Immigration Timeline

The United States’ immigration policy is supposedly represented with the quote at the base of the statue of liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” However, the U.S.’s policies on immigration have repeatedly contradicted this quote. According to the Constitution, naturalization is under the jurisdiction of Congress. It does not assign immigration to any one branch of government, so it requires attention from all branches of government to work towards achieving the acceptance that the United States claims to have, based on the words inscribed at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty. This timeline shows some immigration cases that were reviewed by the Supreme Court in the past, leading up to a current controversial immigration case before the Washington District Court of Appeals, possibly headed to the Supreme Court.

In 1876, the case Chy Lung v. Freeman was decided in favor of Chy Lung. Lung was one of 22 women who were detained in the United States for immigrating to the U.S. from Japan even though California had passed the Anti-Coolie Act of 1862 to exclude Asian immigrants from the state. In this unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that immigration was under the jurisdiction of the federal government instead of state government.

In 1898, the case United States v. Wong Kim Ark was decided in favor of Wong Kim Ark. After the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the United States denied citizenship to all Chinese immigrants whether they were born in the United States or not. Ark was born in the U.S. and lived there for 20 years. He went to visit family in China and when he returned, he was not let back into the country because since he was Chinese, he was not considered a citizen. The Supreme Court held this action to be unconstitutional, and Wong Kim Ark was allowed back in because the Constitution states that anyone born in the United States is a legal citizen.

In 1982, Plyler v. Doe held that immigrants cannot be denied access to public education because that would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1975, Texas made a law excluding children of immigrants from schools. The Supreme Court judges pointed out that this “severely disadvantaged” children of immigrants and that Texas’s reasons for implementing the law did not prove to have “compelling state interest.”
In 2015, it was decided in the Supreme Court case Kerry v. Din that people can be denied a visa or citizenship and be excluded from the country if the government suspects them of being a terrorist, and that the United States government does not have to provide an explanation. This issue arose when a U.S. citizen filed a visa petition for her husband from Afghanistan and her husband’s visa was declined with no explanation.

Finally, the current case on immigration before the Washington District Court of Appeals possibly headed to the Supreme Court is Washington v. Trump. President Trump tried to exclude individuals in a select group of predominantly Muslim countries from emigrating to or visiting the United States. Later, he tacked the countries North Korea and Venezuela, possibly in response to accusations of religious discrimination. The case has not yet gone through the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals, but while it is being debated by the Washington 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Travel Ban will be enforced.

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