Beginning in 1882, responsibility for administering U.S. immigration law, excluding the Chinese exclusion law, rested with the individual states. In the Immigration Act of 1891, the U.S. Congress assigned responsibility for enforcing immigration policy to the federal government in an effort to increase the effectiveness of immigration law. The act also expanded the list of excludable and deportable aliens.
In the light of several concerns over immigration law, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1891, which included provisions intended to secure closer inspection and provide more effective enforcement of immigration law. The 1891 act centralized responsibility for enforcement of immigration law in the federal executive branch, tightened regulation along the land borders, and expanded the list of excludable and deportable immigrants.
Of paramount importance to Congress in 1891 was the centralization of enforcement under the executive branch of the federal government. Under the
In the Immigration Act of 1891, Congress made the secretary of the treasury responsible for prescribing rules for inspection of the nation’s coastal ports and its borders with Canada and Mexico. The 1891 act created the
While the Immigration Act of 1882 regulated coastal borders, it did not regulate the contiguous borders, and immigrants crossing either the U.S.-Canadian or the U.S.-Mexican border entered the nation largely without inspection. Reports estimated that, in six months before the passage of the Immigration Act of 1891, as many as fifty thousand
The 1891 act also extended the federal government’s power to deport immigrants beyond Chinese workers and contract laborers. The act listed all the existing categories of excludable immigrants: “idiots,” the insane, paupers, and
Daniels, Roger. Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882. New York: Hill & Wang, 2004. Hutchinson, Edward Prince. Legislative History of American Immigration Policy, 1798-1965. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981. Salyer, Lucy. Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
Alien Contract Labor Law of 1885
Bureau of Immigration, U.S.
Geary Act of 1892
History of immigration after 1891
Immigration Act of 1882
Immigration Act of 1903