Copyright (c) 1998 Regents of the University of California
UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs
ARTICLE: THE IMPACT OF U.S. IMMIGRATION POLICY ON U.S.-MEXICO RELATIONS
Fall, 1998 / Winter, 1999
3 UCLA J. Int'l L. & For. Aff. 357
Historically, the immigration policy of the U.S. was based on circumstances rather than principles. Policies were (and perhaps still are) designed and adjusted in accordance with the perceptions of what was needed in the U.S. in terms of labor force and supply options available at a given time. These attitudes manifested themselves in several forms over the two-hundred-plus year history of the U.S., which can be abbreviated into three distinct periods.
Slavery came first, although it was certainly not "immigration" as we use the term today. Slavery represented a very cheap source of labor and extended few, if any, rights to workers, making it highly elastic and responsive to the whims of those engaged in early agricultural development in the fledgling U.S. In addition, new inflows of slave labor were clearly distinguished and segregated (by withholding citizenship and rights pertaining thereto) based on the color of a worker's skin. A similar pattern of exploitative immigration patterns based on economic needs was evident later during the period of mass Chinese inflows into the U.S. in the late nineteenth century. Although it came when slavery had already been abolished, some of the following patterns prevailed that predominated during slavery: a cheap labor force, ethnically distinguished from mainstream Americans, and bestowed with few rights. Early in the 20th century, modern Mexican immigration started coming into the U.S. with the following similar pattern: an inexpensive and plentiful labor source based on a particular culture, ethnicity, and place of origin. In all ...
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