[TIMELINE] Immigration Act of 1924 & Other Information
- Immigration Act of 1924
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The Immigration Act of 1924, or Johnson-Reed Act, including the National Origins Act, Asian Exclusion Act, (43 Statutes-at-Large 153) was a United States federal law that limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States in 1890, according to the Census of 1890. It excluded immigration of Asians. It superseded the 1921 Emergency Quota Act. The law was aimed at further restricting the Southern and Eastern Europeans who were immigrating in large numbers starting in the 1890s, as well as prohibiting the immigration of East Asians and Asian Indians.
Congressman Albert Johnson and Senator David Reed were the two main architects. In the wake of intense lobbying, the Act passed with strong congressional support. There were six dissenting votes in the Senate and a handful of opponents in the House, the most vigorous of whom was freshman Brooklyn Representative Emanuel Celler. Over the succeeding four decades, Celler made the repeal of the Act into a personal crusade. 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. But most proponents of the law were rather concerned with upholding an ethnic status quo and avoiding competition with foreign workers.
The act was strongly supported by well-known union leader and founder of the AFL, Samuel Gompers. Gompers was a Jewish immigrant, and uninterested in the accusations by many Jews that the quotas were based on anti-Semitism.
National origins quota
National Origins Quota of 1924 according to the Immigration Act, was the first permanent limitation on immigration into the United States, established the "national origins quota system." In conjunction with the Immigration Act of 1917, governed American immigration policy until 1952 (see the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952).
It contained two quota provisions:
Effective until June 30, 1927set the annual quota of any quota nationality at two percent of the number of foreign-born persons of such nationality resident in the continental United States in 1890 (total quota - 164,667).
From July 1, 1927 (later postponed to July 1, 1929) to December 31, 1952used the national origins quota system: the annual quota for any country or nationality had the same relation to 150,000 as the number of inhabitants in the continental United States in 1920 having that national origin had to the total number of inhabitants in the continental United States in 1920.
Preference quota status was established for unmarried children under 21; for parents; for spouses of U.S. citizens aged 21 and over; and for quota immigrants aged 21 and over who are skilled in agriculture, together with their wives and dependent children under age 16.
Non-quota status was accorded to: wives and unmarried children under 18 of U.S. citizens; natives of Western Hemisphere countries, with their families; non-immigrants; and certain others. Subsequent amendments eliminated certain elements of this law's inherent discrimination against women but comprehensive elimination was not achieved until 1952 (see the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952).
Established the "consular control system" of immigration by mandating that no alien may be permitted entrance to the United States without an unexpired immigration visa issued by an American consular officer abroad. Thus, the State Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service shared control of immigration.
Introduced the provision that, as a rule, no alien ineligible to become a citizen shall be admitted to the United States as an immigrant. This was aimed primarily at Japanese aliens.
Imposed fines on transportation companies who landed aliens in violation of U.S. Immigration laws.
Defined the term "immigrant" and designated all other alien entries into the United States as "nonimmigrant" (temporary visitor). Established classes of admission for non-immigrant entries.
In the ten years following 1900, about 200,000 Italians immigrated annually. With the imposition of the 1924 quota, 4,000 per year were allowed. At the same time, the annual quota for Germany was over 57,000. 86% of the 155,000 permitted entries were from Northern European countries, with Germany, Britain, and Ireland with the highest quotas.
The Act set no limits on immigration from Latin America.
The quotas remained in place with minor alterations until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
Who Was Shut Out?: Immigration Quotas, 19251927
In response to growing public opinion against the flow of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe in the years following World War I, Congress passed first the Quota Act of 1921 then the even more restrictive Immigration Act of 1924 (the Johnson-Reed Act). Initially, the 1924 law imposed a total quota on immigration of 165,000less than 20 percent of the pre-World War I average. It based ceilings on the number of immigrants from any particular nation on the percentage of each nationality recorded in the 1890 censusa blatant effort to limit immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, which mostly occurred after that date. In the first decade of the 20th century, an average of 200,000 Italians had entered the United States each year. With the 1924 Act, the annual quota for Italians was set at less than 4,000. This table shows the annual immigration quotas under the 1924 Immigration Act.
"Shut the Door": A Senator Speaks for Immigration Restriction
Source: Speech by Ellison DuRant Smith, April 9, 1924, Congressional Record, 68th Congress, 1st Session (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1924), vol. 65, 59615962.
At the turn of the 20th century, unprecedented levels of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe to the United States aroused public support for restrictive immigration laws. After World War I, which temporarily slowed immigration levels, anti-immigration sentiment rose again. Congress passed the Quota Act of 1921, limiting entrants from each nation to 3 percent of that nationality's presence in the U.S. population as recorded by the 1910 census. As a result, immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe dropped to less than one-quarter of pre-World War I levels. Even more restrictive was the Immigration Act of 1924 (Johnson-Reed Act) that shaped American immigration policy until the 1960s. During congressional debate over the 1924 Act, Senator Ellison DuRant Smith of South Carolina drew on the racist theories of Madison Grant to argue that immigration restriction was the only way to preserve existing American resources. Although blatant racists like Smith were in the minority in the Senate, almost all senators supported restriction, and the Johnson-Reed bill passed with only six dissenting votes.
It seems to me the point as to this measureand I have been so impressed for several yearsis that the time has arrived when we should shut the door. We have been called the melting pot of the world. We had an experience just a few years ago, during the great World War, when it looked as though we had allowed influences to enter our borders that were about to melt the pot in place of us being the melting pot.
I think that we have sufficient stock in America now for us to shut the door, Americanize what we have, and save the resources of America for the natural increase of our population. We all know that one of the most prolific causes of war is the desire for increased land ownership for the overflow of a congested population. We are increasing at such a rate that in the natural course of things in a comparatively few years the landed resources, the natural resources of the country, shall be taken up by the natural increase of our population. It seems to me the part of wisdom now that we have throughout the length and breadth of continental America a population which is beginning to encroach upon the reserve and virgin resources of the country to keep it in trust for the multiplying population of the country.
