The United States has always been the desirable destination for immigration. Up until the late 1800s, there was a lack of federal laws controlling immigration. The open immigration policy earned the U.S. the title of “melting pot” in celebration of the harmonious uniting of many different cultures. Over the years immigration laws have been formed, reformed, renewed and reconstructed leaving this country with the strict policies on foreign immigration that exist today.

First Steps into Immigration Control

Throughout history, the United States has had varying policies with regard to immigration, allowing open entry during some time periods and restricting access during others. During colonial times in America, many people openly came to live in the colonies and most people became farmers. Many people came seeking new opportunities and religious freedom. Many of the immigrants were also slaves and indentured servants. In 1790 the Naturalization Act was passed, limiting the rights of citizenship to “free white persons” who had lived in the United States for two years, excluding indentured servants, free African Americans, and slaves. Twelve years later, this was amended with the Naturalization Act of 1802, which required arriving immigrants to register as aliens before applying for citizenship. This marked the beginning of efforts for control of immigration, which would increase over the years.

Reasons for Immigration

Immigration has been spurred for various reasons over the years. People sometimes have to evacuate their home countries for political or economic reasons. Many times, they come in order to chase the “American Dream.” Prospects of money, freedom, or just a better life have brought people here for centuries, and continue to do so today. Immigration fluctuates in mass amounts, often coordinating with wars, famines and many of the large events in world news. Immigration laws reflect the times, cycling back and forth between hostile and favorable and often represented the political statements of the time. The Great Famine, the political refugees of France in 1848, and the California Gold Rush of 1848 are all examples of times the influx of immigration, which forced the government to react by enacting, laws.

Immigration Law Today

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act were created in 1996 and are in place today. This act enormously changed the requirements to enter the United States, making it more constricting and obstructive. Changes include the mandatory removal of non-citizens (including permanent residents) who have been convicted of a crime. Three-year, ten-year and permanent bars are given to those disqualified. Also, the use of Border Patrol agents was implemented.

The restrictive features of today’s American immigration laws and the enforcement of them make it more difficult for immigrants to enter the country than ever. With this added difficulty, it is in the best interest of immigrants seeking lawful residence in America seek an immigration attorney. Not only can proper legal representation make it easier to have a case approved, but also they can ensure no disqualifying mistakes are made in the application process.