I’ve worked on another politically based infographic this year. Last year I was inspired to learn about the history of the political parties and how they’ve adapted and changed over time. This year, with a lot of talk about immigration, I decided I needed to learn more about the history of policy and legislation around it in the U.S..

My desire with this piece is to capture a timeline of immigration to get a sense for the number of people who came to the U.S. in different periods, where they were coming from, in some cases why they were coming, and the U.S. response to the influx.

This outline is meant to capture basics in a mostly chronological order and highlighting legislation or noteworthy milestones about immigration policy. I will include links to all my sources below in case you want to dive deeper (let’s be honest though, I mostly just fell down a wikipedia hole). I did find that there were some conflicting stats on some of the items, and feel quite assured that details are missing (maybe important ones) so please take the figures as guidelines. If you find anything that is noteworthy or perhaps important to your own culture that I missed, please email me so I can learn more about the nuances and perhaps in future I can publish an update if there are enough missing pieces.

To clarify my definitions in the key (as they are all pretty subjective):

  • Major: A piece of legislation that had a broad effect for a large population of people or made a dramatic change in the precedent.
  • Noteworthy: Legislation that augmented a previous piece of legislation, was a small change, or had direct effect on a smaller piece of the population.
  • Amnesty: Legislation that worked to provide the opportunity for immigrants who came illegally to gain legal status.
  • Proposed: Legislation that was proposed but never passed or enacted.
  • Overturned: Pieces of legislation that later on were modified, replaced or removed, usually to be more inclusive or tolerant.
  • Commentary: Well, that’s just me filling you in on some of the current events of the time or giving you an overview of what happened during that period.

As I mentioned before, I am nervous about having missed pieces of this puzzle that may be important, either to the country (or world) as whole, or even just a specific group of immigrants that came to the U.S. for reasons I didn’t capture in this piece. I realize this is a very complicated issue with many facets. In addition to just “regular” immigration you have refugees, illegal immigration, naturalization and all the other levels of residency and types of visas that I barely cover here. I had the desire to spend more time on current conditions, but since very little legislation has actually passed in recent years, it would just be a sloppy mess of proposals and attitudes so I only included some of that.

As for the layout, I’ve included some arrows to help guide you across the 3 columns of text. It’s organized to be relatively chronological but goes back and forth across the page a little un-uniformly so hoping those arrows help you to know what to read next if you are looking for chronology. I also tried to keep major legislation in the central column, but as we get closer to modern times, there’s a lot less of it so there’s more of a mix of proposals and noteworthy legislation.

The moral? In my opinion, not super positive. I was happy to see the results of some studies in the mid and late twentieth century state that immigration is a good thing for the economy, but the lessons from that research didn’t stick as racism and fear of change seem to continue to be the driving force behind attitudes towards immigration.

Again, please reach out if you find anything in error or pieces missing from the story. (sources at bottom)