Between the years 1892 and 1954, over 12 million immigrants crossed through Ellis Island so as to begin a new life in America. It’s hard to imagine that none of these people were carrying passports, which are now universally considered mandatory for travelling abroad. Due to the fact that passport regulations were previously non-existent, it made controlling the influx of immigrants impossible for American authorities.
As a result in 1920 the concept of a global passport standard first emerged, and in 1921, America passed the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 which meant that immigrants were limited in passing through freely.
Passports helped officials to identify immigrants countries of origin which were then ranked according to a quota system. This proved to be a burden for those from the developing world, while serving to heighten freedom for those from first world countries. Critics of the Emergency Quota Act argued that it was more about controlling travellers than creating a more democratic society. For example, women were not permitted to cross borders alone, while men were allowed to roam freely.
While many countries would have liked to do away with the passport, none could afford to. The passports of today feature technology such as biometric photographs and barcodes, holograms and even microchips in some cases. Considering that the origins of passports can be traced back to biblical times, we’ve truly come a long way.
However, advances in technology are not limited to law-abiding citizens and as a result the black market has seen a surge of stolen as well as fake passports for sale. To make matters worse, some countries like Cyprus and Malta open their borders to anyone who can pay the more than $1million price.
Needless to say, that price bracket is reserved for the elite 1 percent. Meanwhile, more than 10 million people around the globe are technically “stateless” and are not registered to belong to any country. Unfortunately this typically results in them being unable to obtain passports, and to move freely as a result.
While the U.S administration and other nations toy with the concept of closed borders, its worth keeping in mind that the document is arbitrary. Although passports aren’t going to be eradicated any time soon, it seems that the regulations shaping it might.