1917 Immigration Act

United States Congress
February 5, 1917

"The 1917 Immigration Act, also known as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act, was a law passed by Congress on February 5, 1917 that restricted the immigration of 'undesirables' from other countries, including 'idiots, imbeciles, epileptics, alcoholics, poor, criminals, beggars, any person suffering attacks of insanity, those with tuberculosis, and those who have any form of dangerous contagious disease, aliens who have a physical disability that will restrict them from earning a living in the United States..., polygamists and anarchists, those who were against the organized government or those who advocated the unlawful destruction of property and those who advocated the unlawful assault of killing of any officer.' Prostitutes and anyone involved in or with prostitution were also barred from entering the United States.

A tax of $8 a head was imposed on immigrants, except children under sixteen accompanying a parent, and those over 16 who had not paid for their own ticket were prohibited from entering the country.

One of the key aspects of the 1917 Act was that people from what was called the Asiatic Barred Zone were restricted from entering the country. 'Any country not owned by the U.S. adjacent to the continent of Asia' along specified longitudes and latitudes were restricted from immigrating.

Another important provision of the Immigration Act was the literacy test imposed on immigrants entering the country. Those who were over the age of 16 and could read some language must read 30 to 40 words to show they are capable of reading. Those who were entering the US to avoid religious persecution from their country of origin did not have to pass this test.

Under the Act immigrants were documented according to destinations in the U.S., physical descriptions, and country of origin among other things. Captains of the vessels the immigrants came over on were responsible for gathering this information. Medical examinations were also required by the ship’s doctor and port authorities before entering the country.

Described throughout the Immigration Act are many penalties and fines for violating the laws written within. Overall the Immigration Act of 1917 was intended to tighten the restrictions on those entering the country, especially from the area of Asia and surrounding countries and those with mental and physical handicaps."

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Quote Page

Quotes on illegal immigration and immigration reform from politicians, legislation, economists, philosophers, and experts in the field.

Commentary or Blog Post

Tancredo, a noted critic of illegal immigration, uses this piece to describe what the U.S. would look like if there where no illegal immigrants in the country.

This piece discusses the 287(g) program which "relinquishes, with no meaningful oversight, immigration enforcement power to local law enforcement and corrections agencies." As the title suggests, those who condemned the Bush administration for its use of this program were equally chagrined at the Obama administration's extension of the same.

An Alabama law to tackle illegal immigration is coming under fire from some business leaders in the state, who say the measure is undermining Alabama's economy even before it takes effect.

This piece describes American public opinion on various immigration issues. Conducted during the time of Arizona's controversial illegal immigration law, the piece declares that a majority of Americans think immigration is a good thing.

The overall findings of this poll show a significant divide between the perception that minority voters want legalization and increased legal immigration and the reality, which is that they want enforcement and less immigration.

"Yet that is exactly what the administration faced when Ms. Pacheco and others—young, illegal immigrants who decided to step out of the shadows—were agitating, with increasing volume and sophistication, to eliminate the threat of being deported."

The law's supporters believe it will protect Arizona residents from problems caused by illegals, while the law's opponents adamantly declare that it mandates racial profiling.

Karlyn Bowman examines the opinions of the nation on immigration and compares them to the opinions of those in Arizona.

"The Pew Research Center's recent study concluding that the number of Asian immigrants moving to the United States now exceeds the number of Latinos hardly seems surprising to me or many of my fellow immigration attorneys. My law firm, Wildes & Weinberg P.C., which has focused exclusively on United States immigration matters for more than 50 years, has seen a dramatic uptick in the number...

"Asian-Americans have surpassed Hispanics as the fastest-growing group of new immigrants to the U.S. and may provide a boost to Democratic Party hopes in this year's elections, a survey shows.

Among immigrants to the U.S. in 2010, 36 percent were Asian and 31 percent Hispanic, according to the report by the Pew Research Center in Washington. In 2008, 42 percent of immigrants were...

"For the first time since US immigration quotas were abolished in the mid-1960s, Asian Americans have emerged as the largest immigrant group, surpassing Hispanics.

Asian Americans accounted for 36% of all immigrants in 2011, while Hispanics accounted for 31%, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Slightly more than 1 million people obtained permanent resident status in...

"Asians recently passed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the United States, according to a survey on Tuesday predicting a demographic trend bringing powerful economic, social and political changes."

