When did the United States enact its first immigration law? Most people are familiar with the restrictive laws that took shape in the the late 19th century, notably the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. But as Politico pointed out in an interesting short piece yesterday, the nation's first immigration law was enacted March 26, 1790, in the second session of the first Congress.
It was by no means inclusive. Immigrants had to be considered white to apply for U.S. citizenship, for starters. Indentured servants and slaves, even freed ones, were not considered "persons" eligible to apply. Citizenship could only be passed down through paternal lines. But for those who were deemed eligible, it didn't take much. From Politico: