Prior to 1882, America had a fairly open immigration policy allowing anyone from anywhere into the nation, kind of like Obama is trying to do now.
Concerns were raised about the effect of Chinese laborers, especially out west. They worked cheaper than American workers just like what is happening today with the nearly 20 million Hispanic illegals.
On May 6, 1882, Congress approved the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act that excluded any and all Chinese nationals from being able to immigrate to the United State. Additionally, all Chinese laborers that came to America after November 17, 1880 were to be rounded up and deported back to China. All Chinese that were in the country prior to November 17, 1880 were required to register. Once registered, they would be issued a certificate that contained their name, age, occupation and any identifying marks, scars, tattoos, etc. on their bodies. Japanese laborers were also included in those banned from the US.
On February 5, 1917, the Asiatic Barred Zone Act of 1917 was passed. This immigration act barred the majority of the continent of Asia. At the time, the Philippines were under US authority, so they were excluded from the new immigration act. Additionally, a literacy test was added to the requirements for all immigrants except wives, fathers or grandfathers over the age of 55, any unmarried or widowed daughters of the male immigrant, mothers or grandmothers of any age. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the Asiatic Barred Zone Act, but Congress easily over road his veto, making the bill law. The Asiatic Barred Zone Act remained in effect until 1952 when Congress passed a new immigration act.
On May 19, 1921, the Johnson Act otherwise known as the Emergency Quota Act of 1921. In 1920 to early 1921, more than 800,000 people immigrated to the United States. A large percentage of them were coming from Russia and eastern Europe. Since the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, people were fleeing the world’s largest country and just like today, the fear of Russian radicals being among the immigrants was beginning to cause a lot of concern. The Johnson Act placed a quota limit on the number of immigrants allowed into the US. Only 3% of any nationality already living in the US were allowed to immigrate. The quota was based on the 1910 census. Since America had a large population from Great Britain and northern and western Europe, their quotas were much higher than many other countries or regions. Since there were fewer Russians living in the US, fewer would be allowed to immigrate.
On this day, May 26, 1924, the Immigration Act of 1924 became law. The major changes in this immigration act was that certain undesirable geographic regions (Russia and Eastern Europe. Another major change was the lowering of the quota from 3% to only 2% of the US population based upon the 1890 Census from said country. If say, there were only 200,000 Italians living in the US at the time, then only 4,000 Italians were allowed to immigrate as opposed the 6,000 under the Johnson Act of 1921. The head tax per immigrant was raised to $9 per person in hopes it would help prevent poor people from immigrating. Imagine a family with 6 kids would have to pay a total of $72 in head tax if they wanted to immigrate. Today, that $72 would be equivalent to around $1,015.
What kind of impact did the immigration Act of 1924 have? Consider that between 1880 to 1924, about 2 million European Jews immigrated to the US. Once the new immigration act went into effect, less than 10,000 European Jews were allowed to immigrate. The new lower quota based upon an older Census resulted in as many as 51,227 Germans, 34,007 from Great Britain and Northern Ireland were allowed to immigrate compared to only 100 for Palestine, Syria, turkey, Egypt, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands being allowed to immigrate to the US.
Over the past 7 years, there has been a lot of talk about immigration reform. I’m not sure we need to go back to a quota system like that of 1924, but I do believe we need to be somewhat restrictive in the number of people we take in from areas like the Middle East which is rife with people wanting to destroy our nation and communist countries like China, Russia, Vietnam and others. I also firmly believe that we need to make the penalty for illegally entering the US a felony instead of a misdemeanor and that our borders are religiously guarded. Anyone caught violating our immigration laws need to be arrested and jailed until they can be returned to their home country and then we need to bill the home country for the costs of arresting, processing, jailing and transportation home. If the home country doesn’t want them back, they forcible take them back and leave or parachute them back home.
Sources for the above includes: 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act; Immigration Act of 1917; 1924 Immigration Act; Coolidge Signs Stringent Immigration Law; Immigration Act of 1924; The Immigration Act of 1924 (The Johnson-Reed Act); Immigration Act of 1924; Who Was Shut Out?: Immigration Quotas, 1925–1927; Immigration Act of 1924; Immigration Act of 1921.