Deportation Nation: A Timeline Of Immigrant Criminalization

The United States is not just a nation of immigrants, it is also a nation of deportation.

This timeline shows how the U.S. immigration system became focused on enforcement and criminalization. Click to watch videos and learn how the Founding Fathers allotted power to decide who can enter, and who will be deported. Context is key to understanding the “deportation delirium” that has led to a record number of removals under the Obama administration.

Note: Use the scroll bar on the bottom to move through the timeline, which starts in 1783 and ends in 2010. Click to see an entry. The scale on the left lets you zoom in or out.

Daniel Kanstroom explains the historical precedents that deprive immigrants of the same protections accorded to U.S. citizens – such as the right to an attorney and to request bail. He examines how many aspects of the deportation system are drawn from the forced removal of indigenous people and Fugitive Slave laws, as well as decades of racist laws aimed at deporting Chinese laborers after they helped build the nation’s railroads.

Kanstroom is Professor of Law, the Director of the International Human Rights Program, and an Associate Director of the Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice. He has published widely in the fields of U.S. immigration law, criminal law, and European citizenship and asylum law. He is the author of several books, including “Deportation Nation,” which was published by Harvard University Press in 2007.

Donald Kerwin revisits the modern legal precedents and legislative turning points that punish long-time legal residents twice. Once for violating the law, and then again with deportation – even if it means separation from their family.

Kerwin is Vice President of Programs at the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. Prior to joining MPI, he worked for more than 15 years at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) as Executive Director. CLINIC is a public interest legal corporation that supports a national network of 173 charitable legal programs for immigrants in more than 270 locations.