Immigration Milestones

A Nation of Immigrants

The U.S. is a nation of immigrants. The first wave of immigrants to colonial America, from England, France, Germany, and other northern European countries, were fleeing political and religious intolerance as well as seeking financial opportunities in the young country. Even then, the new arrivals faced open hostility and distrust from the populace. Regardless of the less than warm welcome, hopeful immigrants poured into the U.S. In fact, some 30 million immigrants entered the U.S. between 1870 and 1930.

An immigrant is a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence. The term was coined in The American Geography by Jedidiah Morse (1789).

Immigration usually refers to the willing arrival of private individuals. However, due to their importance, this timeline will also look at conquests, colonies, and the forced importation of slaves from Africa and the Caribbean. While not what many modern readers would deem "immigration," these large influxes of foreign populations formed the foundation of what would become the U.S. in the centuries to follow.

A note on the broad timeframes given in this timeline; the terms First Wave, Second Wave, Third Wave, and Fourth Wave usually refer to much more specific timeframes than those we use here. We have chosen to broaden these terms for sake of simplicity and cohesion. See the timeline below for important milestones in U.S. immigration history.

The First Wave: 

The Second Wave: 

The Third Wave: 

The War Years: 

The Fourth Wave: 


The Spanish settle the city of San Juan in Puerto Rico. This is the first (still populated) settlement by Europeans in territory currently held by the United States. San Juan is one of Spain's earliest and most important naval footholds in the region. Puerto Rico takes its name from the original name of San Juan, Puerto Rico de San Juan Bautista ("the rich port of Saint John the Baptist"). 


Spanish settlers and explorers found the settlement of San Miguel de Guadalupe in Georgia. This is the first ever European settlement in the continental United States. San Miguel does not last its first winter after disease claims the lives of two-thirds of the settlers. With the death of the settlers, African slaves and forced laborers of the local Guale people stage the first slave revolt on the continent, escaping servitude under the Spanish. The settlement is completely abandoned within three months. 


Hernando de Soto, famous Spanish explorer, comes to the Choosa settlement of Talisi. The site of Talisi eventually becomes the city of Childersburg, Alabama. This is the oldest continuous population center in the continental U.S., though it was not originally settled by Europeans. 


The Spanish establish the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States, St. Augustine, Florida. The regions near St. Augustine were originally settled by French Huguenots. But, the Spanish crown wanted to maintain its naval control of the Caribbean, so Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was tasked with driving the French out of Florida and granted a governorship. Menéndez established the fortified community of St. Augustine from which he could operate in the region. 


The "Lost Colony" of Roanoke is founded in North Carolina by the English. This is the first English settlement in the United States. The colony is beset by hardship, and all of the settlers infamously "vanish." Recent scholarship suggests that the settlers of Roanoke abandoned the colony and integrated into the nearby Croatan, Chesapeake or Chowanoke nations. The other prevailing theory is that the colony was destroyed by the Spanish. 


Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate is tasked with expanding the Spanish presence in Mexico (then known as New Spain). He begins an expedition north up the Rio Grande into what is now New Mexico. He establishes a number of missions here, as well as in the Texas panhandle. Oñate also makes an expedition into modern Kansas. Oñate is now most infamously remembered for his massacre of several hundred Acoma people in the early years of his expeditions.  


The English establish their first permanent settlement at Jamestown (then James Fort), in the colony of Virginia. Jamestown struggles immensely for the first few years, with upwards of 80% of the original colonists dying or integrating with the nearby peoples of the Powhatan Confederacy. The colony is eventually made viable with the arrival of more labor, and the commercial growth of tobacco by John Rolfe. 

That same year, the Spanish settle the provincial capital of La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís (Santa Fe) in New Mexico. The city becomes an important trade outpost to New Spain. Santa Fe remains the capital of New Mexico to this day, making it the oldest state capital in the United States. 


Following the initial success at Jamestown, the English begin to settle more of the Chesapeake Bay. They establish Hampton, the oldest continuous English settlement in the United States, and three others is short order. These early settlements are largely populated by indentured servants from England, brought over with the intention of growing more highly profitable tobacco. Within the next century more than 100,000 people will arrive to the Chesapeake region. 


The Dutch construct Fort Nassau more than 100 miles up the Hudson River in modern day New York. In the next century the site of Fort Nassau (and the later Fort Orange) will become the city of Albany. Albany is the first major settlement in the U.S. north of Virginia. 


