Summary of Immigration Laws, 1875-1918
Page Act of March 3, 1875 (18
Established the policy of
direct federal regulation of immigration by prohibiting for the first time entry
to undesirable immigrants.
Excluded criminals and
prostitutes from admission.
Prohibited the bringing of
any Oriental persons without their free and voluntary consent; declared the
contracting to supply “coolie” labor a felony.
Entrusted the inspection of immigrants to collectors of the ports.
Chinese Exclusion Act of May 6, 1882 (22
Suspended immigration of
Chinese laborers to the
United States for ten
Permitted Chinese laborers
already in the
United States to remain in the country after a temporary absence.
Provided for deportation
of Chinese illegally in the
Barred Chinese from
Permitted the entry of Chinese students, teachers, merchants, or those
“proceeding to the
United States ... from curiosity.”
Renewed in 1892. April
1902 Act (32 Statutes-at-Large 176) renewed it again and extended its
application to insular territories of the United States, including the
requirement of a certificate of residence, except in Hawaii. April 1904 Act (33
Statutes-at-Large 428) reaffirmed and made permanent the Chinese exclusion laws.
In addition, it clarified the territories from which Chinese were to be
N.B.: On December 17,
1943, the Chinese exclusion laws were repealed.
Immigration Act of August 3, 1882 (22
First general immigration
law, established a system of central control of immigration through State Boards
under the Secretary of the Treasury. Provisions:
Broadened restrictions on
immigration by adding to the classes of inadmissible aliens, including persons
likely to become a public charge.
Introduced a tax of 50 cents on each passenger brought to the
Foran Alien Contract Labor Act of
February 26, 1885 (23 Statutes-at-Large 332)
The first “Contract Labor
Law,” made it unlawful to import aliens into the United States under contract
for the performance of labor or services of any kind. Exceptions were for aliens
temporarily in the United States engaging other foreigners as secretaries,
servants, or domestics; actors, artists, lecturers, and domestic servants; and
skilled aliens working in an industry not yet established in the United States.
Amended in February 1887 (24 Statutes-at-Large 414) to render it enforceable by
charging the Secretary of the Treasury with enforcement of the act and providing
that prohibited persons be sent back on arrival.
Payson Act of March 3, 1887 (24
Restricted the ownership
of real estate in the United States to American citizens and those who have
lawfully declared their intentions to become citizens, with certain specific
Act of October 19, 1888 (25
First measure since the
Aliens Act of 1798 to provide for expulsion of aliens—directed the return within
one year after entry of any immigrant who had landed in violation of the
contract labor laws (see acts of February 26, 1885 and February 23, 1887).
Immigration Act of March 3, 1891 (26
The first comprehensive
law for national control of immigration. Provisions:
Established the Bureau of
Immigration under the Treasury Department to administer all immigration laws
(except the Chinese Exclusion Act).
immigration by adding to the inadmissible classes persons likely to become
public charges, persons suffering from certain contagious disease, felons,
persons convicted of other crimes or misdemeanors, polygamists, aliens
assisted by others by payment of passage, and forbade the encouragement of
immigration by means of advertisement.
Allowed the Secretary of
the Treasury to prescribe rules for inspection along the borders of
Canada, British Columbia,
and Mexico so as not to obstruct or unnecessarily delay, impede, or annoy
passengers in ordinary travel between these countries and the United States.
Directed the deportation of any alien who entered the
United States unlawfully.
Act of March 3, 1893 (27
Added to the reporting
requirements regarding alien arrivals to the United States such new
information as occupation, marital status, ability to read or write, amount of
money in possession, and facts regarding physical and mental health. This
information was needed to determine admissibility according to the expanding
list of grounds for exclusion.
Established boards of special inquiry to decide the admissibility of alien
Immigration Act of March 3, 1903 (32
An extensive codification
of existing immigration law. Provisions:
Added to the list of
First measure to provide
for the exclusion of aliens on the grounds of proscribed opinions by excluding
“anarchists, or persons who believe in, or advocate, the overthrow by force or
violence the government of the
United States, or of all
government, or of all forms of law, or the assassination of public officials.”
Extended to three years
after entry the period during which an alien who was inadmissible at the time
of entry could be deported.
Provided for the
deportation of aliens who became public charges within two years after entry
from causes existing prior to their landing.
Reaffirmed the contract labor law (see the 1885 act).
Naturalization Act of June 29, 1906 (34
Combined the immigration
and naturalization functions of the federal government, changing the Bureau of
Immigration to the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.
procedural safeguards regarding naturalization, such as fixed fees and uniform
knowledge of the English language a requirement for naturalization.
Immigration Act of February 20, 1907 (34
A major codifying act
that incorporated and consolidated earlier legislation:
Required aliens to declare
intention of permanent or temporary stay in the
United States and
officially classified arriving aliens as immigrants and nonimmigrants,
Increased the head tax to
$4.00 (established by the Act of
August 3, 1882
and raised subsequently).
Added to the excludable
classes imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, persons with physical or mental
defects which may affect their ability to earn a living, persons afflicted
with tuberculosis, children unaccompanied by their parents, persons who
admitted the commission of a crime involving moral turpitude, and women coming
to the United
States for immoral purposes.
Exempted from the
provisions of the contract labor law professional actors, artists, singers,
ministers, professors, and domestic servants.
Extended from two to three
years after entry authority to deport an alien who had become a public charge
from causes which existed before the alien’s entry.
Authorized the President
to refuse admission to certain persons when he was satisfied that their
immigration was detrimental to labor conditions in the
United States. This was
aimed mainly at Japanese laborers.
Created a Joint Commission
on Immigration to make an investigation of the immigration system in the
United States. The
findings of this Commission were the basis for the comprehensive Immigration
Act of 1917.
Reaffirmed the requirement for manifesting of aliens arriving by water and
added a like requirement with regard to departing aliens.
Mann White Slave Traffic Act of June 25,
1910 (36 Statutes-at-Large 825)
importation or interstate transportation of women for immoral purposes.
Act of March 4, 1913 (37
Divided the Department of
Commerce and Labor into separate departments and transferred the Bureau of
Immigration and Naturalization to the Department of Labor. It further divided
the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization into a separate Bureau of
Immigration and Bureau of Naturalization, each headed by its own Commissioner.
Immigration Act of February 5, 1917 (39
Codified all previously
enacted exclusion provisions. In addition:
Excluded illiterate aliens
Expanded the list of
aliens excluded for mental health and other reasons.
Further restricted the
immigration of Asian persons, creating the “barred zone” (known as the
Asia-Pacific triangle), natives of which were declared inadmissible.
Considerably broadened the classes of aliens deportable from the
and introduced the requirement of deportation without statute of limitation in
certain more serious cases.
Act of May 22, 1918 (40 Statutes-at-Large
“Entry and Departure
Controls Act,” authorized the President to control the departure and entry in
times of war or national emergency of any alien whose presence was deemed
contrary to public safety.