I do not believe that political reasons should enter into the discussion of this very vital question. It is of greater concern to us to maintain the institutions of America, to maintain the principles upon which this Government is founded, than to develop and exploit the underdeveloped resources of the country. There are some things that are dearer to us, fraught with more benefit to us, than the immediate development of the undeveloped resources of the country. I believe that our particular ideas, social, moral, religious, and political, have demonstrated, by virtue of the progress we have made and the character of people that we are, that we have the highest ideals of any member of the human family or any nation. We have demonstrated the fact that the human family, certainty the predominant breed in America, can govern themselves by a direct government of the people. If this Government shall fail, it shall fail by virtue of the terrible law of inherited tendency. Those who come from the nations which from time immemorial have been under the dictation of a master fall more easily by the law of inheritance and the inertia of habit into a condition of political servitude than the descendants of those who cleared the forests, conquered the savage, stood at arms and won their liberty from their mother country, England.
I think we now have sufficient population in our country for us to shut the door and to breed up a pure, unadulterated American citizenship. I recognize that there is a dangerous lack of distinction between people of a certain nationality and the breed of the dog. Who is an American? Is he an immigrant from Italy? Is he an immigrant from Germany? If you were to go abroad and some one were to meet you and say, "I met a typical American," what would flash into your mind as a typical American, the typical representative of that new Nation? Would it be the son of an Italian immigrant, the son of a German immigrant, the son of any of the breeds from the Orient, the son of the denizens of Africa? We must not get our ethnological distinctions mixed up with out anthropological distinctions. It is the breed of the dog in which I am interested. I would like for the Members of the Senate to read that book just recently published by Madison Grant, The Passing of a Great Race. Thank God we have in America perhaps the largest percentage of any country in the world of the pure, unadulterated Anglo-Saxon stock; certainly the greatest of any nation in the Nordic breed. It is for the preservation of that splendid stock that has characterized us that I would make this not an asylum for the oppressed of all countries, but a country to assimilate and perfect that splendid type of manhood that has made America the foremost Nation in her progress and in her power, and yet the youngest of all the nations. I myself believe that the preservation of her institutions depends upon us now taking counsel with our condition and our experience during the last World War.
Without offense, but with regard to the salvation of our own, let us shut the door and assimilate what we have, and let us breed pure American citizens and develop our own American resources. I am more in favor of that than I am of our quota proposition. Of course, it may not meet the approbation of the Senate that we shall shut the doorwhich I unqualifiedly and unreservedly believe to be our dutyand develop what we have, assimilate and digest what we have into pure Americans, with American aspirations, and thoroughly familiar with the love of American institutions, rather than the importation of any number of men from other countries. If we may not have that, then I am in favor of putting the quota down to the lowest possible point, with every selective element in it that may be.
The great desideratum of modern times has been education not alone book knowledge, but that education which enables men to think right, to think logically, to think truthfully, men equipped with power to appreciate the rapidly developing conditions that are all about us, that have converted the world in the last 50 years into a brand new world and made us masters of forces that are revolutionizing production. We want men not like dumb, driven cattle from those nations where the progressive thought of the times has scarcely made a beginning and where they see men as mere machines; we want men who have an appreciation of the responsibility brought about by the manifestation of the power of that individual. We have not that in this country to-day. We have men here to-day who are selfishly utilizing the enormous forces discovered by genius, and if we are not careful as statesmen, if we are not careful in our legislation, these very masters of the tremendous forces that have been made available to us will bring us under their domination and control by virtue of the power they have in multiplying their wealth.
We are struggling to-day against the organized forces of man's brain multiplied a million times by materialized thought in the form of steam and electricity as applied in the everyday affairs of man. We have enough in this country to engage the brain of every lover of his country in solving the problems of a democratic government in the midst of the imperial power that genius is discovering and placing in the hands of man. We have population enough to-day without throwing wide our doors and jeopardizing the interests of this country by pouring into it men who willingly become the slaves of those who employ them in manipulating these forces of nature, and they few reap the enormous benefits that accrue therefrom.
We ought to Americanize not only our population but our forces. We ought to Americanize our factories and our vast material resources, so that we can make each contribute to the other and have an abundance for us under the form of the government laid down by our fathers.
The Senator from Georgia [Mr. Harris] has introduced an amendment to shut the door. It is not a question of politics. It is a question of maintaining that which has made you and me the beneficiaries of the greatest hope that ever burned in the human breast for the most splendid future that ever stood before mankind, where the boy in the gutter can look with confidence to the seat of the Presidency of the United States; where the boy in the gutter can look forward to the time when, paying the price of a proper citizen, he may fill a seat in this hall; where the boy to-day poverty-stricken, standing in the midst of all the splendid opportunities of America, should have and, please God, if we do our duty, will have an opportunity to enjoy the marvelous wealth that the genius and brain of our country is making possible for us all.
We do not want to tangle the skein of America's progress by those who imperfectly understand the genius of our Government and the opportunities that lie about us. Let up keep what we have, protect what we have, make what we have the realization of the dream of those who wrote the Constitution.
I am more concerned about that than I am about whether a new railroad shall be built or whether there shall be diversified farming next year or whether a certain coal mine shall be mined. I would rather see American citizenship refined to the last degree in all that makes America what we hope it will be than to develop the resources of America at the expense of the citizenship of our country. The time has come when we should shut the door and keep what we have for what we hope our own people to be.
Not All Caucasians Are White: The Supreme Court Rejects Citizenship for Asian Indians
In its decision in the case of U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923), the Supreme Court deemed Asian Indians ineligible for citizenship because U.S. law allowed only free whites to become naturalized citizens. The court conceded that Indians were "Caucasians" and that anthropologists considered them to be of the same race as white Americans, but argued that "the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences." The Thind decision also led to successful efforts to denaturalize some who had previously become citizens. This represented a particular threat in California, where a 1913 law prohibited aliens ineligible for citizenship from owning or leasing land. Only in 1946 did Congress, which was beginning to recognize that India would soon be independent and a major world power, pass a new law that allowed Indians to become citizens and also established a small immigration quota. But major immigration to the United States from South Asia did not begin until after immigration laws were sharply revised in 1965.
