This topic guide will help you work with the topic of US immigration. The guide is mainly intended for use in English class, but it may also be relevant for other school subjects such as History or Social Studies.
US is to a large extent a nation founded by immigrants. Even back in the colonial days, before the US was an independent nation, a very large number of immigrants arrived to seek new opportunities.
The War of Independence led to a temporary drop in the number of immigrants, but it quickly started to rise again as the new nation established itself. External factors also played a role in the increasing immigration - for example the Irish Famine from 1845-1849, or the many European revolutions in the middle of the 19th century.
The first immigration laws were relatively open, but they later became more restrictive and even overtly racist. For example, Chinese people were specifically banned from becoming American citizens for a long period of time.
The development towards more restrictive and selective immigration laws continued in the 20th century, with even more restrictions introduced against immigrants from Asia, while Europeans were given preferential treatment. However, some restrictions were temporarily reduced to account for the rising number of refugees following the Second World War.
In the middle of the 20th century, there was a significant rise in the number of illegal immigrants entering the US from Mexico to seek a better life. This made illegal immigration an important topic in the political debate in the US.
In 1965, the US immigration system underwent significant reforms, which among other things put a stop to the nationality discrimination that had previously been part of the immigration laws. This led to a rising number of immigrants from non-European nations, which eventually led to more restrictive laws being introduced in the 1980s.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks had a dramatic effect on US politics and created an increasing focus on national security, as well as a rising fear of foreign threats. This led to the creation of a number of government institutions in charge of controlling and monitoring immigration - especially illegal immigration. 9/11 also led to increasing prejudice against immigrants among the general population, where people from Muslim countries were especially targetted in the wake of the attacks.
The Democratic President Barack Obama represented a moderate position on immigration, but often had trouble passing laws on the subject, given that Congress was controlled by the Republicans during much of his time in government. However, he did introduce the famous DACA-initivative (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which granted some rights and privileges to a number of illegal immigrants who had grown up in the US.
The Republican President Donald Trump won his election on a platform which was based on a more aggressive approach to immigration - especially illegal immigration from Mexico. When Trump became President, he started to put some of his policies into practice. For example, he restricted entry into the US from a number of Muslim countries, and he plans to build a wall along the southern border of the US to limit illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America.