My writing last week about a theology of foreignness has sparked some conversation about immigration law. From what I can tell, the first true immigration law in the United States was passed in 1882, designed to limit (and temporarily prohibit) Chinese immigration. Before that, it seems that laws were only made as to who could become a citizen.
I’m having trouble finding much about immigration controls in other countries. There are records, going back to biblical times, of the expulsion of certain people groups or of the enslavement of others. I’ve heard that the Romans controlled the movements of people to some degree, with Roman citizenship granting freer travel. I know that Mexico unsuccessfully tried to limit colonization of its northern lands, what is now the southern U.S. That seems to refer to homesteading and the granting of property, not the mere presence within the country.
Am I wrong to think that immigration laws as we know them are a relatively new thing? Can someone point me to better sources of information?
Why the curiosity? Partly because of the people who proudly boast: “Our ancestors came here legally.” (And I’m sure they inquired about native American immigration laws before doing so!) Another part is the idea of what the Bible has to say about immigration laws. Directly speaking, I say it says nothing, for such didn’t seem to exist at those times. Or am I mistaken?
Anyway, some of you are much better than I at researching historical facts. Please point me to the resources that will enlighten me on this subject.