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THE FIRST IMMIGRATION law in the United States was the Alien Act of 1798, which dealt with deportation and whose intent was less to deal with immigrants than to suppress the Jeffersonian opposition party. After Jefferson repealed the Alien and Sedition Acts, aside from the Naturalization Act of 1790 that limited citizenship to “free white persons,” immigration restriction was a nonissue for 80 years. Between 1820 and 1930, the United States received approximately 60 percent of all the world's immigrants. America was growing and in need of workers. Anti-immigrant impulses in the 1840s and 1850s resided in the Know-Nothing movement and the American Party, neither of which managed to effect restriction. Immigration control was regarded as a state power, not a federal one. And most ...

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