Mr. Justice Sutherland delivered the opinion of the Court.
This cause is here upon a certificate from the Circuit Court of Appeals, requesting the instruction of this Court in respect of the following questions:
"1. Is a high caste Hindu of full Indian blood, born at Amrit Sar, Punjab, India, a white person within the meaning of section 2169, Revised Statutes?
"2. Does the act of February 5, 1917, (39 Stat. L. 875, section 3) disqualify from naturalization as citizens those Hindus, now barred by that act, who had lawfully entered the United States prior to the passage of said act?"
The appellee was granted a certificate of citizenship by the District Court of the United States for the District of Oregon, over the objection of the naturalization examiner for the United States. A bill in equity was then filed by the United States, seeking a cancellation of the certificate on the ground that the appellee was not a white person and therefore not lawfully entitled to naturalization. The District Court, on motion, dismissed the bill . . . and an appeal was taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals. No question is made in respect of the individual qualifications of the appellee. The sole question is whether he falls within the class designated by Congress as eligible.
Section 2169, Revised Statutes, provides that the provisions of the Naturalization Act "shall apply to aliens, being free white persons, and to aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent."
If the applicant is a white person within the meaning of this section he is entitled to naturalization; otherwise not. In Ozawa v. United States, 260 U.S. 178, we had occasion to consider the application of these words to the case of a cultivated Japanese and were constrained to hold that he was not within their meaning. As there pointed out, the provision is not that any particular class of persons shall be excluded, but it is, in effect, that only white persons shall be included within the privilege of the statute. "The intention was to confer the privilege of citizenship upon that class of persons whom the fathers knew as white, and to deny it to all who could not be so classified. It is not enough to say that the framers did not have in mind the brown or yellow races of Asia. It is necessary to go father and be able to say that had these particular races been suggested the language of the act would have been so varied as to include them within its privileges," . . . Following a long line of decisions of the lower federal courts, we held that the words imported a racial and not an individual test and were meant to indicate only persons of what is popularly known as the Caucasian race. But, as there pointed out, the conclusion that the phrase "white persons" and the word "Caucasian" are synonymous does not end the matter. It enabled us to dispose of the problem as it was there presented, since the applicant for citizenship clearly fell outside the zone of debatable ground on the negative side; but the decision still left the question to be dealt with, in doubtful and different cases, by the "process of judicial inclusion and exclusion." Mere ability on the part of an applicant for naturalization to establish a line of descent from a Caucasian ancestor will not ipso facto and necessarily conclude the inquiry. "Caucasian" is a conventional word of much flexibility, as a study of the literature dealing with racial questions will disclose, and while it and the words "white persons" are treated as synonymous for the purposes of that case, they are not of identical meaning. . . .
In the endeavor to ascertain the meaning of the statute we must not fail to keep in mind that it does not employ the word "Caucasian" but the words "white persons," and these are words of common speech and not of scientific origin. The word "Caucasian" not only was not employed in the law but was probably wholly unfamiliar to the original framers of the statute in 1790. When we employ it we do so as an aid to the ascertainment of the legislative intent and not as an invariable substitute for the statutory words. Indeed, as used in the science of ethnology, the connotation of the word is by no means clear and the use of it in its scientific sense as an equivalent for the words of the statute, other considerations aside, would simply mean the substitution of one perplexity for another. But in this country, during the last half century especially, the word by common usage has acquired a popular meaning, not clearly defined to be sure, but sufficiently so to enable us to say that its popular as distinguished from its scientific application is of appreciably narrower scope. It is in the popular sense of the word, therefore, that we employ it as an aid to the construction of the statute, for it would be obviously illogical to convert words of common speech used in a statute into words of scientific terminology when neither the latter nor the science for whose purposes they were coined was within the contemplation of the framers of the statute or of the people for whom it was framed. The words of the statute are to be interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man from whose vocabulary they were taken. . . .
They imply, as we have said, a racial test; but the term "race" is one which, for the practical purposes of the statute, must be applied to a group of living persons now possessing in common the requisite characteristics, not to groups of persons who are supposed to be or really are descended from some remote, common ancestor, but who, whether they both resemble him to a greater or less extend, have, at any rate, ceased altogether to resemble one another. It may be true that the blond Scandinavian and the brown Hindu have a common ancestor in the dim reaches of antiquity, but the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences between them today; and it is not impossible, if that common ancestor could be materialized in the flesh, we should discover that he was himself sufficiently differentiated from both of his descendants to preclude his racial classification with either. The question for determination is not, therefore, whether by the speculative processes of ethnological reasoning we may present a probability to the scientific mind that they have the same origin, but whether we can satisfy the common understanding that they are now the same or sufficiently the same to justify the interpreters of a statutewritten in the words of common speech, for common understanding, by unscientific menin classifying them together in the statutory category as white persons. In 1790 the Adamite theory of creationwhich gave a common ancestor to all mankindwas generally accepted, and it is not at all probable that it was intended by the legislators of that day to submit the question of the application of the words "white persons" to the mere test of an indefinitely remote common ancestry, without regard to the extent of the subsequent divergence of the various branches from such common ancestry or from one another.
The eligibility of this applicant for citizenship is based on the sole fact that he is of high caste Hindu stock, born in Punjab, one of the extreme northwestern districts of India, and classified by certain scientific authorities as of the Caucasian or Aryan race. The Aryan theory as a racial basis seems to be discredited by most, if not all, modern writers on the subject of ethnology. A review of their contentions would serve no useful purpose. . . .
