A look at the history of immigration law in the United States

By William Lewis

As we look at past presidential campaigns in American history, it was the election of 1840 that had the most enthusiastic participation.

There was constant activity in terms of parades and rallies. The whole nation seemed to have developed an interest in this campaign. The two candidates who ran were Democratic Party candidate Martin Van Buren from New York and General William Henry Harrison of Ohio, representing the Whig Party, which later became the Republican Party.

The Panic of 1837 greatly affected the campaign. During that period there was a loss of businesses and jobs, although in 1840 it was reported that some people left their jobs in order to work on the campaigns.

The candidates themselves did not get very active in the campaign, but their campaign staffs certainly did. When the fight was over, Harrison won, 52 to 48 percent over Van Buren. It is tragic that Harrison died a month after taking office.

When we look beyond the race of 1840, the presidential race of 1860 led to the Civil War when Abraham Lincoln won the presidency.

The next time presidential candidates became more active can be traced to the races of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Both of them were good public speakers and did a lot of their own campaigning. There were issues in all these campaigns, but the issue of immigration into our country did not affect any of the political campaigns back then.

There were two pieces of legislation pertaining to immigration. The first in 1924 was the Reed-Johnson Bill, which for the most part restricted immigration mainly from western Europe. In 1965 Sen. Ted Kennedy had a new bill introduced opening immigration to our country from all of Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. It became known as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

It should be understood, however, that the American people in both of these votes did not have a direct say in these legislative proceedings. The legislative bodies in both these periods passed bills with very little, if any, input from the voting public. Today the situation is different. In our presidential election in 2020, immigration will be a major issue and the candidates running in both the Republican and Democratic parties will have to state their positions on this important matter. The party conventions will also take positions on this controversy, so the American citizen voting will also be voting for a position on immigration. The candidate who wins will also have public support on his or her position on immigration.

As we look at what is going to unfold in 2020, we can see an open primary in the Democratic Party with possibly a multitude of candidates running. There is also a strong possibility that President Donald Trump will face a primary in the Republican Party. The candidate who wins in 2020 will have a chance to have his or her immigration policy become federal law for a long period of time.

We can say that the people, by voting in the next presidential campaign, will help draw up this vitally important piece of legislation. American voters should at times be allowed to vote for or against important pieces of legislation.

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