1903: The Anarchist Exclusion Act was passed. The legislation regulated immigration, banning not only perceived anarchists but also “people with epilepsy, beggars and importers of prostitutes.

1906: President Theodore Roosevelt signed the 1906 Naturalization Act, which required that immigrants learn English in order to become eligible to be a naturalized U.S. citizen.

1907: Roosevelt signed another immigration act that banned immigrants with disabilities and several different diseases, giving medical examiners and commissioners greater authority to turn away immigrants they perceived to be ill or unfit to enter the United States.

1917: President Woodrow Wilson signed the Asiatic Barred Zone Act into law, which banned immigrants from parts of Eastern Asia and the Pacific Islands, all immigrants over 16 who were illiterate, and other groups deemed “undesirables.

1918: The Anarchist Exclusion Act was expanded through the Dillingham-Hardwick Act to include anti-war protesters and radical labor union members.  

1921: The Emergency Quota Act limited the number of immigrants to three percent of the residents already in the United States from whichever country an immigrant came from.

1922: The Married Women’s Act stipulated that any female U.S. citizen who married an immigrant ineligible for citizenship would lose her own citizenship.

1924: The Johnson-Reed Act established a border patrol and decreased the Emergency Quota Act to 2 percent. The same year, a National Origins Formula was developed, which capped total annual immigration to 150,000 people.

Early 1930s: Nearly 2 million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who were U.S. citizens were deported through a policy that blamed Mexicans for the Great Depression.

1954: Under President Dwight Eisenhower, Operation Wetback was initiated as a mass deportation program targeting Mexicans.

1965: The Immigration and Nationality Act capped all immigrants in the Eastern Hemisphere to 170,000 a year, and no country could exceed more than 20,000 a year. The same year, homosexuals were banned from being eligible to immigrate to the United States. In 1976, the annual immigration quota was increased to 290,000 a year.

1996: The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act further expanded the detention of illegal immigrants, nearly doubling 1996 rates by 1998.

2006: The Secure Fence Act authorized building a fence along the U.S-Mexico border and the use of surveillance to protect the border.

2009-2017: The Obama Administration deported more immigrants than any other administration in history. By the end of his two terms, 5 million had been deported

Trump: Trump signed executive orders on border security and interior enforcement. He also signed an executive order at the Pentagon on refugees and visa holders from designated nations.

The executive order on border security, entitled Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, contains several sections which undermine human rights, including the expanded use of detention, limits on access to asylum, enhanced enforcement along the US-Mexico border, and the construction of a 2,000 mile border wall.

Section 4 of the border security executive order directs Department of Home Security (DHS) to take steps to obtain operational control of the US-Mexico border by planning, designing and constructing a wall along the length of the border. It also directs DHS to allocate unused funding for the purpose of constructing a wall and to undertake a comprehensive study on the security of the southern border within 180 days. Section 8 directs DHS to hire an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents as soon as practicable. Adding 5,000 more Border Patrol agents along the border would increase the number of agents to about 25,000, more than triple the number of agents in 2000.

Section 5 of the order directs DHS to immediately construct detention facilities at or near the southern border and to assign asylum officers and immigration judges to the facilities to conduct asylum interviews and hearings. Section 6 directs DHS to detain noncitizens to the extent permitted by law and to issue guidance on detention authority to terminate “catch and release.”

Section 11 of the order directs DHS to expand expedited removal throughout the country, as opposed to within 100 miles of the border; to apply humanitarian parole authority only on a “case by case” basis; to train all DHS personnel on the unaccompanied alien children section of the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act (TVPRA); and to ensure that credible fear determinations for those in expedited removal or “reasonable fear” determinations for those in reinstatement of removal proceedings are conducted within the “plain language of the provisions.”

The second immigration-related executive order, entitled, Enhnacing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, focuses on such issues as sanctuary cities and local-federal immigration enforcement cooperation, enforcement priorities, the reinstatement of the Secure Communities program and Section 287(g) agreements, and an increase in the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents ( ICE) agents.

Section 9 forbids “sanctuary” jurisdictions from receiving federal grants, except those that are necessary for enforcement purposes. It directs DHS to designate jurisdictions as “sanctuary” jurisdictions, although there is no definition of what constitutes a “sanctuary.” Section 8 directs DHS to enter into Section 287 (g) agreements, which permit state and local law enforcement to act as immigration agents and to apprehend and detain immigrants. Section 10 terminates the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), instituted by the Obama Administration, and re-institutes the Secure Communities program, which would require local jurisdictions to issue “detainers” on unauthorized immigrants in their custody.

Section 5 expands the priority list of noncitizens subject to deportation to anyone charged of a criminal offense, who committed acts that constitute a criminal offense, who engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation, who has abused any program related to public benefits, who is subject to a final order of removal, but has not departed, or who otherwise poses a risk to public safety. The president pledges to deport 2-3 million persons he deems as criminals.

Section 7 authorizes an increase of 10,000 additional ICE agents.

President Trump also signed an executive order entitled, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals. The order suspends the issuance of visas to nationals from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen; shuts down the US refugee program for 120 days; reduces the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States in FY 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000; halts the resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely; launches a screening mechanism for the entry of foreign nationals; and requires DHS to expedite completion of an entry-exit tracking system.

Section 3 of the executive order suspends the issuance of visas to countries designated as being detrimental to the interests of the United States for 90 days, listing Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Section 4 requires implementation of uniform screening standards for all immigration programs, to include assessments such as whether an individual is a risk, will be a positive contributor to the nation, and has the ability to make contributions in the national interest.

Section 5 of the executive order suspends the US resettlement program for 120 days while a review is made to ensure that refugees are being adequately screened for national security purposes. The program will be restored only if the Secretary of State, the Secretary of DHS, and the Director of National Intelligence agree that sufficient safeguards are in place. The order also reduces the number of refugees admitted into the United States to 50,000 for FY 2017, down from 110,000 set by the Obama Administration. It allows the continued processing of refugees on a “case-by-case” basis and individuals with religious-based persecution claims, who would receive priority once the program is resumed. In addition, it suspends the resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely.

The three executive orders indicate that the United States is turning its back on its heritage as an immigrant nation and a safe haven for the world’s persecuted. This stance will harm its moral standing in the world, and limit its ability to influence other nations to collaborate with it on humanitarian and other initiatives. It will also harm US relations with long-term allies.

About the Zero Tolerance Immigration Policy

There is no law mandating the separation of families, contrary to Trump’s claims. However, the Trump administration has introduced a "zero-tolerance" policy calling for the prosecution of all individuals who illegally enter the United States. This policy has the effect of separating parents from their children when they enter the country together, because parents are referred for prosecution and the children are placed in the custody of a sponsor, such as a relative or foster home, or held in a shelter. More than 2000 children have been  separated from their parents as a result  of the new approach being implemented. Before Trump came into office, families were detained together, sent back immediately or paroled into the country. Now, prosecution is happening across the board and has become the uniform policy.

When an adult is referred for prosecution, a child traveling with the adult is turned over to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. That agency is responsible for placing the child with a sponsor as the child’s immigration case is resolved.

The Trump administration has been considering separating families at the border since the early months of his presidency, hoping that harsh treatment would deter illegal immigration.

Many of the families apprehended at the border come from Central America fleeing gang violence and poverty and seeking asylum in the United States. A United Nations convention specifically states asylum seekers should not be criminally prosecuted for entering without documentation because those fleeing persecution often do not have time/ability to get proper authorization before they are forced to flee.

The United Nations human rights office has also called for an end to the Trump administration’s practice that separates children and parents, saying that using immigration detention and family separation "as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles."



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