1903 March 3

Anarchists Barred: Restrictive Immigration Law Becomes A Model for Future Laws


The 1903 Immigration Act banned the entry into the U.S. of anarchists, beggars, epileptics, and importers of prostitutes. Enacted on this day, it became a model for subsequent restrictive, anti-immigrant laws in the years and decades ahead. The 1918 Immigration Act, passed on October 16, 1918, expanded the definition of an “anarchist,” allowing the government to deport more alleged radicals. The most notorious law was the 1924 Immigration Act, passed on May 26, 1924, which included a “national origins” quota system that discriminated against people seeking to come to the U.S. from Eastern and Southern Europe. The 1952 McCarran-Walter Act, passed on June 27, 1952, was a Cold War law that barred the immigration of alleged “subversives” and allowed the government to deport immigrants who were deemed subversive.

The 1924 law was replaced by the 1965 Immigration Act, which abolished the quota system, and which President Lyndon signed into law on October 3, 1965, in a ceremony at the Statue of Liberty.

Learn more, read: Vanessa Beasley, Who Belongs in America? Presidents, Rhetoric, and Immigration (2006)

Learn more: Hans Vought, The Bully Pulpit and the Melting Pot:  American Presidents and the Immigrant, 1897–1933 (2004)

Listen to President Johnson on signing the 1965 Immigration Act: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQNP5XKMNls

Learn more about immigrants’ rights today: https://www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights

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