Our New Immigration Policy

Courtesy Reuters

ON MAY 26, 1924, President Coolidge gave his approval to what is officially known as the Immigration Act of 1924. This new law marks a radical change in the immigration policy of the United States. Representative Albert Johnson, chairman of the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization of the House of Representatives, has called it, without exaggeration, a second Declaration of Independence. (1) It establishes a definite numerical limitation. (2) The bulk of immigration is to be of the same racial stocks as those that originally settled the United States and still constitute the major part of its population. (3) There is to be a preliminary selection overseas.

This new policy of limitation and of selection, epoch-making as it is, is all the more surprising when it is recalled that the first general immigration act was passed as recently as 1882 and provided only for the exclusion of convicts (except in the case of political offenses), of lunatics, of idiots, and of persons likely to become a public charge. The Act of 1882 was amended and strengthened in various ways by later legislation, but even the last general immigration act, that of 1917, which enumerated some thirty classes of aliens as subject to exclusion for physical, mental, moral or economic reasons, involved no general limitation of numbers, no racial selection, and no overseas inspection. The Chinese Exclusion Acts (1882 and later), the "Gentlemen's Agreement" with Japan (1907), and the so-called "Barred Zone" (1917) represented the only steps which had been taken towards any serious policy of exclusion or of numerical limitation, and all of these were concerned only with people of Asiatic origin. Even the illiteracy test, which was a storm-center of discussion for many years and finally became a part of the Act of 1917, useful as it has proved in several ways, has not operated appreciably to diminish numbers. The Quota Act of 1921, which limited new immigration to three percent of the number of foreign-born living in the United States at the time of the census of 1910, for the first time definitely restricted

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