Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Immigration
Image of a Native American man
Image of an African man
Image of a German man
Image of an Irish man
Image of a Scandinavian lady
Image of an Italian lady
Image of a Japanese boy
Image of a Mexican woman
Image of a Chinese boy
Image of a Cuban man
Image of a  Polish man
Picture of clock - click to view global immigration timeline
Immigration Resources
Image of US map - piece 1 Home Introduction
Image of US map - piece 2
Dates Event Group affected
Jump to: 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2001
1786 The U.S. establishes first Native American reservation and policy of dealing with each tribe as an independent nation.
Native American
1790 The federal government requires two years of residency for naturalization All Groups
1808 Congress bans importation of slaves. African American
1816 The American Colonization Society forms—assists in repatriating free African Americans to a Liberian colony on the west coast of Africa. African American
1819 Congress establishes reporting on immigration. All Groups
1820 The Compromise of 1820 admits Maine as a free state, Missouri as a slave state and prohibits slavery in territories north of Missouri. African American
1830 Congress passes the Removal Act, forcing Native Americans to settle in Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Native American
1838 Cherokee Indians forced on thousand-mile march to the established Indian Territory. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees die on this “Trail of Tears.” Native American
1845 Potato crop fails in Ireland sparking the Potato Famine which kills one million and prompts almost 500,000 to immigrate to America over the next five years. Irish
1848 The Mexican-American War ends: U.S. acquires additional territory and people under its jurisdiction. Mexican
1849 The California Gold Rush sparks first mass immigration from China. Chinese
1850 The Compromise of 1850 includes the Fugitive Slave Act, a law designed to assist in the recovery of runaway slaves by increasing federal officers and denying fugitive slaves a right to a jury trial. African American
1857 Supreme Court’s Dred Scott Decision declares blacks are not U.S. citizens; rules 1820 Missouri Compromise’s ban on slavery in the territories unconstitutional. African American
1860 Poland’s religious and economic conditions prompt immigration of approximately two million Poles by 1914. Polish & Russian
1861 Abraham Lincoln takes the presidential oath of office. The Southern Confederacy ratifies a new Constitution and elects Jefferson Davis as the first Confederate president. The Civil War begins with Confederate soldiers firing upon Fort Sumter. African American
1862 The Homestead Act of 1862 allows for any individual, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or country of origin, over the age of 21 or head of household to claim up to 160 acres of free land if they have lived on it for five years and made the required agricultural improvements.
  The Union Army permits black men to enlist as laborers, cooks, teamsters, and servants. African American
1863 The Emancipation Proclamation abolishes slavery and permits African-American men to join the Union Army. African American
1864 Congress legalizes the importation of contract laborers.
  Thousands of Navajo Indians endure the “Long Walk,” a three-hundred mile forced march from a Southwest Indian territory to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Native American
1868 The 14th Amendment of the Constitution endows African Americans with citizenship.
African American
  A clause in the 14th Amendment “excluding Indians not taxed” prevents Native-American men from receiving the right to vote.
Native American
  Japanese laborers arrive in Hawaii to work in sugar cane fields. Japanese
1870 The 15th Amendment of the Constitution provides African-American males with the right to vote. African American
1876 California Senate committee investigates the “social, moral, and political effect of Chinese immigration.” Chinese
1877 United States Congress investigates the criminal influence of Chinese immigrants. Chinese
1880 Italy’s troubled economy, crop failures, and political climate begin the start of mass immigration with nearly four million Italian immigrants arriving in the United States. Italian
1881 The assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881 prompts civil unrest and economic instability throughout Russia. Polish & Russian
1882 Russia’s May Laws severely restrict the ability of Jewish citizens to live and work in Russia. The country’s instability prompts more than three million Russians to immigrate to the United States over three decades.