The term "Aryan" has to do with linguistic and not at all with physical characteristics, and it would seem reasonably clear that mere resemblance in language, indicating a common linguistic root buried in remotely ancient soil, is altogether inadequate to prove common racial origin. There is, and can be, no assurance that the so-called Aryan language was not spoken by a variety of races living in proximity to one another. Our own history has witnessed the adoption of the English tongue by millions of Negroes, whose descendants can never be classified racially with the descendants of white persons notwithstanding both may speak a common root language.
The work "Caucasian" is in scarcely better repute. It is at best a conventional term, with an altogether fortuitous origin, which, under scientific manipulation, has come to include far more than the unscientific mind suspects. According to Keane, for example, . . . It includes not only the Hindu but some of the Polynesians, (that is the Maori, Tahitians, Samoans, Hawaiians and others), the Hamites of Africa, upon the ground of the Caucasic cast of their features, though in color they range from brown to black. We venture to think that the average well informed white American would learn with some degree of astonishment that the race to which he belongs is made up of such heterogeneous elements.
The various authorities are in irreconcilable disagreement as to what constitutes a proper racial division. For instance, Blumenbach has five races; Keane following Linnaeus, four; Deniker, twenty-nine. The explanation probably is that "the innumerable varieties of mankind run into one another by insensible degrees," and to arrange them in sharply bounded divisions is an undertaking of such uncertainty that common agreement is practically impossible.
It may be, therefore, that a given group cannot be properly assigned to any of the enumerated grand racial divisions. The type may have been so changed by intermixture of blood as to justify an intermediate classification. Something very like this has actually taken place in India. Thus, in Hindustan and Berar there was such an intermixture of the "Aryan" invader with the dark-skinned Dravidian.
In the Punjab and Rajputana, while the invaders seem to have met with more success in the effort to preserve their racial purity, intermarriages did occur producing an intermingling of the two and destroying to a greater or less degree the purity of the "Aryan" blood. The rules of caste, while calculated to prevent this intermixture, seem not to have been entirely successful.
It does not seem necessary to pursue the matter of scientific classification further. We are unable to agree with the District Court, or with other lower federal courts in the conclusion that a native Hindu is eligible for naturalization under. . . . The words of familiar speech, which were used by the original framers of the law, were intended to include only the type of man whom they knew as white. The immigration of that day was almost exclusively from the British Isles and Northwestern Europe, whence they and their forbears had come. When they extended the privilege of American citizenship to "any alien, being a free white person," it was these immigrantsbone of their bone and flesh of their fleshand their kind whom they must have had affirmatively in mind. The succeeding years brought immigrants from Eastern, Southern and Middle Europe, among them the Slavs and the dark-eyed, swarthy people of Alpine and Mediterranean stock, and these were received as unquestionably akin to those already here and readily amalgamated with them. It was the descendants of these, and other immigrants of like origin, who constituted the white population of the country when § 2169, reënacting the naturalization test of 1790, was adopted; and there is no reason to doubt, with like intent and meaning.
What, if any, people of primarily Asiatic stock come within the words of the section we do not deem it necessary now to decide. There is much in the origin and historic development of the statute to suggest that no Asiatic whatever was included. The debates in Congress, during the consideration of the subject in 1870 and 1875, are persuasively of this character. In 1873, for example, the words "free white persons" were unintentionally omitted from the compilation of the Revised Statutes. This omission was supplied in 1875 by the act to correct errors and supply omissions. . . . When this act was under consideration by Congress efforts were made to strike out the words quoted, and it was insisted upon the one hand and conceded upon the other, that the effect of their retention was to exclude Asiatics generally from citizenship. While what was said upon that occasion, to be sure, furnishes no basis for judicial construction of the statute, it is, nevertheless, an important historic incident, which may not be altogether ignored in the search for the true meaning of words which are themselves historic. That question, however, may well be left for final determination until the details have been more completely disclosed by the consideration of particular cases, as they from time to time arise. The words of the statute, it must be conceded, do not readily yield to exact interpretation, and it is probably better to leave them as they are than to risk undue extension or undue limitation of their meaning by any general paraphrase at this time.
What we now hold is that the words "free white persons" are words of common speech, to be interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man, synonymous with the word "Caucasian" only as that word is popularly understood. As so understood and used, whatever may be the speculations of the ethnologist, it does not include the body of people to whom the appellee belongs. It is a matter of familiar observation and knowledge that the physical group characteristics of the Hindus render them readily distinguishable from the various groups of persons in this country commonly recognized as white. The children of English, French, German, Italian, Scandinavian, and other European parentage, quickly merge into the mass of our population and lose the distinctive hallmarks of their European origin. On the other hand, it cannot be doubted that the children born in this country of Hindu parents would retain indefinitely the clear evidence of their ancestry. It is very far from our thought to suggest the slightest question of racial superiority or inferiority. What we suggest is merely racial difference, and it is of such character and extent that the great body of our people instinctively recognize it and reject the thought of assimilation.
It is not without significance in this connection that Congress, by the Act of February 5, 1917 . . . has now excluded from admission into this country all natives of Asia within designated limits of latitude and longitude, including the whole of India. This not only constitutes conclusive evidence of the congressional attitude of opposition to Asiatic immigration generally, but is persuasive of a similar attitude toward Asiatic naturalization as well, since it is not likely that Congress would be willing to accept as citizens a class of persons whom it rejects as immigrants.
It follows that a negative answer must be given to the first question, which disposes of the case and renders an answer to the second question unnecessary, and it will be so certified.
Source: United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, Certificate From The Circuit Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit., No. 202. Argued January 11, 12, 1923.Decided February 19, 1923, United States Reports, v. 261, The Supreme Court, October Term, 1922, 204215.