With the rising profits of the Virginia colony and the vast demand for agricultural labor, the first African laborers are brought to the Chesapeake. These first nineteen African laborers are initially held as indentured servants, as are many of the African laborers who later arrive. The laws surrounding the indenture of Africans will not codify into lifelong, inheritable status as property for a few decades.


The Mayflower arrives in the Massachusetts Bay, leading to the settlement of Plymouth. Plymouth, and the numerous Massachusetts and New Hampshire settlements that soon follow, are mostly settled by the Puritans, a religious minority from England. Unlike the Virginia colony, which was chartered and administered for business by companies even before settlement, the Massachusetts Bay colony will not be officially recognized for about a decade after the founding of Plymouth. 


The Dutch establish New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island. New Amsterdam is the colonial capital of New Netherlands (now New York). This fairly small town will eventually become New York City.

Famously the leader of the Dutch exploration here purchased the land from a local community of Lenape. This story has been widely distorted as "buying the land from the natives for glass beads," though this is an inaccurate account. The Dutch purchased the land of New Amsterdam with trade goods worth upwards of $1,200 dollars. The Lenape they bought it from were a significant minority in the area, which was mostly settled by rival Weckquaesgeeks.  


Tens of thousands of immigrants arrive in New England. The Massachusetts Bay colony is the largest destination, which covers all of modern Massachusetts and Maine. The most significant settlement of this time is Boston, which becomes the colonial capital. Other colonies that arise and grow significantly in this time are Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. This will be the peak of immigration to New England for the next two hundred years. 

Unlike the agricultural and temperate Virginia, the sparse settlements of New England are resilient against disease. There is less demand for importing agricultural labor, and the low incidence of disease means that the birth rate is high enough to meet the needs of the colony. After 1640 the immigration rate is about equal to the death rate, and nearly all population growth in New England comes from descendants of the original colonists.  


St. Mary's City is settled in the new colony of Maryland. Maryland is envisioned as a safe haven for Catholics by its founder Lord Baltimore. At this time Europe is embroiled in the Wars of Religion (more specifically the Thirty Years' War), and sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants is ravaging much of the continent. English Catholics in particular face persecution by England's Protestant majority, and many move to the safety of the new colony. 


Back to back there are two crucial events for the legal status of slavery in the colonies. In Virginia in 1640, although lifelong slavery is not yet codified practice, this begins to change with the case of John Punch. Punch is a black African indentured servant who tries to escape his indenture alongside two white European servants. All three are captured. The two Europeans are sentenced to an additional year of service. Punch is sentenced to slavery for life. This case marks the most important early legal distinction between white and black people in the United States.

A year later Massachusetts passes new slave codes. Though these codes are mostly focused on the many situations in which one cannot take another as a slave (many Puritans opposed slavery for religious reasons), they did allow a few select circumstances in which it was permissible to make a slave of a "stranger," who was not an English subject. The colonists would soon identify this legal distinction with black Africans and natives. This marks a new turn in the import of slaves from Africa and the Caribbean. 


Following the Restoration of the English monarchy after the English Civil War, eight loyalist aristocrats are named the Lords Proprietors of the new Carolina colony by Charles II. Carolina will remain a single colony until the crown buys out the Proprietors shares in 1712, and forms North and South Carolina. 


The city of Charles Towne (Charleston) is founded in Carolina. Charleston will become the largest slave port in the American colonies, both import and export. Carolina is one of the few colonies to have a majority enslaved population, and will have the second-highest total number of slaves within the next century. As well, upwards of 50,000 members of nearby native nations will be exported to slaveholders in the Caribbean. Carolina slaveholders are largely responsible for the expansion of slave codes. 


After changing hands several times in the Anglo-Dutch Wars, the Treaty of Westminster results in the English gaining control of New Netherlands in exchange for Suriname. The colony is renamed New York. In addition to the original Dutch settlement, the English acquire land the Dutch had conquered from surrounding minor colonies like New Sweden. The English now control the entire coast of the modern United States from Maine through the Carolinas. The new acquisition further opens up the other "middle colonies" (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and the future Pennsylvania) for further immigration. Upon the loss of the colony, the Dutch free all of their slaves in New Amsterdam; this creates an early and important community of free blacks in New York. 


William Penn receives his charter for the new colony that will come to be called Pennsylvania in his honor. The Pennsylvania colony is massive in size, with large tracts of land for settlement. Penn initially intends to create a safe haven for Quakers, and begins advertising his new colony across Europe. He also attracts large groups of Mennonites, Amish, Jews, Huguenots, and Lutherans. Pennsylvania will have the most notable German population in the colonies, with upwards of one-third of the colony being German. Penn forms treaties with the Lenape nation in the area, bolstering his colony's economic success. 


