The History of Family Immigration and Reunification in America 

The United States is now a country of about 330,000 million people. Yet, one good look at a map that shows all of the 3.797 square miles of the country and its population will show you that there are millions of square miles still uninhabited. Potentially, this means that the country has plenty of room to grow! 

America is a thriving country with one of the world’s strongest and most robust economies and always leads the world in culture, technology, and innovation. This country is composed of many different peoples from all over the world—after all, we are often known as a nation of immigrants. 

The nation has (in comparison to other countries) a quite lenient immigration policy that encourages legal immigration. Immigrants can come to the United States through several legal avenues and one is through a close family member. This U.S policy has a long-standing history, and we thought we’d revisit the past and present of family immigration in the United States. Here at the Winterberg Law Firm, we help families reunite using the U.S immigration law. We know the importance of having your family nearby. 

Family Immigration: The Origins

Let’s take it all the way back to the point when America decided that it wanted to be its own nation and free itself from the shackles of King George and its tyrannical British government. People in America that wanted freedom argued the colonies should govern themselves and be free of an oppressive government that ruled them from afar. 

People like Thomas Paine wrote about the colonies that “This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe.” The colonies then fight a brutal Revolutionary War with the world’s most powerful army and come out victorious. Years later, deliberations on what it means to be a U.S citizen begin. The initial talks of citizenship qualifications might be somewhat antiquated and deemed discriminatory by today’s standards, but back then, the requirements for citizenship were mostly white men of good character. 

After the war of 1812 and the easing of tensions with the British and the U.S sees its first immigration wave as many as one-third of the immigrants between the period of 1820 and 1860 were Irish. Then, some 5 million German immigrants also made their way to the U.S. And it wasn’t until 1819, that the demographics of immigrants coming to the United States were actually recorded. 

In the mid-1850s, waves of Chinese immigrants had been lured to the West Coast of the country searching for gold. After the Civil War, the country’s economic hardship and chaos slowed down immigration, but it was to pick up again as the 20th century moved in. Between 1880 and 1920, there was an influx of immigration due to America’s flourishing urbanization and industrialization. During this time, most of the arrivals were still from Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe. In 1907, 1.3 million immigrants entered the country legally. Then there was the Immigration Act of 1924 created a quota system that restricted entry to percentage based on nationality. 

The Beginnings of Family Unification Policy in the U.S

World War II had a lot to do with slowly dismantling the nationality quota system, as many servicemen became engaged with Asian women or European women during the war. In 1945, a series of laws that benefited the so-called ‘war brides’ came into effect. From this time to when the 1965 Act passed, there was a lot of deliberation of how to approach a less targeted immigration approach. 

In 1965, the immigration rhetoric changed some in the United States and legislators did away with the quota system. Today, family immigration forms the primary basis for legal immigration in the United States. As Lyndon B. Johnson came into office, there was still a big split on immigration that prioritized employment-based and family-based. Once Johnson signed the law, a tidal wave of immigration hit U.S shores over the next couple of decades. Nearly 60 million people came to the United States thanks to these new immigration laws.  

According to many lawmakers of the time, the rationale for family-based immigration was to give major importance to the family unit and prevent families from being apart for too long. 

Family-Based Immigration Today 

The current law states that a legal U.S citizen or resident can sponsor certain family members for a visa that grants them permanent residency. U.S citizens and legal permanent residents cannot sponsor distant families like aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. 

According to some estimates, each immigrant brings in an average of 3.5 relatives. In 2015, spouses and children (immediate relatives) accounted for approximately 69 percent of family immigration. 

If you are a U.S citizen or legal resident that is looking at sponsoring your spouse or family members, call the Winterberg Law Firm today. We can inform you of the requirements and the process needed. Don’t let immigration policy keep you away from your family. Call us today and let us help. 

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Victoria Winterberg

Ms. Winterberg’s law school experience began after joining the Law School Preparation Institute while being a student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She then attended law school at Washburn Univesity School of Law before formally beginning her career. 

Leveraging a unique cultural background and approach to law, Ms. Winterberg uses her expertise in immigration law to bring people together. She has extensive work in all areas of immigration law and has helped countless people win cases and thrive. Immigration-related cases often involve the most vulnerable in the community, and our firm is driven by our ability to protect our clients and their families with each and every case.