1919 January 15

National Civil Liberties Bureau Condemns Deportation and Exclusion Laws


On this day, the National Civil Liberties Bureau condemned the federal government’s use of deportation and exclusion laws to attack foreign-born radicals because of their political beliefs. World War I had ended in November 1918, but the anti-radical and anti-immigrant fervor that began during the war continued. The zeal culminated in the notorious Palmer Raids of November 7, 1919, and January 2, 1920, which involved massive round-ups of alleged foreign-born radicals. And on December 21, 1919, the federal government deported 249 aliens, including the famous anarchist Emma Goldman, to the Soviet Union.

The hostility to immigrants led to the 1924 Immigration Act, enacted on May 26, 1924, with its “national origins” quota system that discriminated against southern and eastern Europeans.

The National Civil Liberties Bureau, meanwhile, was transformed into the ACLU on January 19, 1920.

Learn more about the history of the NCLB and the ACLU: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

Learn about the ACLU during times of national crisis: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history-defending-liberty-times-national-crisis

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