"The Senate's Declaration of War": Japan Responds to Japanese Exclusion
In 1924, Congress passed the Johnson-Reed Act (also known as the Immigration Act of 1924), which restricted immigration from many European nations and denied even a token quota to most Asians. The law barred all immigrants who were ineligible for citizenship, and all south and east Asians (including Indians, Japanese, and Chinese) had been deemed ineligible on racial grounds by a 1922 Supreme Court decision. Japan reacted particularly strongly to what it regarded as the insulting treatment of the Japanese under the new law. The Japanese organized consumer boycotts against American goods and demonstrated against American cultural practices like dancing. This Japan Times & Mail editorial, entitled "The Senate's Declaration of War," denounced the 1924 immigration law and speculated on the reasons for the decision. The paper suggested that the Senate "deliberately" sought to "insult" the Japanese.
There is no denying that the adoption by the American Senate of the exclusion amendment to the Immigration Bill has given a shock to the whole Japanese race such as has never before been felt and which will undoubtedly be remembered for a long time to come. The wonder is, rather, that the shock has not found expression in a louder outburst of indignation than is the case. The knowledge that Senators Johnson, Shortridge and company do not necessarily represent the entire American nation in offering an unnecessary affront, is largely responsible for the spirit of forbearance which seems to be generally ruling the mind of the nation for the present. The country is aware, also, that the Immigration Bill as a whole has yet to be passed by the Senate, to be put through a joint conference of the two Houses and then to receive the signature of President Coolidge before it becomes law, and it is unquestionably thought unwise to destroy, by ill-measured utterances, the only possible chances that might prove favorable to the Japanese in the meantime.
Nevertheless the fact remains that the Senate has passed, with an overwhelming majority, an amendment which they know is a most humiliating one to the Japanese race, and the event cuts the Japanese minds deep, a wound that will hurt and rankle for generations and generations.
How came it to pass that the Senate should have chosen to act in so extraordinary a manner? The exclusion Senators themselves would have it believed that their ire was roused by Ambassador Hanihara's "grave consequences" threat. They contend that the "veiled menace" was an insult that no Power so great as the United States could bear, and its injured dignity could be vindicated only by a retaliation in kind, as by insulting Japan by way of return. Yet it is inconceivable that they did not know that in view of the distortion of facts and misrepresentation of figures, so freely resorted to by the exclusionists, the Ambassador could pen his note of protest in no other tone, and that read in a rational spirit there was nothing in it to constitute an international offense.
The whole thing cannot but lend itself to theory that the Senators were looking for some excuse to get angry, and insinuations and falsifications were so engineered as to entrap Ambassador Hanihara into committing himself with words such as could be turned into a most effective weapon by them.
Even if this is going too far behind the show, it may not be gainsaid that the Senate has been most unfortunate in the choice of time for taking its action. While professing to be jubilant over the increased prospects of permanency of peace in consequence of the Washington Conference, all Japanese have ever since felt in the secret recesses of their heart that their country has been considerably weakened in its naval strength. To add to this there came that great devastating earthquake of last year, with its far reaching effect in all directions, seen especially in the ever-increasing balance of the country's trade on the wrong side. It has been said openly more than once in different quarters abroad that Japan is as good as crushed to a naval and economic helplessness, from which there will be no recovering for a generation or two. Mark, then, it is at such a time that the Senate of the United States has said practically this: "We deliberately offer you this insult, knowing that you can do no more than make a wry face."
No Japanese takes any stock in the excuse that Ambassador Hanihara's "uncalled for words" provoked the Senators to resentment to teach Japan manners. All the leading American newspapers themselves, with the exception of course of those of Hearst interests, state that there was no occasion whatever for the Senators to get offended. The impression is not unnatural, therefore, on the Japanese side, that the American Senators took advantage of the adverse plight of Japan in developing and carrying into effect their scheme of making Japan and the Japanese victims of their political maneuvering.
This is extremely unfortunate. For a friendly turn in the hour of need will be remembered permanently, but an unfriendly act that takes advantage of one's helpless condition makes nothing of all the past and darkens the long future.
We are most deeply aggrieved that the American Senate has made itself an object of distrust and suspicion in the Japanese mind through an act which is characterized as unnecessary and ill-judged by the American organs of public opinion themselves.
Source: "The Senate's Declaration of War," Japan Times and Mail, April 19, 1924, 4.
What was the Asian Exclusion Act?
The Asian Exclusion Act was passed in 1924 as part of the Immigration Act of 1924. It is an example of race specific legislation in the United States, designed to restrict freedom of movement to people on the basis of their race and national origin. Historians have heavily criticized the Asian Exclusion Act, which was not repealed until 1943, with the Magnuson Act, which instituted quotas for immigrants from around the world. In 1965, the Immigration Act passed the House and the Senate by a large margin, and abolished quotas for immigrants based on national origin.
The roots of the Asian Exclusion Act lie in the Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in 1882. The Chinese Exclusion Act prevented all Chinese immigration specifically, and it was renewed in 1892 after it expired. In 1902, the Chinese Exclusion act was renewed again, this time for an indefinite period. Both pieces of legislation were passed in response to the idea that Asian immigrants posed a threat to American society. Along the West Coast especially, Asians had been seeking their fortunes since the mid 1800s. Some of these immigrants worked hard to achieve their goals, but they were still unable to become citizens or own land. They also faced serious discrimination from European Americans.
Despite the already severe legal and social restrictions on Asian immigration, some European Americans felt that immigration should be forbidden altogether with a specific Asian Exclusion Act. In arguments which seem familiar to modern followers of the immigration debate, Asians were accused of taking white jobs and causing social unrest. Especially in California, Asians and Chinese in particular were already limited to Chinese ghettos, highly dense housing clusters which were prone to fire and violence. Modern-day Chinatown may be a popular tourist destination, but it was once the only place in which Chinese could safely live.
In 1924, growing concerns about immigration from all over the world led to the Immigration Act of 1924, which severely restricted immigration by creating national quotas. The Asian Exclusion Act specifically targeted Asian immigrants, essentially guaranteeing that they would never qualify for naturalization or land ownership. Despite the restrictions of the Asian Exclusion Act, many Asians continued to immigrate into the United States illegally, because they felt that the country offered more opportunities than they had at home.
