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  4. 1891: Immigration Inspection Expands

1891: Immigration Inspection Expands

The 1891 Immigration Act created the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration in the Treasury Department. The superintendent oversaw a new corps of immigrant inspectors stationed at the country’s principal ports of entry. During its first decade, the Immigration Service formalized basic immigration procedures. The service began collecting arrival manifests (also frequently called passenger lists or immigration arrival records) from each incoming ship, a former duty of customs officials since 1820. Inspectors then questioned arrivals about their admissibility and noted their admission or rejection on the manifest records.

Beginning in 1893, inspectors also served on Boards of Special Inquiry that closely reviewed each exclusion case. A congressional act of March 2, 1895, renamed the Office of Immigration as the Bureau of Immigration and changed the title of superintendent of Immigration to commissioner-general of Immigration. A later congressional act of June 6, 1900, consolidated immigration enforcement by assigning enforcement of both alien contract labor laws and Chinese exclusion laws to the commissioner-general.

In 1903, the Bureau of Immigration moved from the Treasury Department to the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor. A fund created from collection of immigrants' head tax financed the Immigration Service until 1909, when Congress replaced the fund with an annual appropriation.

In 1913, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization split into the Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Naturalization. The two bureaus coexisted separately within the new U.S. Department of Labor until reunited as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) by executive order on June 10, 1933. In 1940, Presidential Reorganization Plan Number V moved the INS from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 disbanded INS on March 1, 2003. Its responsibilities and staff were distributed to three components of the newly formed DHS: CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Last Modified: May 09, 2023