The French establish numerous trade posts from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, establishing European presences in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Wisconsin. This southerly burst of French settlement culminates in the founding of New Orleans in 1718 and of Baton Rouge in 1719. The city of Detroit is also founded during this time in 1701. A few thousand French colonists settle this area, but despite the scope of French holdings they are massively outnumbered by the English population. 


Many English and Scotch-Irish settlers settle the Appalachian mountains. More than 250,000 Scotch-Irish came to America, and most of these settled into the westernmost "frontier" territories of Appalachia. By the end of this period of immigration, the Thirteen Colonies will have more than 2.4 million residents. 


King George II approves the charter of the colony of Georgia, what is then the southernmost and final of the original Thirteen Colonies. Georgia is largely settled by criminals, who are sent to labor in Georgia as part of their sentences. It should be noted that a sizeable majority of these were debtors, rather than violent criminals. Georgia also sees a notable influx of Scotch-Irish residents. Georgia is originally not a notable slaveholding colony, for fear of collusion between slaves and the Spanish to the south.  


Settlers from Appalachia head further west into the Ohio River Valley. This land had been already claimed by France, and was populated by native nations friendly to the French crown. A few thousand English-affiliated settlers begin staking land in the valley. Tensions escalate gradually until violence breaks out, beginning the French and Indian War, the colonial theater of the later Seven Years' War in Europe.   


The French and Indian War halts the British colonists' westward expansion, and dampens the rate of immigration. The Seven Years' War concludes with a British victory and the ceding of French territory in the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Britain gains control of all of Canada and half of French Louisiana (the other half goes to Spain). To prevent further conflict in the region, the crown issues the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which sets strict boundaries and timeframes on expansion. This causes some furor, as it invalidates or halts the land claims made before the war. 


Successive lobbying efforts by colonial land speculators and settlers lead to the opening up of modern West Virginia and Kentucky to further settlement. Thousands of Scotch-Irish and English pour into the new areas. 


The Spanish found the Presidio de San Diego, the first European settlement on the Pacific Coast of the United States. With the striking of ground at San Diego, the colony of Alta California is founded. Alta California will eventually extend to encompass all of modern-day California, Nevada, and Utah, and parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.


The Thirteen Colonies rebel against Britain, with French assistance. The Revolutionary War puts a halt on immigration. The British cede their land east of the Mississippi to the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. This land will be the next big target of U.S. migration. 

During this time 80,000 British Loyalists leave following the American victory in the war; this is the largest boom of emigration from the United States. Most of them go to Canada, including many slaves who are emancipated by the British and live as free citizens.


The United States, in perhaps their only major legislative success under the Articles of Confederation, pass the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. This law incorporates the Northwest Territory gained in the Treaty of Paris, which will eventually become the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.


The U.S. Constitution is ratified. The Constitution establishes the decennial Census that continues to the present day. 


The first United States Census is taken. A total of nearly one million immigrants came to America since the settlement of Jamestown. At the time of the Census over 300,000 residents in the United States were foreign born. The country has in total imported nearly 200,000 slaves. The total population is 3.9 million, 700,000 of these are slaves.


During this time, immigration to the United States lulls significantly. Around 6,000 immigrants arrive each year. The United States reaches its all-time lowest foreign born population in the 1810s, perhaps less than 100,000. The Adams administration in the late 1790s passed laws hostile to immigration, including the Alien and Sedition Acts and the Naturalization Act of 1798. 


Napoleon Bonaparte regains ownership of Spain's half of the Louisiana Territory. In order to offset the costs of his military conquests in Europe, he decides to sell the land to the young United States for $15 million. This nearly doubles the size of the United States, and opens up vast tracts of land for development and speculation. This sparsely populated land will be one of the major pulls for immigration in the coming century. 


The import of slaves from outside of the United States is banned, as per Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1 of the Constitution. Illegal importation of slaves will continue for some time, but after this point nearly all black residents in the United States will be born domestically. 


U.S. Secretary of State (and future President) John Quincy Adams negotiates the acquisition of Spanish Florida from Spain in exchange for fixing the borders between the United States and Mexico. This treaty will have to be renegotiated when Mexico is granted independence less than half a year later, but the terms stand. This marks a major influx of citizens of Spanish and Mexican descent. 


