as a way to safeguard against their permanent settlement in the U.S. They believed men would return to Mexico to be with their families. Yet some women also came in search of employment as did many men who were not able to secure Bracero contracts. The program thus inadvertently led to the dramatic increase of “illegal” Mexican immigration, as many migrants discovered that U.S. employers had a strong demand for Mexican labor and many would hire them with or without legal work permits.”

-Delia Fernández
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Mr. Speaker, our Nation depends on immigrants’ labor, and I hope we can create an immigration system as dependable as they are.

-U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez

“The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 eliminated hard quotas on countries previously considered undesirable and ushered in a new era of ethnic, racial and religious diversity. Though in its first iteration, the law privileged skilled and educated workers; in its final iteration, it biased family unification. The children, spouses and siblings of legal residents took precedence, along with scientists, artists, professionals and skilled manual workers… [t]he law’s emphasis on family unification also meant that large numbers of unskilled workers benefited as well, including many siblings and parents of skilled professionals.”

-Joshua Zeitz
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“For more than a century, with a dramatic increase after 1965, Border Patrol officers and I.N.S. (Immigration and Naturalization Service) agents acting as police, prosecutors, judges and jury apprehended suspected “illegal” Mexican immigrants at their workplaces, their neighborhoods, in their homes. Those who agreed to be “voluntarily” deported avoided sequestration in detention centers. What’s more, they were advised that because there would be no formal record of their deportation, they would not be subject to imprisonment if apprehended trying to cross the border again. The reliance on voluntary deportation saved the I.N.S. millions of dollars while keeping ajar the revolving door that allowed Mexicans to cross the border, reunite with their families and satisfy American employers’ insatiable appetites for cheap, unprotected, nonunionized labor. Only in the middle 1990s, after extended court battles, did the I.N.S. agree to inform apprehended immigrants of their legal rights to consult a lawyer and request asylum. As a result, immigrants, instead of agreeing to be “voluntarily” deported, challenged their removal, leaving government officials no choice but to institute formal deportation procedures.”

-David Nasaw, citing discussing Adam Goodman
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“On August 1, 2001, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced to the U.S. Senate the bipartisan legislative proposal called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act—most commonly known as the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would open a pathway for certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to apply for U.S. legal permanent residency and eventually be eligible for U.S. citizenship. American Dream Act, H.R.1751, 111th Congress (2009–10)…


On the campaign trail, Donald Trump vowed to undo DACA. Once in office, however, he bowed to the overwhelming popularity of DACA and said that he would treat its recipients “with heart.” Others in President Trump’s administration remain opposed to DACA and committed to end the program.


On August 24, 2017, several Trump administration officials gathered in the Roosevelt Room at the White House for a meeting about the DACA program…[t]he decision to end DACA was made on that day by Sessions based on the conclusion that the program was unlawful. Duke’s memorandum that terminates the program provides no actual policy reasons for ending DACA and only reiterates Sessions’s claim that DACA was unlawful.”


-Luis Cortes Romero

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“The Supreme Court…rejected President Donald Trump’s attempt to end the DACA program, handing a major victory to about 650,000 immigrants — most of whom who entered the U.S. illegally as children more than a decade ago.


Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s Democratic appointees in a 5-4 decision that found the Trump administration’s move to wind down the Obama-era program for Dreamers lacked a sound legal basis.


The decision does not foreclose future moves to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but it seems unlikely the administration will be able to put in place a new framework to end DACA before November's presidential election.”

-Josh Gerstein & Rebecca Rainey
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Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

-Emma Lazarus, later inscribed on the    Statue of Liberty.