America's Invitation to the World

Ellis Island Immigrants
Immigrants flood through Ellis Island, many of whom would go on to file homestead claims.

Immigration and the Homestead Act

Was the Homestead Act the First Accommodating Immigration Law in the United States?

The Homestead Act of 1862 was, without question, a land law. People could receive 160 acres free if they were willing to live on, cultivate and improve the land. However, it was much more than a land law. The Homestead Act was the first comprehensive accommodating immigration law encouraging people to come to the United States while providing the necessary requirements for citizenship. By examining the Congressional Debates and studying the language used in the narrative of the Homestead Act, it is apparent that the 37th Congress intended to use the Homestead Act as a way to bolster a stagnant population and build an agricultural nation through immigration and the settlement of the public lands of the United States.

Homestead National Monument of America Historian Blake Bell has conducted nationally recognized research on immigration and the Homestead Act. Read his full paper, America's Invitation to the World, here.

Last updated: May 3, 2018

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