The December 2010 issue of Cato's Immigration Reform Bulletin describes the process of naturalization. Anderson describes the costs, rules, and important requirements of citizenship, and notes that some of these are harder than people might realize.

Daniel Griswold argues for illegal immigration legalization on the grounds that it has worked effectively in the past.

Griswold believes that a good economy needs the low-paid, unskilled labor force often supplied by illegals, but he also believes that this need is not properly filled through amnesty.

This article describes George W. Bush's issuance of clemency for two border patrol agents. The agents were convicted of shooting an illegal alien at the Mexican border.

"The Treasury Department reports that illegal immigrants filing tax returns using the Individual Tax Identification Number are receiving more than $1.5 billion each year from the federal government through the Child Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit."

"Three months ago, young undocumented immigrants lined up in front of some immigrant service organizations and foreign consulates to learn about deferred action, an Obama administration program that launched in August. Known as DACA, for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program offers temporary legal status to young people who arrived in the country before their 16th birthday."

The authors of this piece were the chief instigators of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that is commonly accused of granting amnesty to illegal aliens.

"Asian Americans are now the nation's fastest-growing racial group, overtaking Latinos in recent years as the largest stream of new immigrants arriving annually in the United States.

In an economy that increasingly depends on highly skilled workers, Asian Americans are also the country's best educated and highest-income racial or ethnic group, according to a new report from the Pew...

"About one-quarter of the young undocumented immigrants eligible for the two-year deportation deferral established by President Obama have applied since the program started Aug. 15."

The tough economic circumstances of the past few years have helped to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Anderson declares that immigrants believe English is key to their success in America, and therefore have a great desire to learn it.

The massive Republican takeover of Congress in 2010 causes Stuart Anderson to wonder whether or not the 2011-2012 Congress will enact immigration reform legislation parallel to legislation implemented after the historic 1994 election.

Federal immigration law determines whether a person is an alien, the rights, duties, and obligations associated with being an alien in the United States, and how aliens gain residence or citizenship within the United States.

Sandy Ikeda declares that "legal, and especially illegal, immigration is to a certain extent the unintended consequence of welfare-state capitalism."

Commenting on the common arguments against the controversial Arizona immigration law, Jonah Goldberg strives to point out their fallacious tendencies.

A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of Alabama's new law cracking down on illegal immigration, ruling Monday that she needed more time to decide whether the law is constitutional.

The Obama administration is challenging a new Alabama law that would let the police detain people stopped for traffic offenses who are suspected of being in the country illegally, a law described as one of the toughest of its kind nationwide.

"Terrazas, now 26, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, was a student at Arizona State University in May 2009 when she and some friends were stopped for speeding during a camping trip to Payson. The police officer suspected that Terrazas, a passenger, was in the country illegally. She had no state ID and refused to say where she was born.

The officer called Immigration and Customs...

"In an election-year policy change, the Obama administration said Friday it will stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they meet certain requirements."

"President Barack Obama's carefully timed immigration announcement may be good or bad public policy, depending on your position on the political Spectrum. But any way you look at it, it is bad constitutional policy."

Binswanger argues that it is an issue of individual rights, and he cites Rand (who immigrated to the U.S. from Soviet Russia) as the premier example of the benefits derivable from open immigration.

"The June 11 front-page article 'A question of merit' didn't tell the whole story about the Dream Act. It's true that when people don't know the facts, the Dream Act has some appeal. After all, we are all naturally sympathetic when children are involved. But the descriptions of the Dream Act often voiced by its supporters are not accurate. And the consequences are never told."

Since Becker believes that both amnesty and eviction are unappetizing solutions to the problem, he suggests that setting up a system of payment in return for legal settlement in the U.S. would be beneficial to both immigrants and current U.S. citizens.

I have received many questions and requests for assistance in the wake of Pres. Obama's announcement on August 18, 2011 of prosecutorial discretion.

There has been much discussion and confusion over the recent policies and memoranda from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) concerning 'prosecutorial discretion.' Some people mistakenly believe that it is some sort of 'amnesty.'

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced federal officials would focus their deportation efforts on 'criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety and national security, repeat immigration law violators' and known gang members.

Clarence Jones uses this piece to sympathize with the citizens of Arizona over their recent, but controversial, immigration legislation.

If anyone had any doubt about President Obama's lack of respect for the Constitution, the separation of powers or the rule of law, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano dispelled that doubt on Aug. 18.