Like other laws which focused on specific races, the Asian Exclusion Act has since been condemned by historians, lawmakers, and citizens, especially Asian-Americans. It is an important part of American history, especially because some Americans are unaware of the widespread discrimination faced by Asians until the middle of the twentieth century. The Asian Exclusion Act is also frequently referenced in the ongoing discussion about immigration in the United States, usually as an example of what not to do.
An "Un-American Bill": A Congressman Denounces Immigration Quotas
At the turn of the 20th century, unprecedented levels of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe to the United States aroused public support for restrictive immigration laws. After World War I, which temporarily slowed immigration levels, anti-immigration sentiment rose again. Congress passed the Quota Act of 1921, limiting entrants from each nation to 3 percent of that nationality's presence in the U.S. population as recorded by the 1910 census. As a result, immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe dropped to less than one-quarter of pre-World War I levels. Even more restrictive was the Immigration Act of 1924 (Johnson-Reed Act) that shaped American immigration policy until the 1960s. While it passed with only six dissenting votes, congressional debates over the Johnson-Reed Act revealed arguments on both sides of this question of American policy and national identity. For example, on April 8, 1924, Robert H. Clancy, a Republican congressman from Detroit with a large immigrant constituency, defended the "Americanism" of Jewish, Italian, and Polish immigrants and attacked the quota provisions of the bill as racially discriminatory and "un-American."
Since the foundations of the American commonwealth were laid in colonial times over 300 years ago, vigorous complaint and more or less bitter persecution have been aimed at newcomers to our shores. Also the congressional reports of about 1840 are full of abuse of English, Scotch, Welsh immigrants as paupers, criminals, and so forth.
Old citizens in Detroit of Irish and German descent have told me of the fierce tirades and propaganda directed against the great waves of Irish and Germans who came over from 1840 on for a few decades to escape civil, racial, and religious persecution in their native lands.
The "Know-Nothings," lineal ancestors of the Ku-Klux Klan, bitterly denounced the Irish and Germans as mongrels, scum, foreigners, and a menace to our institutions, much as other great branches of the Caucasian race of glorious history and antecedents are berated to-day. All are riff-raff, unassimilables, "foreign devils," swine not fit to associate with the great chosen peoplea form of national pride and hallucination as old as the division of races and nations.
But to-day it is the Italians, Spanish, Poles, Jews, Greeks, Russians, Balkanians, and so forth, who are the racial lepers. And it is eminently fitting and proper that so many Members of this House with names as Irish as Paddy's pig, are taking the floor these days to attack once more as their kind has attacked for seven bloody centuries the fearful fallacy of chosen peoples and inferior peoples. The fearful fallacy is that one is made to rule and the other to be abominated. . . .
In this bill we find racial discrimination at its worsta deliberate attempt to go back 84 years in our census taken every 10 years so that a blow may be aimed at peoples of eastern and southern Europe, particularly at our recent allies in the Great WarPoland and Italy.
Jews In Detroit Are Good Citizens
Of course the Jews too are aimed at, not directly, because they have no country in Europe they can call their own, but they are set down among the inferior peoples. Much of the animus against Poland and Russia, old and new, with the countries that have arisen from the ruins of the dead Czar's European dominions, is directed against the Jew.
We have many American citizens of Jewish descent in Detroit, tens of thousands of themactive in every profession and every walk of life. They are particularly active in charities and merchandising. One of our greatest judges, if not the greatest, is a Jew. Surely no fair-minded person with a knowledge of the facts can say the Jews or Detroit are a menace to the city's or the country's well-being. . . .
Forty or fifty thousand Italian-Americans live in my district in Detroit. They are found in all walks and classes of lifecommon hard labor, the trades, business, law, medicine, dentistry, art, literature, banking, and so forth.
They rapidly become Americanized, build homes, and make themselves into good citizens. They brought hardihood, physique, hope, and good humor with them from their outdoor life in Sunny Italy, and they bear up under the terrific strain of life and work in busy Detroit.
One finds them by thousands digging streets, sewers, and building foundations, and in the automobile and iron and steel fabric factories of various sorts. They do the hard work that the native-born American dislikes. Rapidly they rise in life and join the so-called middle and upper classes. . . .
The Italian-Americans of Detroit played a glorious part in the Great War. They showed themselves as patriotic as the native born in offering the supreme sacrifice.
In all, I am informed, over 300,000 Italian-speaking soldiers enlisted in the American Army, almost 10 percent of our total fighting force. Italians formed about 4 percent of the population of the United States and they formed 10 percent of the American military force. Their casualties were 12 percent. . . .
Detroit Satisfied With The Poles
I wish to take the liberty of informing the House that from my personal knowledge and observation of tens of thousands of Polish-Americans living in my district in Detroit that their Americanism and patriotism are unassailable from any fair or just standpoint.
The Polish-Americans are as industrious and as frugal and as loyal to our institutions as any class of people who have come to the shores of this country in the past 300 years. They are essentially home builders, and they have come to this country to stay. They learn the English language as quickly as possible, and take pride in the rapidity with which they become assimilated and adopt our institutions.
Figures available to all show that in Detroit in the World War the proportion of American volunteers of Polish blood was greater than the proportion of Americans of any other racial descent. . . .
Polish-Americans do not merit slander nor defamation. If not granted charitable or sympathetic judgment, they are at least entitled to justice and to the high place they have won in American and European history and citizenship.
The force behind the Johnson bill and some of its champions in Congress charge that opposition to the racial discrimination feature of the 1800 quota basis arises from "foreign blocs." They would give the impression that 100 percent Americans are for it and that the sympathies of its opponents are of the "foreign-bloc" variety, and bear stigma of being "hyphenates." I meet that challenge willingly. I feel my Americanism will stand any test.