Polish & Russian
  The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 suspends immigration of Chinese laborers under penalty of imprisonment and deportation. Chinese
1885 Congress bans the admission of contract laborers.  
1887 The Dawes Act dissolves many Indian reservations in United States. Native American
1889 Unoccupied lands in Oklahoma are made available to white settlers. Native American
1896 The Supreme Court rules in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” accommodations for African Americans and whites are Constitutional. This decision allows for legalized segregation. African American
1898 The Spanish-American War begins with a naval blockade of Cuba and attacks on the island. The four-month conflict ends with Cuba’s independence and the U.S. acquisition of Puerto Rico and Guam. Cuban & Puerto Rican
1900 Congress establishes a civil government in Puerto Rico and the Jones Act grants U.S. citizenship to island inhabitants. U.S. citizens can travel freely between the mainland and the island without a passport. Cuban & Puerto Rican
1907 The United States and Japan form a “Gentleman’s Agreement” in which Japan ends issuance of passports to laborers and the U.S. agrees not to prohibit Japanese immigration.  
1911 The Dillingham Commission identifies Mexican laborers as the best solution to the Southwest labor shortage. Mexicans are exempted from immigrant “head taxes” set in 1903 and 1907. Mexican
1913 California’s Alien Land Law rules that aliens “ineligible to citizenship” were ineligible to own agricultural property. Japanese
1917 The U.S. enters World War I and anti-German sentiment swells at home. The names of schools, foods, streets, towns, and even some families, are changed to sound less Germanic. German
1922 The Supreme Court rules in Ozawa v. United States that first-generation Japanese are ineligible for citizenship and cannot apply for naturalization. Japanese
1924 Immigration Act of 1924 establishes fixed quotas of national origin and eliminates Far East immigration.
  President Calvin Coolidge signs a bill granting Native Americans full citizenship. Native American
1929 Congress makes annual immigration quotas permanent.  
1941 Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii galvanizes America’s war effort. More than 1,000 Japanese-American community leaders are incarcerated because of national security.
  President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 8802, forbidding discrimination in federal hiring, job-training programs, and defense industries. The newly created Fair Employment Practices Commission investigates discrimination against black employees. African American
1942 President Franklin Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, authorizing the building of “relocation camps” for Japanese Americans living along the Pacific Coast.
  Congress allows for importation of agricultural workers from within North, Central, and South America. The Bracero Program allows Mexican laborers to work in the U.S. Mexican
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. Chinese
1945 The War Bride Act and the G.I. Fiancées Act allows immigration of foreign-born wives, fiancé(e)s, husbands, and children of U.S. armed forces personnel. Chinese
1948 The Supreme Court rules that California’s Alien Land Laws prohibiting the ownership of agricultural property violates the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
  The United States admits persons fleeing persecution in their native lands; allowing 205,000 refugees to enter within two years.  
1950 Bureau of Indian Affairs terminates federal services for Native Americans in lieu of state supervision. Native American
1952 The Immigration and Nationality Act allows individuals of all races to be eligible for naturalization. The act also reaffirms national origins quota system, limits immigration from the Eastern Hemisphere while leaving the Western Hemisphere unrestricted, establishes preferences for skilled workers and relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens; and tightens security and screening standards and procedures.
  The Bureau of Indian Affairs begins selling 1.6 million acres of Native American land to developers. Native American
1953 Congress amends the 1948 refugee policy to allow for the admission of 200,000 more refugees.  
1954 The Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education that “separate but equal” educational facilities are unconstitutional. African American
1959 Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution prompts mass exodus of more than 200,000 people within three years. Cuban & Puerto Rican
1961 The Cuban Refugee Program handles influx of immigrants to Miami with 300,000 immigrants relocated across the U.S. during the next two decades. Cuban & Puerto Rican
1964 The Civil Rights Acts ensures voting rights and prohibits housing discrimination. African American
1965 The Immigration Act of 1965 abolishes quota system in favor of quota systems with 20,000 immigrants per country limits. Preference is given to immediate families of immigrants and skilled workers.
  “Freedom flight” airlifts begin for Cuban refugees assisting more than 260,000 people over the next eight years.

Cuban & Puerto Rican
  The Bracero Program ends after temporarily employing almost 4.5 million Mexican nationals. Mexican
1966 The Cuban Refugee Act permits more than 400,000 people to enter the United States. Cuban & Puerto Rican
1980 The Refugee Act redefines criteria and procedures for admitting refugees.  
1986 The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) legalizes illegal aliens residing in the U.S. unlawfully since 1982.  
1988 The Civil Liberties Act provides compensation of $20,000 and a presidential apology to all Japanese-American survivors of the World War II internment camps. Japanese
2001 A memorial honoring Japanese-American veterans and detainees opens on the edge of the Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C.