While there are many conflicting opinions regarding the H-1B visa debate, according to LaPlante, the one thing that both sides can agree on is that something needs to be done to adjust or change the current system - the difference is in what way to take the changes. This article discusses both sides of the issue. It includes arguments for completely eliminating the...

Outsourcing immigration enforcement to an ill-trained and poorly supervised assortment of state and local law enforcement agencies creates a lot of problems.

This piece reports on Utah's attempt to create a unique piece of immigration legislation.

The Utah legislature concocted an interesting bill when they combined increased illegal immigration enforcement with a guest worker program.

It would be wise to provide a variety of government services to illegals while also implementing policies that would make this form of unofficial amnesty more appealing to the general U.S. population.

"Republicans, riled that President Obama moved on his own to bar deportation of some young illegal immigrants, caution that the new policy is being implemented without regulations or even much thought on how to prevent fraud."

Chart or Graph

Over the past two decades, border enforcement has increasingly become a priority, with the Border Enforcement budget increasing sevenfold from 1980 to 1995 and then more than tripling from 1995 to 2003.

The foreign-born population includes naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), certain legal nonimmigrants (e.g., persons on student or work visas), those admitted under refugee or asylee status, and persons illegally residing in the United States.

These two maps demonstrate the drastic increases the U.S. has seen in illegal immigration over the past 30 years.

The cost of the naturalization process has escalated. In 1985, the cost of filing was only $35. This rose to $90 by 1991.

Americans remain more likely to say immigration should be decreased (45%) rather than kept at its present level (34%) or increased (17%), but the gap between the two most popular options has narrowed from a year ago.

An estimated 8.5 million of the total 10.8 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2009 were from the North America region, including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.

The number of unauthorized residents declined by 1.0 million between 2007 and 2009, coincident with the U.S. economic downturn.

Analysis Report White Paper

This paper compares the 2008 government bailouts with the 1986 illegal immigration amnesty program. The author describes some of the many problems that occurred with the amnesty program several decades ago, among which is the great potential for fraudulent immigration applications.

This research shows that the illegal immigration population rose dramatically during the Congressional discussion of amnesty in 2007, but then diminished after the amnesty bill was voted down, and that illegal immigration decreases during times of economic crisis.

This piece examines the effects that illegal immigration amnesty has had on the American working class.

The Senate is currently considering a massive immigration reform bill, the 'Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and immigration Reform Act of 2007' (S. 1348). This bill would grant amnesty to nearly all illegal immigrants currently in the United States.

Part III of this paper examines human rights abuses of illegal immigrants by Border Patrol agents at the Mexico-U.S. border. This examination focuses on several Border Patrol abuse cases, and it explains the legal rights possessed by illegal immigrants who find themselves the victims of abuse by Border Patrol agents.

Matt Mayer assesses the growth of illegal immigrants in the U.S. since 1980.

Although the United States is in the midst of a financial crisis and an economic recession, immigrants keep coming, but who is coming? Immigration is often categorized into various distinctions; legal vs. illegal, low-skilled vs. high-skilled. Within the political debate a significant amount of emphasis is placed on low-skilled illegal workers, but what about the high-skilled immigrants?

Included in the report are statistics on the historical nature of immigration, information on illegal immigration, and other data relating to this issue.

We find that immigration had small negative effects in the short run on native workers with no high school degree and on average wages while it had small positive effects on native workers with no high school degree and on average native wages in the long run.

This study examines the economic impact of increases in the number of immigrant workers by their education level and experience in the work force, using Census data from 1960 through 2000.

Does the state have the right to exclude these ordinary people? In the following, I argue that the answer to this question is no.

This report uncovers the immigration implications that the House version of the infamous health care bill held.

This study examines the economic impacts that illegal immigration legislation could have on the United States.

In this paper we analyze the long-run impact of immigration on employment, productivity and its skill bias.

American industry's explosive demand for highly skilled workers is being stifled by the federal quota on H-1B visas for foreign-born highly skilled workers. The quota is hampering output, especially in high-technology sectors, and forcing companies to consider moving production offshore.

We need flexible limits on immigration that rise and fall with U.S. labor demand, coupled with strict enforcement of tough wage and labor laws that protect all workers, regardless of where they were born.

Very few modern political issues have proven more divisive, polarizing, and difficult to solve than the illegal immigration problem. It has divided Republicans and Democrats along stark partisan lines, but the divisions run much deeper. Proposals to reform the nation's immigration system have also divided traditionally aligned factions: labor unions and civil rights groups, business associations and conservatives.