Every American Has Foreign Ancestors
The foreign born of my district writhe under the charge of being called "hyphenates." The people of my own family were all hyphenatesEnglish-Americans, German-Americans, Irish-Americans. They began to come in the first ship or so after the Mayflower. But they did not come too early to miss the charge of anti-Americanism. Roger Williams was driven out of the Puritan colony of Salem to die in the wilderness because he objected "violently" to blue laws and the burning or hanging of rheumatic old women on witchcraft charges. He would not "assimilate" and was "a grave menace to American Institutions and democratic government."
My family put 11 men and boys into the Revolutionary War, and I am sure they and their women and children did not suffer so bitterly and sacrifice until it hurt to establish the autocracy of bigotry and intolerance which exists in many quarters to-day in this country. Some of these men and boys shed their blood and left their bodies to rot on American battle fields. To me real Americanism and the American flag are the product of the blood of men and of the tears of women and children of a different type than the rampant "Americanizers" of to-day.
My mother's father fought in the Civil War, leaving his six small children in Detroit when he marched away to the southern battle fields to fight against racial distinctions and protect his country.
My mother's little brother, about 14 years old, and the eldest child, fired by the traditions of his family, plodded off to the battle fields to do his bit. He aspired to be a drummer boy and inspire the men in battle, but he was found too small to carry a drum and was put at the ignominious task of driving army mules, hauling cannons and wagons.
I learned more of the spirit of American history at my mother's knee than I ever learned in my four years of high school study of American history and in my five and a half years of study at the great University of Michigan.
All that study convinces me that the racial discriminations of this bill are un-American. . . .
It must never be forgotten also that the Johnson bill, although it claims to favor the northern and western European peoples only, does so on a basis of comparison with the southern and western European peoples. The Johnson bill cuts down materially the number of immigrants allowed to come from northern and western Europe, the so-called Nordic peoples. . . .
Then I would be true to the principles for which my forefathers fought and true to the real spirit of the magnificent United States of to-day. I can not stultify myself by voting for the present bill and overwhelm my country with racial hatreds and racial lines and antagonisms drawn even tighter than they are to-day. [Applause.]
Source: Speech by Robert H. Clancy, April 8, 1924, Congressional Record, 68th Congress, 1st Session (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1924), vol. 65, 59295932.
Comprehensive Immigration Law (1924)
Whereas it is provided in the act of Congress approved May 26, 1924, entitled "An act to limit the immigration of aliens into the United States, and for other purposes" that "The annual quota of any nationality shall be two per centum of the number of foreign-born individuals of such nationality resident in continental Untied States as determined by the United States Census of 1890, but the minimum quota of any nationality shall be 100 (Sec. 11 a). . . .
"The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Secretary of Labor, jointly, shall, as soon as feasible after the enactment of this act, prepare a statement showing the number of individuals of the various nationalities resident in continental United States as determined by the United States Census of 1890, which statement shall be the population basis for the purposes of subdivision (a) of section 11 (Sec. 12 b).
"Such officials shall, jointly, report annually to the President the quota of each nationality under subdivision (a) of section 11, together with the statements, estimates, and revisions provided for in this section. The President shall proclaim and make known the quotas so reported". (Sec. 12 e).
Now, therefore I, Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States of America acting under and by virtue of the power in me vested by the aforesaid act of Congress, do hereby proclaim and make known that on and after July 1, 1924, and throughout the fiscal year 1924-1925, the quota of each nationality provided in said act shall be as follows:
COUNTRY OR AREA OF BIRTH QUOTA 1924-1925
Arabian peninsula (1, 2)- 100
Australia, including Papua, Tasmania, and all islands appertaining to Australia (3, 4)- 121
Belgium (5)- 512
Cameroon (proposed British mandate)- 100
Cameroon (French mandate)- 100
Danzig, Free City of- 228
Denmark (5, 6)- 2,789
Ethiopia (Abyssinia)- 100
France (1, 5, 6)- 3,954
Great Britain and Northern Ireland (1, 3, 5, 6)- 34,007
India (3)- 100
Iraq (Mesopotamia)- 100
Irish Free State (3)- 28,567
Italy, including Rhodes, Dodecanesia, and Castellorizzo (5)- 3,845
Morocco (French and Spanish Zones and Tangier)- 100
Muscat (Oman)- 100
Nauru (proposed British mandate) (4)- 100
Netherlands (1, 5, 6)- 1648
New Zealand (including appertaining islands (3, 4)- 100
Norway (5)- 6,453
New Guinea, and other Pacific Islands under proposed Australian mandate (4)- 100
Palestine (with Trans-Jordan, proposed British mandate)- 100
Persia (1)- 100
Portugal (1, 5)- 503
Ruanda and Urundi (Belgium mandate)- 100
Russia, European and Asiatic (1)- 2,248
Samoa, Western (4) (proposed mandate of New Zealand)- 100
San Marino- 100
South Africa, Union of (3)- 100
South West Africa (proposed mandate of Union of South Africa)- 100
Spain (5)- 131
Syria and The Lebanon (French mandate)- 100
Tanganyika (proposed British mandate)- 100
Togoland (proposed British mandate)- 100
Togoland (French mandate)- 100
Yap and other Pacific islands (under Japanese mandate) (4)- 100
Immigration and immigration policy have been an integral part of the American polity since the early years of the American Republic. Until late in the nineteenth century it had been the aim of American policy, and thus its diplomacy, to facilitate the entrance of free immigrants. From the 1880s until World War IIan era of immigration restriction of increasing severitythe diplomacy of immigration was chiefly concerned with the consequences of keeping some people out and, after 1924, when Congress made the diplomatic establishment partially responsible for immigration selection and its control, with keeping some prospective immigrants out. Since 1945, after only seemingly minor changes in policy during World War II, and partly due to the shift in American foreign policy from quasi-isolation to a quest for global leadership and hegemony, immigration policy has become less and less restrictive. Cold War imperatives plus a growing tendency toward more egalitarian attitudes about ethnic and racial minorities contributed to a change in immigration policy.
