U.S. Immigration Policy: Becoming Minnesotan

Learn more about U.S. Immigration Policy and its impact on people coming to Minnesota

  • Key Dates
  • Web Resources
  • Recommended Reading
  • Events and Places to Visit

Key Dates in U.S. Immigration Policy

  • 1790: The first naturalization law in the U.S. is passed, restricting naturalized citizenship to "free white persons" of "good moral character."
  • 1882: Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act, which bans Chinese laborers from immigrating to the U.S.  It is the first immigration law targeting a specific ethnic group.
  • 1921: A national immigration quota system is established, only allowing in a specific number of immigrants from each country and giving preference to Western Europeans.
  • 1924: Immigration quotas are changed, reducing the number of Southern and Eastern Europeans allowed to immigrate and barring those from the Far East.
  • 1943: The Magnuson Act of 1943 repeals the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, establishes quotas for Chinese immigrants, and makes them eligible for U.S. citizenship.
  • 1952: The Immigration and Nationality Act allows individuals of all races to be eligible for naturalization. The act also reaffirms national origins quota system.
  • 1965: The Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments abolish the nationality-origin quota system.  The annual immigration limit is set at 300,000 with a limit of 20,000 for any country, though family reunification visas are unlimited. 
  • 1980: The Refugee Act establishes policies for refugees using the U.N. definition of refugee. 
  • 1986: The Immigration and Reform Control Act is passed to try to halt illegal immigration.  Penalties are established for employeers who hire undocumented workers, and amnesty is given to 500,000 illegal immigrants already in the country.
  • 1990: The Immigration Act of 1990 increases the yearly immigrant total and focuses on family reunification and work visas for skilled workers.
  • 2002: The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is reorganized as part of Homeland Security.

Recommended Reading:

Aamot, Gregg. The New Minnesotans. Minneapolis: Syren Book Company, 2006.

Cieslik, Thomas, David Felsen, and Akis Kalaitzidis, Eds.  Immigration: A Documentary and Reference Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2009.

Daniels, Roger.  Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants since 1882. New York: Hill and Wang, 2004.

Donahue, David M. et al. The Uprooted: Refugees and the United States. A Multidisciplinary Teaching Guide.  Alameda, CA: Hunter House Publishers, 1995.

Gozdziak, Elzbieta M. and Susan F. Martin.  Beyond the Gateway: Immigrants in a Changing America.  Lanham, MA: Lexington Books, 2005.

Graubard, Stephen R., Ed.  Minnesota, Real & Imagined: Essays on the State and Its Culture.  St. Paul:  Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2001.

Holmquist, June Drenning. They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of The State's Ethnic Groups. St. Paul:  Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1981.

Kaplan, Anne R., Marjorie A. Hoover and Williard B. Moore.  Minnesota Ethnic Food Book. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2003.

Yan, Yorn.  New Americans, New Promise: A Guide to the Refugee Journey in America. St. Paul:  Fieldstone Alliance, 2006.

Events and Places to Visit:

Experiences for classes to learn about immigration history and immigrant communities.

Festival of Nations, St. Paul RiverCenter
Early May

The Festival of Nations is the largest and longest running multicultural festival in Minnesota, celebrating cultural diversity with food, music, demonstrations, exhibits and dance.

Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN
Ongoing Exhibits:

Field Trip Classes:

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