The report begins by focusing on the complaints raised by 204 persons released into Mexico after being apprehended by agents of the U.S. Border Patrol, the INS, U.S. Customs, and other law enforcement agencies.

"There are roughly 1.8 million immigrants in the United States who might be, or might become, eligible for the Obama Administration's 'deferred action' initiative for unauthorized youth brought to this country as children."

This piece gives some historical background on the immigration policies of the last century, and also gives a variety of refutations to the major arguments offered for stricter immigration enforcement.


In this podcast Daniel Griswold reports on the Congressional progress on immigration reform.

According to Jim Harper, the current immigration system cannot exist properly without a national identity program.

Since President Obama is attempting to take on immigration reform once again, Griswold highlights the mistakes of the past and declares that the U.S. needs a "guest worker program" to take care of its economic needs.

This clip shows Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signing Arizona Senate Bill 1070. She cites the safety of the state as a key motivator for signing and confirms her commitment to enforcing law as well as avoiding racial profiling.

This CNN news clip focuses on the governmental services in which illegal immigrants take part, including public education, health care, and prisons, and also argues that illegal immigrants are reducing economic benefits for Americans who would like the jobs that illegals often take.

Tamar Jacoby argues illegal immigrants take low-wage jobs that Americans do not want. This in turn allows businesses to expand, spurring economic growth and benefiting the American economy.

Although the future president waffled on the issue at first, he finally declared that he was in support of illegal immigrants receiving driver's licenses.

George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan gave the following speech at The Future of Freedom Foundation’s “Economic Liberty Lecture Series.” He discusses and and finds wanting the most common arguments for immigration restrictions.

Witnesses testified about U.S. border security and how border patrol operations on federal lands might be impacted by environmental laws.

Primary Document

"Today, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting requests for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals."

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.

Any alien, being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen.

Any free white person could receive citizenship providing they had renounced their allegiance to their previous state/sovereignty by name, lived in the United States for five years at least.

This act was the first attempt at standardizing immigration and naturalizing foreign citizens. It was done under threat of war with France.

This act allowed the President at any time to order any aliens he deemed dangerous to be deported.

This act was to be implemented on all new aliens providing they were no longer subjects of any nation the U.S. was at war with at the time of application.

The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress approved an act banned transportation of 'coolies' in ships that were either owned or not owned by citizens of the United States of America.

Established the position of Commissioner of Immigration, reporting to the Secretary of State; validated labor contracts made by immigrants before arrival; exempted immigrants from compulsory military service; established the office of Superintendent of Immigration for New York City.

The Senate and House Representations of the United States of America in Congress approved a law stating that any immigration of Chinese, Japanese, or any Asian country, to the United States must be free and voluntary.

An act in which the State Commission and officers were in charge of checking the passengers upon incoming vessels arriving in the U.S.

The 1891 Immigration Act was a revised version of the 1882 Immigration Act. As in the 1882 Immigration Act, this act declared that certain classes of individuals were unfit to become American citizens.

The 1917 Immigration Act, also known as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act, was a law passed by Congress that restricted the immigration of 'undesirables' from other countries...

The objective of this act was to temporarily limit the numbers of immigrants to the United States by imposing quotas based on country of birth.

This act repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, established quotas for Chinese immigration, and allowed Chinese nationals in the U.S. to become naturalized citizens.

The G.I. fiancée act was devised to expedite the entrance of foreign-born fiancées of members of the U.S Armed Forces that served in WWII.

This act helped those individuals who were victims of persecution by the Nazi government or who were fleeing persecution, and someone who could not go back to their country because of fear of persecution based on race, religion or political opinions.

This act was put in place to allow the entrance of foreign-born spouses and unmarried children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces regardless of their race.

The McCarran-Walter Act moved away from excluding immigrants based simply upon country of origin. Instead it focused upon denying immigrants who were unlawful, immoral, diseased in any way, politically radical.

The Hart-Cellar Act abolished the national origins quota system that had structured American immigration policy since the 1920s, replacing it with a preference system that focused on immigrants' skills and family relationships with citizens or residents of the U.S.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act. It was enacted on October 24th 1968 and declares that anyone, regardless of age or race, shall achieve citizenship through 'naturalization through active-duty service in the armed forces.

The Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975 sets forth the allowance of provisions for those who fled from the Southeast Asian countries as well as those who cannot return to those countries due to the threat of violence or ill-treatment.

