Today’s post comes from Jim Zeender, Registrar on the National Archives Exhibits Staff.
The 1986 Immigration Act, November 6, 1986. (General Records of the United States Government, National Archives)
On June 1, my colleagues Alexis Hill, Warren Halsey, and I culminated about nine months of work with a visit to the Lincoln Cottage on the grounds of the Old Soldiers Home. Terry Boone and Bill Nenichka had participated in previous trips. A host of other NARA staff helped prepare us for this day with their contributions back at the fort on Pennsylvania Avenue.
In the morning, we brought four pages from the original 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act to be featured as the latest in the museum’s originALs series.
You might be asking what is the connection between this immigration law signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and the Lincoln Cottage. Well, it’s kind of an interesting story. In September of last year, I received an email from Deputy Director Callie Hawkins:
Mr. Zeender—it’s nice to meet you, even if virtually. . . . [W]e would be interested in borrowing Public Law 38-205-1 An Act to Encourage Immigration, Record Group 11, General Records of the U.S. Government for a loan as part of our originALs initiative. originALs highlights a single object that has its origins at the Cottage or represents an idea Lincoln was thinking through while living here. Given that he moved out to the Cottage for the last time on July 4, 1864, and that we’re opening an exhibit on Lincoln and immigration, we’d be delighted to exhibit this in our permanent galleries for a brief period of time.
Although best known for leading the United States through the Civil War and helping end legal slavery, President Lincoln made a tremendous impact on America’s immigration policy. On July 4, 1864, Lincoln moved to the Cottage for his final summer in residence. That same day, he signed into law An Act to Encourage Immigration, the first comprehensive immigration law in American history. (Excerpted from the Lincoln Cottage Website).