Immigration begins to ramp up again from Europe, going from just a few thousand in 1820 to a little over 20,000 in 1829. In terms of origin and proportion, immigration in this time previews the boom in the coming decades, with many Irish, Germans, English, and French immigrants. The English have eased travel restrictions from Ireland, and revolutionary sentiments are rising in France and Central Europe. 


The second major wave of immigration to the United States begins in earnest, as immigration more than triples from the preceding decade. Nearly 600,000 immigrants arrive to the United States, mostly to urban centers on the East Coast or to farming communities in the Midwest. In addition to the major groups of the 1820s, there is also an increase in immigration from the Scandinavian countries.


The Second Wave continues to escalate, aided along by a series of major events around the world. As well, the country makes its third multi-state border expansion. Just shy of 1.8 million immigrants come to the United States during this period.


As a result of xenophobic backlash to the present boom, the nativist Know Nothing movement begins in New York. The movement begins with the founding of the American Republican Party (not to be confused with the Republican party that would rise a decade later on anti-slavery issues). The primary concern of the Know Nothings is the Catholicism of the incoming populations. Before this time, the country was almost entirely Protestant. Second Wave immigration results in around 10% of the country being Catholic. 


The Great Famine decimates the population of Ireland, quite literally. Around one million, or 10%, of the population dies from the famine. Another 10% or so of Ireland's population emigrates from Ireland, mostly to the United States. The largest contributing factor is the spread of potato blight. Due to legislative and administrative failures by the United Kingdom (such as the cost of other staple grains due to the controversial Corn Laws), much of Ireland relies on potatoes for their meals. Discontentment with the political situation and poverty in Ireland will continue to drive Irish migration even after the Famine ends. 

Most of the Irish who immigrate to the U.S. settle in the urban Northeast. Perhaps most famously they provide a primary source of labor in the development of New England's mill towns, and for naval industries in America's ports. Boston becomes the most famous destination for the incoming Irish, though New York receives a higher total population. The Irish have a profound impact on the political landscape in New York by causing the eminent rise of Tammany Hall


As the year comes to a close, in the last three days of his term, President John Tyler signs off on the annexation of Texas, which will be admitted as a state by incoming President James K. Polk. Again the United States sees a notable increase of Mexican-descended citizens as a result of territorial gains. 


Another future president negotiates a major border expansion for the United States. James Buchanan negotiates the Oregon Treaty. After a few decades of minor adjustments and unforeseen complications, this treaty will finally fix the modern border between the contiguous United States and Canada. 


In response to the annexation of Texas, which the Mexican government still claims as sovereign territory, Mexico launches minor attacks against American holdings in Texas. The two nations go to war. The United States wins the conflict. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo cedes all of the present Southwest to the United States and sets the boundary of Texas at the Rio Grande, in exchange for the U.S. paying $20 million dollars to Mexico and to Mexican nationals with legals complaints against the States. This will mark the final expansion of the contiguous states, and the creation of the current national border.

All citizens presently living within the acquired territories are given a year to decide if they would rather become U.S. citizens or be relocated to other parts of Mexico and given parcels of land. Over 90%, or around 80,000, choose American citizenship. In the decades immediately following Mexican independence, there was widespread disunity and discontentment between the different regions and the central government. Many Mexican citizens felt little national pride or identity, and some wealthy californios actively courted annexation by the United States for economic gain.


The Spring of Nations (or the 1848 Revolutions) begins in Europe. There are various causes and goals, but the different revolutions across the continent share a few important elements: liberal and socialist ideals are spreading through Europe and creating widespread intellectual opposition to monarchy; the rising population in rural Europe is leading to food shortages and a lack of available farmland for small farmers; and the urban working poor (the proletariat) see a simultaneous increase in labor and decrease in wages and available work. Europe's diverse and debilitating socioeconomic problems cultivate in transcontinental uprisings.

Most of these revolutions fail, and opponents of the European regimes are forced into exile. Europe's problems were already driving European immigration to the United States; many of the intellectuals, skilled laborers, and farmers who participated in the revolutions follow suit. Germans especially migrate in large numbers, either to become farmers in the American Midwest or artisans in the Midwest and South. Most of these immigrants were ardently opposed to slavery, which will affect the the course of the conflict between slave and free states. 