This Act extended special immigrant status to non-citizens who have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least 12 years.

This act addresses many aspects of immigration (both legal and illegal), and the responsibilities placed upon not only immigrants, but those enforcing legal immigration.

The Act was passed in order to unify the intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the United States.

This yearbook presents the demographics of those obtaining legal U.S. residence in 2011.

To prohibit certain subversive activities; to amend certain provisions of law with respect to the admission and deportation of aliens; to require the fingerprinting and registration of aliens; and for other purposes.

This law was enacted to "deter terrorism, provide justice for victims, provide for an effective death penalty, and for other purposes.

The legislature declares that the intent of this act is to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.

This highly controversial bill passed the House, but stalled in the Senate. It proposed much stricter legislation against illegal individuals, including some aspects which criminalized citizens for aiding or hiring illegal aliens.

The USBP’s primary mission is to detect and prevent the entry of terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, and illegal aliens into the country, and to interdict drug smugglers and other criminals along the border

The coming of Chinese laborers to the United States be, and the same is hereby, suspended; and during such suspension it shall not be lawful for any Chinese laborer to come.

The debate in both the House of Representatives and the Senate over the first 'Quota Law' restricting immigration into the United States, became an occasion for the legislators to define the meaning of America.

The immigration reports include statistical reviews, emigration and immigration conditions in Europe and other parts of the world.

This document contains a variety of official data and statistics on the subject of illegal immigration in the United States.

The Immigration Act of 1924 sought to limit the immigration of aliens into the United States, and for other purposes.

Starting in 1991, every year the Attorney General, decides from information gathered over the most recent five year period the regions or country that are considered High Admission or Low Admission States.

The INA is divided into titles, chapters, and sections. Although it stands alone as a body of law, the Act is also contained in the United States Code.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act attempted to solve the problems that the increasing population of illegal immigrants was posing for the United States.

This testimony transcript relays information about the influence that immigration compliance raids had on specific manufacturing plants.

Operation Wetback was a repatriation project of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service to remove illegal Mexican immigrants ('wetbacks') from the Southwest.

The illegal aliens who are plaintiffs in these cases challenging the statute may claim the benefit of the Equal Protection Clause, which provides that no State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The 9/11 Commission made immigration and document security recommendations after completing their investigation in 2004.

Respondent resident aliens filed this suit, claiming that petitioners, the Attorney General and other federal parties, targeted them for deportation because of their affiliation with a politically unpopular group....

The Secretary of Homeland Security shall take all actions the Secretary determines necessary and appropriate to achieve and maintain operational control over the entire international land and maritime borders of the United States.

The ultimate aim of these hearings is: one, to do oversight on what we’re getting in return for the considerable federal investment in border security; two, to see what we can do to improve it.

Daniel Griswold makes the case for legalizing illegal immigrants, arguing that legalizing illegals would promote "a free society and a free and efficient economy", and would eliminate the dangers and mistreatment that many illegal immigrants face.

This report addresses the performance of 287(g) agreements between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and state and local law enforcement agencies.

This manifesto seeks solidarity with America's immigrants and encourages an immigrant-friendly immigration policy in the state of Utah.

"If current trends continue, the population of the United States will rise to 438 million in 2050, from 296 million in 2005, and 82% of the increase will be due to immigrants arriving from 2005 to 2050 and their U.S.-born descendants, according to new projections developed by the Pew Research Center. Of the 117 million people added to the population during this period due to the effect of new...

"Honduras has traditionally been an ally of the United States."

"Federal law bars aliens residing without authorization in the United States from most federal benefits; however, there is a widely held perception that many unauthorized aliens obtain such benefits. The degree to which unauthorized resident aliens should be accorded certain rights and privileges as a result of their residence in the United States, along with the duties owed by such aliens...

The defendants were convicted for assault, discharge of a weapon in the commission of a crime of violence, tampering with an official proceeding, and deprivation of civil rights.

This report describes the findings of Amnesty International’s research into human rights concerns along the United States’ border with Mexico, primarily recent allegations of brutality by officers of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

This bill modifies state law and enacts the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act. Among other things, this legislation seeks to create stricter standards for dealing with illegal immigrants in Utah.




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In a highly regulated society such as ours, it's very easy to get yourself in trouble with the law. Learn more about how to protect yourself with the 5th Amendment and how to interact with the police.
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