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Immigration and Naturalization Service

From Academic Kids

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was a part of the United States Department of Justice which used to handle legal and illegal immigration and naturalization.

Most of its functions were transferred to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) under the Department of Homeland Security as part of that Department's creation in 2003. The enforcement arm of the INS, the Border Patrol, along with INS Inspectors (together with US Customs Inspectors) were tasked to the newly created U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), also under the Department of Homeland Security.

History of the Immigration and Naturalization Service

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INS_1924.jpg
Immigration Inspectors, circa 1924

Shortly after the U.S. Civil War, some states started to pass their own immigration laws, which prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 1875 that immigration was a federal responsibility. The Immigration Act of 1891 established an Office of the Superintendent of Immigration within the Treasury Department. This office was responsible for admitting, rejecting, and processing all immigrants seeking admission to the United States and for implementing national immigration policy. 'Immigrant Inspectors', as they were called then, were stationed at major U.S. ports of entry collecting manifests of arriving passengers. A 'head tax' of fifty cents was collected on each immigrant.

Paralleling some immigration concerns of today, back in the early 1900's Congress's primary interest in immigration was to protect American workers and wages: the reason it had become a federal concern in the first place. This made immigration more a matter of commerce than revenue. In 1903, Congress transferred the Bureau of Immigration to the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor.

After World War One, Congress attempted to stem to flow of immigrants, still mainly coming from Europe, by passing laws in 1921 and 1924 limiting the number of newcomers by assigning a quota to each nationality based upon its representation in previous U.S. census figures. Each year, the U.S. State Department issued a limited number of visas; only those immigrants who had obtained them and could present valid visas were permitted entry.

President Franklin Roosevelt moved the INS from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice in 1940.

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