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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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History of Immigration in the U.S.

This piece is the first of two which will cover the early history of immigration in the United States and the current picture from the new Arizona law to the issues in Immigration Reform. They are a reflection of a Power Point presentation which I have prepared. The details can be found at

If we start in 1492 when Colombia sailed to the New World, there were around 10 million native born Americans living in North America. The first permanent European colony was St. Augustine, Florida. It was founded by the Spanish in 1565.

Forty four years later, in 1609, the English came to Jamestown, Virginia. Then, in 1620, the Pilgrims from England came to Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.

Next, came the Dutch in 1625 to create New Amsterdam, now known as New York City.

The statistics about who came to the New World are very interesting. By 1780, in the 13 Colonies, there were about 3.7 million immigrants and their children. Here is a breakdown – English – 1,900,000; Africans – 750,000; Scotch – Irish – 320,000; German – 280,000; Irish 200,000; Scottish – 160,000; Welch – 120,000; Dutch – 80,000; Spanish – 20,000; Swedish and others – 20,000.

Now, take a look at some of the early Immigration Laws enacted and ruled on by the Courts. In 1790, the Congress passed a law which stated, “any alien, being a free white person may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States.” That is one sign of how the entire nation was in support of slavery back in 1790. Thank God things have changed.

Another early decision by the Supreme Court is a front burner issue with regard to the current debate over the Arizona Immigration Law. Back in 1875, the Court held that the regulation of United States “Immigration” would be the responsibility of the Federal Government – not the States. The exact quote from the care is as follows – “The passage of laws which concern the admission of citizens and subjects of foreign nations to our shores belongs to Congress, and not to the States.” The keyword to be debated with regard to Arizona’s Law is “admissions”.

Does seeking documents from someone who has committed a crime or has been stopped for a traffic violation interfere with someone here as an illegal immigrant? Only time will tell.

One other interesting milestone in the history of immigration was the opening of Ellis Island in 1892. Millions and millions of immigrants came to the United States through Ellis Island. While the facility is now closed, it remains an historic site for many to bring back deep memories.

And I could not leave the early history without an interesting quote from Theodore Roosevelt. “We should insist … the immigrant … become an American and assimilates himself to us…”

Robert McMillan Website: