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The Immigration Act of 1924 turns 100 this week. It's still shaping immigration today

This week marks 100 years since the Immigration Act of 1924 became law. Legal experts say it’s a hugely consequential action that’s still shaping immigration politics today. 

The law placed official limits on the number of immigrants allowed to enter the U.S. every year, and placed individual quotas by country of origin. 

To Tucson immigration attorney Mo Goldman, it was a reaction to an anti-immigrant period of U.S. history that he says is repeating itself today. 

"You know, the immigrants are going to be coming here to take jobs and they’re going to damage our systems because they’re going to become public charges. It’s the same mentality that was going on 100 years ago," he said.

Goldman, also a member of the national group American Immigration Lawyers Association, says it was the 1924 law first major immigration enforcement action. As a result of that restriction and others since, some families trying to reunite through immigration today face a more than two decade-long wait. Employers and the foreign workers they’re trying to hire can face a years-long backlog as well.

"Time and again, the different restrictions that are in place are more of a problem for the United States because we have a much higher demand than visas available," he said. "The demand is extremely high, the quota is way too low. And at the end of the day, it forces businesses to look at alternatives."

Meanwhile, he says, those yearly limits are not easily changed. The only way to revise the immigration system long-term is through congressional action. 

"What you end up having is a larger population of undocumented immigrants, because the demand is so high because they need to get people here to fill these positions, and people want to come here. But if you aren't going to have legal paths, this is the end result," Goldman said. 

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.