Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

The Need For Immigration Policies

Joe May 15, 2020
Honduran migrants take part in a caravan heading to the U.S.
(Photo credit should read PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)
PHNW82 Chinatown, Grant Avenue, San Francisco, California, USA

Wow, We are proud of your progress here at 1st Choice. You have come a long way with your studies. Keep going! All of the history and topics you have studied so far have been design to help you understand the purpose for immigration policies. You are almost done with the historical aspects of this course and you will soon be moving on to the next Unit of the Immigration Service Provider Course.

So, ever wonder why more people don’t move to places like the United States, Europe, or Canada? In short, there are migration policies to prevent such large movements. This lesson will examine the reasons for those policies.

So, there are an estimated 272 million international migrants around the world. And while that equals just 3.5% of the world’s population, it already surpasses some projections for 2050. Since 1970, the number of people living in a country other than where they were born has tripled. The scale and speed of migration is notoriously difficult to predict given it can go hand in hand with events such as severe instability, economic crisis or conflict. Climate and weather related hazards have also driven many people away from their homes.

How many times have you thought about moving someplace else? If you’re in the United States, it’s relatively easy to pick up and move across the country. If you’re Canadian, the same could be said about moving from Halifax to Vancouver. But what about if you want to move from Canada to the United States? Or if you live in the United States and want to move to France? In those cases, you would run into regulations regarding immigration.

Millions of people try to move around to different countries for a variety of reasons. Some leave home for fortune, some for love, and some simply to enjoy better weather. As you can imagine, some countries are more popular than others. Hundreds of millions of people would love to live in the United States, while relatively few are lining up for other countries. As a result, policies are created to address migration. These policies can be particularly challenging for those who want to enter the United States, as we will see.

Open Door

At the base of the Statue of Liberty is a poem with the words ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ This phrase describes the immigration policy of the United States. Immigration from places like Ireland, Italy, and Poland was encouraged as a way of building the population during the early years and again during the industrial revolution. However, the U.S.’s Open Door Policy, by which people could freely enter the country, has had some setbacks. In some cases it was because many immigrants lived in relative squalor, complicated by the fact that they were very poor. Yet, other times the country was at war and of course the threat of terrorism. All these and more have put restrictions and higher screening on the open door policy. But also, mass immigration can change a country. Immigration has to be at a specific rate or else the country can run the risk of losing it’s language, culture and more importantly it’s ideology.

Closed Doors

For some people the United States was not always an Open Door. Let’s look at Asia for example. Historically, Asian immigrants have had a harder time to gain access to the country. During a period of time Asians migrants were some of the very poor migrants entering the country and soon they started to turn to crime as a way to provide for their families. These migrants became a burden on the system, not to mention those who did not turn to crime, were willing to work for very small wages which would lead to a large displacement of the American work force.

These examples were a factor on making migration from Asia into the U.S. very difficult. In fact, for many Asian people, the United States had a Closed-Door Policy, meaning that almost no individuals were permitted to immigrate. However, many undocumented people of Asian descent arrived in the United States regardless.

It wasn’t only people of Asian descent who were restricted from entering. During various points of American history, Southern Europeans, Jewish people, Latinos, and Africans faced difficulty. Again, America is a melting pot of migrants from around the world. Too many from one specific location and they will transform the nation rather than assimilate to their new home. You’ll find pocket examples of this throughout the nation. Miami Florida received mass Cuban migration and a section of Miami became little Havana. San Francisco, California had mass Chinese migration and they got China Town, New York had both Italians and Chinese and they got Little Italy and China Town. If immigration from a region goes unchecked these could have turned out to be states and not just a small sections of a city. Immigration policies normally follows mass immigration.

A prime example of this was the Immigration Act of 1924, which placed outright bans on the immigration of Arabs and Asians, while limiting other nationalities to percentages based on the numbers currently present in the United States. However, despite these bans, people kept coming to the United States in hope of a better life. Yet without official documentation permitting them to stay, they received relatively little in the way of services geared to protecting the vulnerable populations.


The ethical question of allowing unregulated immigration from Europe and heavily limited immigration from Asia was a point of concern as the United States attempted to move away from any system of policy that could be perceived as racist. Today, much of the immigration to the United States is quota-based, meaning that there are limits based on country of origin.

Also, there is a relatively limited number of such visas available, almost entirely decided upon the basis of a random lottery held within each country of origin. Added weight is given for countries that have recently low numbers of people immigrating to the United States. Many of these changes came as a result of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which established the country of origin-based system of immigration to the United States.

Other Factors

Still, after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, other changes went into effect. As well as random spots, effort would be made to reunite families, as well as attract immigrants with special skills with the 1990 Immigration Act. Additionally, the total number of immigrants was limited.

Still, the current plan is far from perfect. Due to U.S. citizenship laws, the children of undocumented immigrants who are born in the United States are American citizens. Citizenship is normally transferred from parent to child, but rarely from child to parent. As a result, there is significant controversy on how to handle cases which could disadvantage American citizens whose parents are in the country without proper documentation.

Many other countries face the same issues as the United States with regards to immigration and naturalization. Some countries place a greater difference between right to stay and access to citizenship. For example, many European countries have relatively low bars to cross for the right to stay, but most have more stringent requirements for citizenship. This is done so as to avoid the ethical question of denying people in need while still protecting the nature of the nation in question. However, in recent years this system is proving very inadequate.

However, like the United States, many countries throw the door open for those with the wealth and ability to add to the economy. For example, gaining right to settle in the United Kingdom is relatively difficult, unless one gains an entrepreneur visa by providing investment-ready assets of more than 50,000 pounds.

One other exception exists. Israel, as a state established for the Jewish people with that Jewish heritage very close to its national ideal, permits accelerated immigration and citizenship for people of the Jewish faith. In this case, preference for a faith outweighs any other concerns.


In this lesson, we looked at the ethics of immigration, largely using the United States as a model. We saw how open-door policies largely allowed many people to move in but were rarely perfect as they encouraged nativist sentiments. Closed-door policies, on the other hand, were often very harsh and would encourage undocumented entrance.

Quota-based systems were less ethically charged, but better still were systems that reunited families or rewarded those with special skills. The ethics of immigration are complex and warrant scrutiny. The United States had an Open Door Policy for Europeans in the 19th century, but migrants faced squalor and nativism. The U.S. had a Closed-Door Policy for many non-Europeans; the Immigration Act of 1924 placed an outright ban on Asians and Arabs. Today, the U.S. uses a quota system based on country of origin.