Ellis Island Era Immigration In A Nutshell In 1882, for the first time in American history, Congress passed a law that systematically restricted free and open immigration into the United States. That first act specifically targeted Chinese immigrants for exclusion from the American Dream, but subsequent legislation added many other categories of foreigners to the ranks of the excluded. By the 1920s, American immigration policy evolved into a nakedly discriminatory ethnic quota system, allowing most Northwestern Europeans to enter freely while strictly limiting the immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans and excluding Asians entirely. Despite the increasingly stringent controls imposed upon American immigration between 1882 and 1952, the period still witnessed the largest immigration surge (relative to the overall population at the time) in American history. And contrary to the fears of many native-born Americans of the era, the so-called "new immigrants" of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century did not, in the end, undermine American
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