Immigration Legislation History

Immigration Legislation History
Chinese Exclusion Act 1882
Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907
Immigration Act of 1921 (aka
Emergency Quota Act)
Immigration Act of 1924 (aka
Johnson-Reed Act)*
Immigration and Nationality Act
of 1952 (aka McCarren-Walters
The Chinese Exclusion Act was one of the most significant restrictions on
free immigration in U.S. history. The Act excluded Chinese "skilled and
unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining" from entering the
country for ten years under penalty of imprisonment and deportation.
Many Chinese were relentlessly beaten just because of their race.
was an informal agreement between the United States and the Empire of
Japan whereby the U.S. would not impose restriction on Japanese
immigration, and Japan would not allow further emigration to the U.S. The
goal was to reduce tensions between the two powerful Pacific nations. The
agreement was never ratified by Congress, which in 1924 ended it.
3% cap of immigrant totals based on the 1910 Census (Based on that
formula, the number of new immigrants admitted fell from 805,228 in
1920 to 309,556 in 1921-22).
2% cap of immigrant totals based on the 1890 Census (it further restricted
Southern and Eastern Europeans and prohibited Middle Easterners, East
Asians, and Asian Indians). That revised formula reduced total immigration
from 357,803 in 1923–24 to 164,667 in 1924–25.
The Act abolished racial restrictions found in earlier immigration statutes.
It retained a quota system for nationalities and regions. Eventually, the Act
established a preference system which determined which ethnic groups
were desirable immigrants and placed great importance on labor
The Act defined three types of immigrants: immigrants with special skills or
relatives of U.S. citizens who were exempt from quotas and who were to
be admitted without restrictions; average immigrants whose numbers
were not supposed to exceed 270,000 per year; refugees.
Immigration and Nationality Act
of 1965 (aka Hart-Celler Act)
The Act allowed the government to deport immigrants or naturalized
citizens engaged in subversive activities and also allowed the barring of
suspected subversives from entering the country. It was used to bar
members and former members and "fellow travelers" of the Communist
Party from entry into the United States, even those who had not been
associated with the party for decades.
The Hart-Celler Act abolished the national origins quota system that had
structured American immigration policy since the 1920s, replacing it with a
preference system that focused on immigrants' skills and family
relationships with citizens or residents of the U.S. Numerical restrictions on
visas were set at 170,000 per year, not including immediate relatives of
U.S. citizens, nor "special immigrants" (including those born in
"independent" nations in the Western hemisphere; former citizens;
ministers; employees of the U.S. government abroad).
*Congressman Albert Johnson and Senator David Reed were the two main architects of the Immigration Act of
1924. In the wake of intense lobbying, the Act passed with strong congressional support. Proponents of the Act
sought to establish a distinct American identity by favoring native-born Americans over Southern Europeans in
order to "maintain the racial preponderance of the basic strain on our people and thereby to stabilize the ethnic
composition of the population" Reed told the Senate that earlier legislation "disregards entirely those of us who
are interested in keeping American stock up to the highest standard-that is, the people who were born here."
Southern and Eastern Europeans, he believed, arrive sick and starving and therefore less capable of contributing to
the American economy, and unable to adapt to American culture.
Some of the law's strongest supporters were influenced by Madison Grant and his 1916 book, The Passing of the
Great Race. Grant was a eugenicist and an advocate of the racial hygiene theory. His data purported to show the
superiority of the founding Northern European races. Most proponents of the law were rather concerned with
upholding an ethnic status quo and avoiding competition with foreign workers Samuel Gompers, a Jewish
immigrant and founder of the AFL, supported the Act because he opposed the cheap labor that immigration
represented, despite the fact that the Act would sharply reduce Jewish immigration.
President Coolidge signs the immigration act on the White House South Lawn along with appropriation bills for the
Veterans Bureau. John J. Pershing is on the President's right.