A ground-up overhaul of the United States immigration system has been decades in the making, but almost always becomes overshadowed by other pressing events or come to a stalemate due to partisan political fighting.

Now more than ever, the United States is in need of immigration reform, especially with the gradual tightening of restrictions that have made it very difficult for many to legally become citizens. Today, we’ll take a look over what led to the current state of immigration law and what we should expect in the future of immigration reform.

A Brief History of 20th Century American Immigration Law

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952 is a collection of laws that does everything from setting forth qualifications for naturalization to regulating foreign students to managing temporary workers to authorizing humanitarian protections such as asylum and refugee admissions. The INA also contains limits on the number of legal immigrants who may come to the country each year, numbers which were last adjusted in 1990.

The 1965 amendments to the INA eliminated biases in the law that favored European immigrants over all others. Congress enacted provisions in 1980 that brought the United States into compliance with international standards of refugee protection.

In 1986, Congress created a trade-off—legalization of approximately three million illegal immigrants in exchange for requiring all workers to establish their eligibility for employment in the United States.

By 1996, when unauthorized immigration was still not in check, some blamed the provisions of the INA. As a result, lawmakers enacted a harsh removal scheme that eliminated or restricted many forms of relief, required mandatory detention and removal for many immigration violations, and authorized extensive or permanent bars on admission following deportation.

On September 10, 2001, President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox were making plans for a new temporary worker program and other immigration reforms. Of course, that initiative and many others fell by the wayside on September 11, replaced with enhanced national security and anti-terrorism laws, many of which attempted to regulate possible threats to the country through restrictions on immigration.

Future Outlooks for Reform

As a practical matter, immigration law should be something that is updated constantly.

The key is coordinating the various proposals so that the result is a cohesive set of laws that acknowledge the biggest issues: the need for an improved legal immigration system that is generous enough to discourage unauthorized immigration and provide a solution for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants, allowing them to transition to lawful permanent residence and, ultimately, U.S. citizenship.

Critical components to a systemic approach include creating a fair, but realistic system to regulate future immigration needs, securing our borders through application of smart enforcement strategies and technologies, ensuring that our immigration system welcomes new immigrants, and ensuring that immigration laws respect the principles of due process on which this country is based.

What Will the Next Election Cycle Bring?

This is just a very brief overview of the history of immigration reform as well as its future outlook–the coming election cycle will determine much for how the next four years will play out. This election, in particular, will underscore why the time for genuine debate over immigration reform is long overdue.

In Need of Assistance from a Nevada Illegal Immigration Criminal Lawyer?

No matter what your immigration status is or the current status of immigration reform, you are deserving of fair and unbiased legal assistance.

Though a criminal conviction as an undocumented immigrant may bring ICE’s unwanted attention to your case, in the United States, regardless of your legal status, innocent until proven guilty still applies. This means that you are deserving of a fair trial which may lead to charges being dropped or serious legal consequences being avoided.

If you or a loved one are an undocumented immigrant who has been convicted of a crime, a Nevada criminal defense lawyer is here to assist you in your time of need.