Highlights from the Library Collection: Immigration Commission Reports

Immigration Commission Reports

Shortly after the creation of the federal Immigration Service in 1891 Congress authorized an immigration commission to investigate the workings of U.S. immigration laws. Since that time Congress and several Presidents have appointed subsequent commissions to investigate all aspects of immigration policy, report their findings, and make policy recommendations. The resulting reports are valuable research aids to anyone interested in the history of U.S. Immigration Policy.

The U.S. Immigration Commission of 1907-1910, also known as the Dillingham Commission, was perhaps the most influential immigration commission. Its voluminous report, published in 1911, provided an exhaustive review of immigration in the U.S., devoting whole volumes to immigrants working in specific industries, immigrant children in public schools, emigration conditions in Europe, the “racial” makeup of immigrants, and numerous other subjects. The report helped to frame the debate about U.S. immigration in terms of “new” vs. “old” immigrants (immigrants from northwest Europe vs. immigrants from southern and eastern Europe) and it provided much of the data used to support quota policies that came to define U.S. immigration law during the middle of twentieth century.

More recently, the 1990-1997 Commission on Immigration Reform, also known as the Jordan Commission, conducted a thorough study of federal immigration and naturalization policies.  The committee’s report included analyses of:

  • Temporary worker programs
  • Programs to curb unlawful immigration
  • Methods to incorporate or “Americanize” immigrants
  • The criteria used to select who should receive immigration visas.

Many of the subjects the committee reported on still inform current debates on immigration policy.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services History Library holds reports from all of the major immigration commissions. Interested researchers may make a research appointment.


Major U.S. Immigration Commissions


Commission Name (Commission Chair)
Select the link to see the commission’s entry in the USCIS library Catalog


Committee on Immigration and Naturalization (Stump).


Immigration Investigating Commission (Stump).


Commission appointed by the President on September 16, 1903 to investigate the conditions of the immigration station at Ellis Island (Briesen).


Commission on Naturalization (Purdy).


U.S. Immigration Commission (Dillingham).


Ellis Island Committee (Palmer).


President's Commission on Migratory Labor in American Agriculture.


President's Commission on Immigration and Naturalization (Perlman).


Select Commission on Western Hemisphere Immigration.


Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy (Hesburgh).


Commission on Immigration Reform (Jordan).


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