February 5, 1917: Immigration Act of 1917 Passed

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Some issues are perennial in American history.  A century ago Congress overwhelmingly passed the Immigration Act of 1917 over President Wilson’s veto.  It established an Asiatic Barred Zone from which new immigrants were excluded.  Chinese were already excluded under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  Japanese immigration was limited under the Gentleman’s Agreement of  1907.  The law required immigrants over 16 to be literate either in English or their native language.  Among the categories of immigrants banned were”alcoholics”, “anarchists”, “contract laborers”, “criminals and convicts”, “epileptics”, “feebleminded persons”, “idiots”, “illiterates”, “imbeciles”, “insane persons”, “paupers”, “persons afflicted with contagious disease”, “persons being mentally or physically defective”, “persons with constitutional psychopathic inferiority”, “political radicals”, “polygamists”, “prostitutes” and “vagrants”.

Americans have been spoon fed a Statue of Liberty Myth by which all were welcome to America’s shores.  Actually, legislation regulating immigration has been a constant feature of American history, and modern mass immigration to the US was largely a result of the Immigration Act of 1965 which we will look at in future posts.

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Published in: on February 5, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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