1904 March 13

The First Victim of 1903 Anti-Anarchist Immigration Act


On March 3, 1903, Congress passed the 1903 Immigration Act, which barred anarchists from entering the U.S. and also facilitated the deportation of anarchists already in the country. The law became a model for subsequent immigration laws designed to keep political “undesirables” out of the country. See the subsequent restrictive immigration laws at October 16, 1918; May 26, 1924, which imposed a notorious national origins quota system that discriminated against southern and eastern Europeans; and  June  27, 1952.

Possibly the first victim of the law was John Turner, a British anarchist who was arrested shortly after the law was passed. On this day, while out on bail and with his appeal pending in court, he discussed his arrest and detention to a labor union meeting in New York City. He said he was treated more respectfully in European countries under monarchical governments. The Free Speech League was handling his legal case.

For more on the now-forgotten Free Speech League, which preceded the ACLU by several years, see April 7, 1911.

Learn more about Turner’s case here.

Learn about anarchism in the early 20th century here.

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