James Marshall finds gold in California, prompting massive immigration and internal migration from elsewhere in the United States. Immigration in 1848 mostly comes from Oregon, other parts of California, and Latin America. The famous "49ers" being rushing West from the rest of the world the following year. By 1855 around 300,000 immigrants arrive in California, including sizeable populations from China, Australia, the Philippines, and Chile. The creation of the U.S. Pacific Coast opens up immigration by sea from these areas. Anti-immigrant sentiments also well up in California, and the Chinese especially are subjected to intense violence.  


For the first time, the U.S. Census Bureau asks people their heritage when gathering census data. The 1850 Census contains the first official breakdown of citizens by ethnicity, though they don't use the same categories we use today. 


The 1850s mark the peak of second wave immigration. Over 2.8 million immigrants arrive to the United States during this time, pushed by the continuing troubles in Europe and pulled by the rising industry and farmland in the States.

Another important change in this era is the widespread development of steam-powered transport. During this decade the first reliable transatlantic ocean liner is constructed in the United Kingdom, which will make it easier to move huge numbers of people to the Americas. As well, following some initial successes in the U.K. and in the States, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private capitalists begin making major investments in U.S. railroads. By the end of the decade, advanced rail networks connect all of the major cities of the North and the Midwest, for the transport of goods, citizens, and military personnel. This will increase access to the rest of the country from the Atlantic ports. 


The election of 1854 marks the one time the Know Nothings would play a significant role in Congress forming the new American Party, winning a number of seats and seeking to curtail immigration. They will nominate their first presidential candidate, former President Millard Fillmore for the 1856 presidential election. The party quickly fragments over the pressing issue of slavery, and after the Democratic nominee James Buchanan wins in 1856 the Know Nothings effectively disband. 


Though immigrants continue to arrive in massive numbers, the 1860s mark a gradual decline in immigration from the preceding decade. A little over 2 million immigrants arrive during this time. The blockading of Southern ports probably plays some part in the dip in immigration figures, and the potential of being drafted to fight.


Following the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, select Southern states declare their intention to secede from the Union. They attack Fort Sumter in April, 1861, beginning the Civil War between the United States and the Confederate States. The course of the war will have several important effects on immigration during these years, and in the decades to follow. 

The most visible contribution of immigrants during the war is their service in the Union armies. The South had seen significantly less immigration than the North and the Midwest; the only city of notable size was New Orleans, much of the viable farmland was already occupied, and the labor force was built around unpaid agricultural labor. Many of the immigrants who came to the South were also religiously opposed to slavery, and were less likely to fight for its preservation. By contrast, over 400,000 immigrants fought for the Union, and in combination with the roughly 200,000 free black soldiers they contributed an immense advantage in manpower over the Confederacy. 

Immigrants also contributed immensely on the homefront. Immigrant labor continued to drive the industrial power of the North, which itself that led to the United States' intense material advantage. Immigrants also made advances in technologies during this time, like Swedish-American John Ericsson, who designed the USS Monitor and cemented Northern naval superiority. 


Partly as a Civil War strategy, Congress passes the first of the Homestead Acts. This first act promises free land for independent farmers and families who will cultivate the farmland in the American West; they are given a homestead for free in exchange for building up and farming the land for five years. The process was open to all heads of household or individuals over 21 provided they were or intended to become citizens. This was a major pull for immigrants across Europe, and would continue to be for decades. Asian immigrants were generally excluded from participating, as they were generally barred from immigrating. 

The main condition was that the homesteaders could not have raised arms against the United States (to discourage fighting for the Confederacy). Homesteading had been opposed by large plantation owners in the South, and so Northern politicians used the opportunity presented by having complete control of Congress to pass through the Act. Later Acts would specifically encourage participation by free black citizens, or would encourage settlement in specific regions. 


Riots in New York City involving countless immigrants who oppose compulsory military service.


The United States provides land grants to the Western Pacific Railroad Company, the Central Pacific Railroad Company, and the Union Pacific Railroad Company for the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The project, when completed, will remove the need for a lengthy sea journey around Cape Horn for immigration between the coasts, and will open up much of the West to homesteading immigrants.

To accomplish the massive undertaking, the railroad companies take on large numbers of low-paid immigrant laborers. Union Pacific, approaching from the Midwest, employs large numbers of Irish immigrants, as well as Union veterans. Central Pacific decides to take on thousands of Chinese laborers to form the bulk of the workforce, first from those already living in California and then contracted directly from China. Most of the Chinese workers came from Guangdong Province (capital Guangzhou, also known as Canton), which had historically high contact with the West and at the time was facing the bloodiest civil war in history, the Taiping Rebellion. This is why today Cantonese language and traditions are proportionally more common in Chinese-American communities than they are in China. 


