I have thought long and hard about writing this article, simply because the subject matter is one that has been a love and hate topic for decades if not centuries. Many grand individuals can say that their ancestors walked the land for hundreds of years before the arrival of the white man. Some Americans can revel in the knowledge that their families have been here since the Mayflower reached the shoreline of this great nation. Some of us can say that our “American” tree started in the mid-seventeen hundreds while there are those that can only claim ownership for just 1 or 2 generations.
Modern immigration is nothing like the way it used to be done in 1892 when Ellis Island became the sole port of entry into America. It remained this way for over sixty years until 1954, and those coming into our country were doing so with a desire to assimilate and become “Americans”. They shared a simple dream shared by millions and realized by many who worked hard to make that dream come true. Prior to 1892, those who made their way to our shores became part of history, when the “Americans” told King George that we had had enough of his tyranny and wished to no longer be under British rule.
This brief outline of history gives an affirmative nod to the comment that “America is a nation of immigrants”, but we were formed as a nation of “legal” immigrants. Immigrants who wanted to help build our nation, not drain its’ resources dry, which is but one facet of where America is now with illegal immigrants coming into this country in violation of our laws. The other facet of immigration is that which the President can control under, 8 USC 1182, by restricting or stopping immigration of individuals whom he or she feels pose a danger to the security of our country. Congress enacted this law and gave this power to the President and it is part of the oath of office spoken in front of all America. This particular law was not written to allow the judiciary oversight in Presidential decisions, and this order has been used on previous occasions for a particular “group” of people, which can be simply defined by the country of their origin.
In 1798 during the war with France, President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Act which allowed the President to imprison or deport aliens considered as “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States”. (FDR would use this same act after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.) In 1882, President Chester A. Arthur signed the “Chinese Exclusion Law” which prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers. This act, which was written by Congress and signed by the President proved to be a very important test on the powers of the Federal Government to restrict immigration into America. The Supreme Court upheld it in the case of Chae Chan Ping v. US, and the opinion of the court was delivered by Justice Stephen J. Field. Justice Field wrote the following: “The power of the government to exclude foreigners from the country whenever, in its judgment, the public interests require such exclusion, has been asserted in repeated instances, and never denied by the executive or legislative departments.”
In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the “Immigration Act of 1917” which Congress overrode. This act barred “homosexuals”, “idiots”, Criminals”, “insane persons”, “feeble-minded persons”, “alcoholics”, “epileptics”, “professional beggars”, all persons “physically or mentally defective”, “anarchists” and “polygamists” and barred all immigration from India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.