13 of the Most Effed Up Immigration Acts in U.S. History

It’s important to know history to fully understand the things that are happening now

Photo: Unsplash/@jeremydorrough

Photo: Unsplash/@jeremydorrough

It’s important to know history to fully understand the things that are happening now. This is because often, history repeats itself, and/or what we experience today resulted from what happened yesterday. The past, with its events and narratives, informs us. A perfect example of a repetitive history is the lengthy collection of unfair, racist, and discriminatory immigration laws in the United States.

Immigration acts have been drawn up for the country since the 1670s, when England barred Catholics and other non-Christians from parliamentary naturalization. Unfair laws like these continued, to protect one group of people, while ostracizing several others. Let take a look at 13 such effed immigration acts, that worked against people of color, certain Europeans, and other groups. The saddest part was that there were so many to choose from.


Naturalization Act of 1790

The Naturalization Act of 1790 was created to naturalize immigrants who were “free white persons of good character.” This excluded everyone else, although free blacks were allowed citizenship in certain states, at the state level. The Naturalization Act of 1870 extended naturalization to aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent.”


Alien and Sedition Acts (1798)


The Alien and Sedition Acts were four bills passed in 1798: the Naturalization Act, the Alien Friends Act of 1798, the Alien Enemy Act of 1798, and the Sedition Act. Some messed up things these acts contain include prohibiting public opposition to the government, adding nine years to the residency requirement for citizenship, and allowing the president to imprison or deport “dangerous” immigrants.


Page Act (1875)

The Page Act was the nation’s first restrictive immigration law. It was worded to deny entry to “criminals, convicts, and prostitutes,” focusing on “immoral” Chinese women. This act extended to basically deny entry to all Asian women who wanted to immigrate to the U.S.


Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

The Chinese Exclusion Act took the hatred one step further, also denying Chinese men the ability to immigrate to America. Angel Island’s immigration station processed over 175,000 Chinese and 117,000 Japanese people (detaining some for up to two years). The Chinese Exclusion Act wasn’t repealed until 1943.


Anarchist Exclusion Act (1903)


Can you believe that the Immigration Act of 1903, also known as the Anarchist Exclusion Act, excluded people with epilepsy, those with mental health issues, and the poor (“beggars”) from entering the country? Epilepsy was incorrectly categorized as a mental illness then; the act also specified that if someone had “been insane within five years,” or had two or more “attacks of insanity,” they would be denied entry. Prostitutes or anarchists were also excluded.


Naturalization Act of 1906

The Naturalization Act of 1906 was another unfair, discriminatory immigration law. It required that immigrants who wanted to become citizens had to learn English.


Expatriation Act of 1907

The Expatriation Act of 1907 is a perfect example of both a horrible immigration law, and anti-feminism. Because of this act, if a naturalized citizen lived for two years in his homeland, or five years elsewhere outside the United States, he or she would lose citizenship. Also, women who married non-citizens also lost their citizenship; this was not the case for men.


Immigration Act of 1917

The hatred just continued from there. The Immigration Act of 1917, also known as the Asiatic Barred Act, and the Literacy Act, created a Asiatic Barred Zone, from which no one could immigrate to the U.S. It also prevented alcoholics, those who were illiterate, and gay people (who were considered to be mentally ill then) from entering the country.


Emergency Quota Act (1921)

The Emergency Quota Act placed limits on how many people could immigrate to the United States from each country. For each nation, 3% of the number of immigrants already in the U.S. were allowed in each year. This obviously was beneficial to bigger communities in the United States, and kept smaller ones out. The act didn’t put limitations on immigration from Latin America.

wp_*postsAsian Exclusion Act of 1924

Also known as the Immigration Act of 1924, the Johnson-Reed Act, etc., the Asian Exclusion Act continued the assault on Asians wanting to immigrate to the U.S. The quota from countries was now lowered to 2%, later replaced with regulation by “national origins.” The goal was the restriction of immigration from Japan and other Asian countries, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe. wp_*posts

The Philippines Independence Act (1934)

The great thing about the Tydings-McDuffie Act was that it gave the Philippines its independence (it was formerly a U.S colony). One of the messed up things about the act was that it automatically turned Filipinos, even those living in the United States, into “aliens.” Only 50 people were allowed to immigrate from the Philippines to America each year; those who lived here and would leave to visit the homeland, would have to fall within that quota in order to return.


Immigration and Nationality Act (1952)

Although the Immigration and Nationality Act, also known as the McCarran-Walter Act, improved some parts of previous acts, it still kept certain groups of people out of the country, unfairly. One of these groups were “suspected subversives,” including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes, and Pablo Neruda.


Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996

Bill Clinton has done some cool things in his life—the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 is not one of them. The act punished undocumented immigrants by keeping them from returning to the U.S. for anywhere from three years to 10. It also took away in-state tuition from undocumented students, made minor offenses like shoplifting deportable ones, and gave the OK to add to the existing border fence.

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discrimination immigration acts Immigration laws racism U.S. history xenophobia
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