Immigration Restriction Efforts, 1875

HIS 206
Immigration Act of 1882 followed model of earlier state
laws struck down in Henderson v. Mayor of New York (1876)
 Barred entry to lunatics, idiots & persons likely to become a public
 Imposed 50-cent head tax
 Secretary of Treasury supervised, but state officials still
Foran Alien Contract Labor Act (1885) forbade all contracts
to prepay or assist immigrants’ passage to U.S.
 Artists, actors, lecturers, domestic servants & skilled laborers
 Americans still allowed to help relatives or personal friends
Payson Act (1887) barred aliens who hadn’t filed first papers
from owning land in the territories
House est. Ford Committee (1888-89) to investigate
 Report said facilities & staff at ports inadequate to inspect
immigrants properly
 Found evidence of assisted immigration for paupers & convicts, &
contract labor law easily evaded
 Warned current immigrants inferior to previous ones & called for
exclusion of anarchists & “birds of passage”
Ford Committee report = first time Congress distinguished
between old & new immigrants
 “old” immigrants hailed as pioneers who settled as families on
the land, assimilated & became citizens
 “new” immigrants were single men who worked in factories,
lived in slums, & were less intelligent & more degenerate
Immigration Act of 1891 created federal Bureau of
Immigration in Treasury Dept. to oversee inspection &
enforcement of laws
 New federal facilities (e.g. Ellis Island) constructed
 Persons suffering from loathsome or contagious disease &
polygamists excluded
 Provided for deportation of aliens who entered illegally or
became public charges within 1 year of arrival
1891 act gave sole power to review decisions on admission &
deportation to Superintendant & Secretary of Treasury
 Supreme Court ruled in Nishimura Ekiu v. U.S. (1892) that courts
couldn’t review inspectors’ findings of fact, only interpretations of
 Court ruled in Fong Yue Ting v. U.S. (1893) that due process didn’t
apply to administrative hearings
1893 act required commanding officers of
vessels to conduct preliminary investigation of
1894 act raised head tax to $1 to defray
increased expense of inspection
Edward Bemis & Richmond Mayo Smith
called for literacy test to keep out “new”
Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass) introduced
literacy test bills in Congress, calling for
exclusion of inferior races
Immigration Restriction League founded in
1894 by Prescott F. Hall & Robert DeCourcy
Ward to lobby for literacy test
Sen. Lodge
Prescott F. Hall
Immigrants blamed for evils of
urban, industrial America
 Conservatives claimed they were labor
radicals – socialists, anarchists
Unions saw them as strikebreakers
Social workers decried their unsanitary
living conditions
Academics claimed they were racially
TR warned of danger of “race suicide”
Henry F. Bowers founded antiCatholic American Protective
Association in 1880s
Sons & Daughters of the
American Revolution tried to
“Americanize” immigrants by
teaching them about U.S. history &
The Ram’s Horn, April 25, 1896
Francis Galton coined term to describe
scientific study of human genetics with
goal of selectively breeding a better
human race
 Influential in U.S. from 1905-1930
 Appealed to middle class as explanation for
incorrigible poor & delinquent
Charles Davenport set up Eugenics
Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor, NY
in 1910
 funded by Carnegie Institute & Harrimans
 Davenport & assistant Harry Laughlin
collected data on how various characteristics
were transmitted
 Worked with Hall & Ward of IRL to pass
immigration restriction
Difficulty of defining traits
Reification – treating
complex behaviors as
single entities with single
causes (e.g., intelligence)
 Poor survey & statistical
 False quantification
 Ignoring social &
environmental influences
William Ripley’s Map of European Races
Based On Cephalic Index
33 states passed forced sterilization
 Over 60,000 involuntarily sterilized
 Upheld by Supreme Court in Buck v.
Bell (1927)
 Sterilization of criminals declared
unconstitutional in Skinner v.
Oklahoma (1942)
Margaret Sanger & other
eugenicists also pushed for abortion
& birth control to prevent poor from
Lodge introduced literacy test bill to
Congress in 1896
 Based on 25-word passages from U.S.
 Limited to English or language of native
Richard Bartholdt tried to sabotage it
in House, but still passed
 Pes. Grover Cleveland vetoed it in 1897,
calling it “radical departure” from
tradition of asylum
 House voted to override; Senate did not
Richard Bartholdt, R-MO
Industrial Commission (1898-1901)
raising head tax to $3
Inspecting cabin passengers & at land borders
Excluding & deporting anarchists
Extending statute of limitations on deportations to
5 years
 Penalizing steamship co.s for transporting diseased
Pres. Theodore Roosevelt pushed for
comprehensive policy to select “good”
immigrants & screen out “bad” ones
 Suggested exclusion of anarchists & immoral
 Recommended literacy test & monetary
1903 Immigration Act reorganized legislation
Head tax raised to $2
Inspection at land border crossings
Aliens could be deported up to 3 years after arrival
Steamship co.s fined for bringing inadmissible aliens &
required to transport them back home
1907 Immigration Act raised head tax & monetary
 Speaker Joseph Cannon fiercely opposed literacy test
 Conference committee dropped literacy test in exchange for
Japanese amendment
 created U.S. Immigration Commission to study issue
U.S. Immigration Commission chaired by Vt.
Sen. William P. Dillingham
 All members except Congressman William Bennett
(R-NY) committed to literacy test
 Issued 42-volume report in 1911
Dillingham Report accepted distinction
between “old” & “new” immigrants
 Economic motivation of “birds of passage” proved
U.S. was no longer asylum for oppressed
 Found existing laws worked well
 Crime & poverty rates lower than expected
 Franz Boas’ research contradicted eugenicists
Sen. Dillingham
 Literacy test
 Better distribution of immigrants
 Exclusion of “birds of passage”
William W. Husband
Dillingham submitted literacy test bill in Senate in
 Senate bill based on U.S. Constitution
 John L. Burnett (D-AL) introduced House bill based on
words in common usage
 Secretary of Commerce & Labor Charles Nagel opposed
Pres. Taft
Became issue in 1912 presidential campaign
 TR’s Progressive party staked out liberal position on
 Wilson dogged by earlier negative comments about “new”
immigrants in his History of the American People (1902)
 Taft opposed literacy test as revival of Know-Nothing spirit
Charles Nagel
Taft vetoed bill in 1913
 Conference committee backed House version
 Taft’s veto message quoted Nagel’s objections
 Override fell 5 votes short in House