Many foreigners clearly understood that there were certain ironies in these long-term changes. No one was more aware of this than the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Visiting Washington in 1979 during a time when the United States was urging the Soviet Union to allow more Jews to emigrate, the Chinese leader, according to Jimmy Carter's memoirs, told the American president: "If you want me to release ten million Chinese to come to the United States I'd be glad to do that." Obviously, Deng was "pulling Carter's chain," but it is not clear from the text whether the Georgian realized that. Immigration was part of the raison d'être of the early Republic. One of the complaints in Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence was that George III had "endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands." The Constitution, while not mentioning immigration directly, did instruct Congress "to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization" (Article 1, Section 8) and provided that naturalized persons might hold any office under the Constitution save only President and Vice President. (Article 2, Section 1). The only other reference to migration referred obliquely to the African slave trade, providing that "the Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight" (Article 1, Section 9).
In 1790 Congress passed the first naturalization act, limiting those eligible to "free white persons." This put the new nation on a collision course with Great Britain, which, although it had naturalization statutes of its own, often refused to recognize the switch of allegiance of its subjects. The question of the impressment of seamen was one of the issues that troubled Anglo-American relations from 1787, when the first of many American protests against impressment was made, until the end of the War of 1812. Foreign Secretary George Canning put the British case nicely when he declared that when British seamen "are employed in the private service of foreigners, they enter into engagements inconsistent with the duty of subjects. In such cases, the species of redress which the practice of all times has sanctioned is that of taking those subjects at sea out of the service of such foreign individuals." Impressment, of course, became one of the issues that led to the War of 1812. After that the British recognized, in practice, the right of naturalization, but one of the ongoing tasks of American diplomatic officials has been trying to ensure that naturalized American citizens are recognized as such when they visit their former native lands. This has been particularly a problem for men of military age during time of war.
While barring the African slave trade at the earliest possible moment in 1808, immigration "policy" in the new nation universally welcomed free immigrants. American leaders understood that immigration was necessary to fill up their largely empty and expanding country and would have endorsed the nineteenth-century Argentine statesman Juan Bautista Alberdi's maxim that "to govern is to populate." Even Millard Fillmore, while running for president on the nativist American Party ticket in 1856, found it necessary to insist that he had "no hostility to foreigners" and "would open wide the gates and invite the oppressed of every land to our happy country, excluding only the pauper and the criminal." Actually the gates were open, and Fillmore's suggestion of restriction on economic grounds would not become law until 1882. As long as American immigration policy welcomed all free immigrants there were no policy issues for American diplomats to negotiate. Immigration first became a special subject for diplomatic negotiation during the long run-up to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
A few Chinese had come to the United Stateschiefly to East Coast portsin the late eighteenth century in connection with the China trade. After American missionaries were established in China, some Chinese, mostly young men, came to the eastern United States for education without raising any stir. But relatively large-scale Chinese immigration, mostly to California beginning with the gold rush of 1849, produced an anti-Chinese movement. Before this movement became a national concern, Secretary of State William H. Seward appointed a former Massachusetts congressman, Anson Burlingame, as minister to China in 1861. He was the first to reside in Beijing. A radical former free-soiler and antislavery orator, Burlingame supported Chinese desires for equal treatment by the Western powers. While still in Beijing, he resigned his post in late 1867 and accepted a commission as China's first official envoy to the West. With an entourage that included two Chinese co-envoys and a large staff, he traveled to Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States seeking modification of China's unequal status. He was successful only in Washington. There he negotiated in 1868 what became known as the Burlingame Treatyactually articles added to the Treaty of Tientsin (1858). The 1868 agreement, China's first equal treaty, was ratified without controversy and contained the first immigration clause in any American treaty:
The United States and the Emperor of China cordially recognize the inherent and inalienable right of man to change his home and allegiance and also the mutual advantage of free migration and emigration for the purposes of curiosity, of trade, or as permanent residents but nothing contained herein shall be held to confer naturalization upon the citizens of the United States in China, nor upon the subjects of China in the United States.
The United States would never again recognize a universal "right to immigrate," and by 1870 the anti-Chinese movement was becoming national. Spurred by economic distress in California and a few instances of Chinese being used as strikebreakers in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, anti-Chinese forces stemming largely from the labor movement made increasingly powerful demands for an end to Chinese immigration, usually blending their economic arguments with naked racism. That summer Congress was legislating the changes in the existing naturalization statute impelled by the end of slavery and the Fourteenth Amendment. Republican Senator Charles Sumner and a few other radicals wanted to make the new naturalization statute color blind, but the majority did not wish to extend that fundamental right to Chinese. The new statute amended the eligibility from "free white persons" to "white persons and to aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent."
In 1876 Congress created a joint congressional committee to investigate Chinese immigration. It took testimony in the Palace Hotel in San Francisco just before and after that year's presidential election. By that time both national party platforms had anti-Chinese planks. The Republican version was somewhat tentative, declaring it "the immediate duty of Congress to investigate the effects of the immigration and importation of Mongolians." The out-of-power Democrats denounced "the policy which tolerates the revival of the coolie-trade in Mongolian women held for immoral purposes, and Mongolian men to perform servile labor." The majority report of the joint congressional committee claimed that the Pacific Coast had to become "either American or Mongolian," insisting that there was "not sufficient brain capacity in the Chinese race to furnish motive power for self-government" and that "there is no Aryan or European race which is not far superior to the Chinese." The committee report urged the president to get the Burlingame Treaty modified and Congress to legislate against "Asiatic immigration." The report was presented to Congress while it was settling the election of 1876, so no immediate action was taken. After much debate the next Congress passed the so-called Fifteen Passenger bill, which barred any vessel from bringing in more than fifteen Chinese immigrants. The sticking point for many was the existing Burlingame Treaty: some wanted t<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)