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date: 14 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Although the United States is a nation shaped by vast waves of immigration over time, Americans have been fighting over policies governing immigrant admissions and rights since the earliest days of the republic. Rival nativist and pro-immigration movements and traditions have yielded marked shifts across U.S. history among national policies designed to stimulate or discourage immigration. The federal government only gradually took control of regulating immigrant flows over the course of the nineteenth century. Since then, national policy has assumed both restrictive and expansive forms. Whereas the creation of an “Asiatic Barred Zone” and national origins quotas in the 1920s imposed draconian barriers to immigration, immigration reforms after 1965 helped fuel the nation’s fourth major wave of immigration dominated by unprecedented numbers of Latin American and Asian newcomers. As underscored by recent battles over family separation and efforts to build a southern border wall, the politics of immigration reform today, as in the past, remain deeply polarizing, as border hawks on the Right and immigrant rights advocates on the Left clash over unauthorized immigration and the future of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the country. The United States’ immigration policy will continue to reflect these competing interests and ideals.

Keywords: immigration policy, refugees, citizenship, assimilation, nativism, political parties, Chinese exclusion, Bracero Program, amnesty, undocumented immigrants

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