Immigration Has Been a Defining, Often Contentious, Element Throughout U.S. History

Jessica Bolter
Date of Publication: 
January, 2022
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

Despite the fact that the United States has more immigrants than any other nation (nearly 45 million in 2019), the issue of effective immigration policy is far from settled in Congress. Instead, the current policymaking system contains so many roadblocks to immigration reform that recent presidential administrations have relied almost entirely upon executive orders to implement their immigration priorities, bypassing Congress altogether. “Immigration Has Been a Defining, Often Contentious, Element Throughout U.S. History” by Jessica Bolter of the Migration Policy Institute provides an overview of immigration trends and legislation from the founding of the United States through the present day, ultimately concluding that while the country’s reliance on immigrants continues to grow, its immigration system remains antiquated and ineffective, necessitating drastic modernization and reform efforts. The author explores various topics, including changes in the United States’ historical approaches to immigration, the shifting demographic composition of immigrants in the United States, the multifaceted inner workings of the United States’ immigration system, and the bleak prospects for future immigration reform. Drawing from historical studies and demographic data, Bolter finds that immigration policy has become increasingly austere and restrictive with the passage of time, in part due to the rising aversion to unauthorized immigration and the fear of terrorism in the United States. She argues that these changes have made it all but impossible for immigrants to adequately fill gaps in the labor market. Sweeping political change will be necessary to transform the current immigration system into one that can meet the country’s current and future needs. (Kyla Schmitt for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Bolter, J. (2022, January). Immigration Has Been a Defining, Often Contentious, Element Throughout U.S. History. Migration Policy Institute.