Response to Immigrants

The response to immigration in America was not always ideal, neither the government or the population of New York was hospitable to immigrants.  In 1870, The American government passed The Naturalization Act, which allowed only white and African immigrants to be granted US citizenship. This was one of first laws to determine the type of immigrants wanted by the American government.  In response to strains created during the California gold rush in the mid 1800’s, led to Congress passing the Chinese Exclusion Act. This act restricted the immigration of all Chinese entering the country and was the first immigration law to make the act of entering the country illegal. (Lee) 



This made the Chinese the largest group to illegally enter the country during the turn of the century, and first group in American history to be considered illegal immigrants.  Later laws prohibited other groups from entering the country, such as convicts, the mentally disabled, persons diseased, ill or contracted laborers. (Lee) The creation of Ellis Island to handle the influx of immigrants into New York City enforced these laws, sending many prospective Americans back to their homeland.



Other laws regarding immigration during the early 1900’s was the Anarchist Exclusion Act and the Expatriation act. The Anarchist Exclusion Act passed into law in 1901 was due to the assassination of President William Mckinley by a polish radical; it allowed the government to exclude possible immigrants because of their political beliefs. The Expatriation Act, passed in 1907, threatened to remove an American woman’s citizenship if she married a foreign citizen.


Erika Lee
The Journal of American History, Vol. 89, No. 1 (Jun., 2002), pp. 54-86