Immigration Legislation presentation.


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The purpose of this response paper is to explore and interpret historical knowledge about immigration legislation. In 1864, Congress passed “An Act to Encourage Immigration,” which was predicated on the idea that American industry needed more workers. The result was a marked increase in immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, and this wave of immigrants was known as the “new immigrants.” They were different from previous immigrants in terms of language, culture, and religion; and they helped to change the landscape of American cities.

Twenty years later, Congress began to pass laws that restricted immigration, often drastically. This began in 1882 with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese people from entering the country for ten years (the law was renewed in 1892 and 1902, then made permanent. It was repealed in 1943). Immigration laws enacted in 1882 and 1891 enumerated other “excludable aliens,” such as criminals, anarchists, paupers, and insane persons. Immigration was further restricted during World War I, and the era of increasing nativism culminated with the 1921 and 1924

  • View this short (3:45) video on the history of immigration in the United States. It provides an astonishing overview of the impact and importance of immigration in American history.
  • Review the Immigration Acts. Familiarize yourself with some of the provisions of the immigration laws below (full text of each law is linked as well):

1882Chinese Exclusion Act Links to an external site.2

      • Suspended immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States for ten years.
      • Barred Chinese from naturalization.

1891Immigration ActLinks to an external site.3

1917Immigration Act Links to an external site.4

1921Emergency Quota Act Links to an external site.5

1924Immigration Act Links to an external site.6

  • Review these selected annual immigration quotas under the 1924 Immigration Act:

Northern & Western Europe:

  • Great Britain & Northern Ireland – 65,721
  • Germany – 25,957
  • Ireland – 17,853
  • Scandinavia – 7,241

Southern & Eastern Europe:

  • Poland – 6,524
  • Italy – 5,802
  • Russia – 2,784


  • All countries combined – 1,000

Western Hemisphere:

  • All countries combined – No limit


  • China, India, Japan, Korea – 0
  • Respond: Having read about the immigration legislation of the early 20th century, here are some questions to consider:
  • Consider the history of immigration video, and list three to five observations that surprised you about our immigration history. Why did you select them?
  • Summarize one of the immigration acts. What was its purpose?
  • Choose one of the immigration acts and evaluate its impact. Comment on how it shaped the law or society. Include two or three observations.
  • Think about the quotas from the Immigration Act of 1924. Where are the largest number and smallest number of people coming from? Why were the quotas set up this way?
  • Notice that the quota for immigrants from the Western Hemisphere (i.e., the Americas) was unlimited in 1924. How does that differ from today? What might account for those differences?
  • What is the connection between what we learned in the last lesson about the pseudo-science of eugenics and the desire to pass legislation limiting or forbidding immigration from certain parts of the world?
  • What have you learned about the historical relationship between immigrants and native-born Americans?

Please write a thoughtful response to these questions, and/or feel free to explore other ideas that you may have related to immigration legislation. Your paper should be about one page, double-spaced (around 250-300 words). This is not a research paper, and there is no expectation of further research. I want you to grapple with these ideas yourself, thinking about the historical context of immigration in American history.


  • 250-300 words (approx. 1-2 pages typed, double-spaced).
  • Support any general points you make or attitudes you express with specific reasons and details.
  • Organize your thoughts into coherent paragraphs. Use transitions to make the relationships among ideas in the paper clear.
  • Edit the paper carefully for errors in grammar, mechanics, punctuation, word use, and spelling.
  • Do not quote from the textbook or other sources—use your own words.


  • Cite the source of any paraphrased ideas or information.
  • You may use MLA Style.
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