1930 September 8

Labor Educator Detained at Ellis Island; ACLU Protests


The ACLU sent a letter to the Secretary of Labor on this day to protest the detention of Elsa Hewitt at Ellis Island upon her arrival in the U.S. Ms. Hewitt was the daughter of a Labor Party member of the British Parliament who came to the U.S. to teach music at the Manumit School, a labor-oriented school closely associated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The Labor Department maintained that she was in violation of the anti-alien labor contract law. The ACLU contended that she had a valid visa, did not qualify under the law cited by the Labor Department, and was being barred because of her association with a labor-oriented school.

The detention was but one episode in a long U.S. policy of denying entry into the country of people it regarded as the advocates of dangerous or “subversive” ideas. The policy was particularly strong in the 1920s and 1930s, the Cold War, and during the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. See, for example, the “Visa War”: January 6, 1987.

Learn more about ideological exclusion in U.S. visa policy: https://www.aclu.org/national-security/ideological-exclusion

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