2,812,191 immigrants arrive


At a meeting of the Workingmen's Party of the United States in San Francisco, thousands of participants turned rioters, smashing and burning more than a dozen Chinatown businesses.


5,246,613 immigrants arrive.


The Statue of Liberty is dedicated in New York Harbor.


In Chan Ping v. United States, the Supreme Court rules that the federal government has the right to exclude foreigners under the sovereign powers outlined in the Constitution.


The Office of the Superintendent of Immigration is established.


Ellis Island opens.


8,795,386 immigrants arrive.


The Melting Pot opens in New York City. The play likens the assimilation of immigrants to a fiery crucible.


The Mexican Revolution spews thousands across the border seeking refuge and work.


5,735,811 immigrants arrive.


The Dillingham Commission (1907) publishes a 42-volume report detailing the threats posed by immigration on American society.


A strike in the Lawrence, Mass. textile mills was helped along by the pro-immigration union established in 1905, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) lasted more than two months.


Immigrant silk workers went on strike in Paterson, New Jersey, assisted by the IWW.


The Red Scare: the successful Russian Revolution causes panic in the United States; thousands of immigrants are seized and hundreds are deported because of the "communist menace."


4,107,209 immigrants arrive.


The Border Patrol is created to combat smuggling and illegal immigration.


Governor Al Smith of New York is Democratic nominee for president, marking the first time a son of immigrant parents is a major party candidate.


532,431 immigrants arrive.


Japanese internment begins as a result of WWII.


In Galvan v. Press, the Supreme Court rules that the government can deport individuals if they were ever members of the Communist Party, without regard to the amount of time they belonged or if they did not fully understand the ideology of the party.


Seven Los Angeles area Palestinian activists and the wife of one activist born in Kenya (the L.A. Eight) were arrested, accused of links with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and threatened with deportation beginning in 1987. Over the next 20 years, the case, which tested the rights of non-citizens to freedom of speech, went before the U.S. Court of Appeals four times, the Supreme Court once, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) multiple times. Finally, in 2007, the BIA dismissed all charges against Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh, the only two of the eight who had permanent resident status and were therefore the focus of the investigation. The government agreed not to seek the deportation of either man based on related political actions or connections in the future and they in turn agreed to not apply for citizenship for three years.


On May 1, the National Immigrant Solidarity Network (NISN) and other pro-immigrant groups urged illegal immigrants and their supporters to stay home from work and school and to boycott American businesses, calling it the Great American Boycott. More than 1.5 million supporters turned out to support immigration reform in what was considered the largest day of protest in U.S. history.


During the Great American Boycott II, one rally in Los Angeles turned violent. In 2009, the L.A. City Council agreed to pay nearly $13 million to people injured or mistreated in the 2007 May Day melee in MacArthur Park.


On April 11, officials in Maricopa County, Ariz., intercepted a package intended for controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio that contained explosive materials. The package, sent through the U.S. Postal Service, was discovered by a postal employee. The 80-year-old lawman, who describes himself as "America's toughest sheriff," has served for two decades and is best known for his unequivocal stance in the undocumented immigration debate. Arpaio has logged more than 35,000 arrests of people accused of being in the country illegally and was the target of a Department of Justice investigation in 2010, looking into possible racial profiling.


Donald J. Trump, the presidential candidate elected on a firm anti-immigration platform, reiterates his campaign promise to create a large physical wall along the length of the U.S. border. This leads to several budget standoffs. President Trump additionally pushes through a ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries. The ban is revised after injunctions initially stop it on grounds of discrimination. 


The Trump administration announces its intention to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. DACA is a policy meant to offer support or refuge for children who are brought to the United States along with other undocumented immigrants, as they were not legally responsible individuals at the time of their arrival. Attempts to end DACA were met with substantial resistance. Several courts halted the order to end DACA, and as of early summer 2020 DACA remains in place. Some believe a final ruling will be reached by the end of the summer.


The administration calls for a substantial expansion of border patrol to stop an alleged caravan of displaced people from Central America. News breaks about inhumane detention centers along the US-Mexico border; there are numerous stories of unsanitary conditions, violence, and the separation of children from their families. Protests break out across the country and around the globe, and many call for the dissolution of ICE, the immigration organization seen as most responsible for the detentions. As of summer 2020, the detention centers remain a matter of public debate. Their populations are seen as high risk for the COVID pandemic. 

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