An outgrowth of the anticommunist hysteria during the early Cold War known as McCarthyism, the law prohibited individuals who were or had been members of registered communist organizations from entering the United States. It also allowed for the deportation of communists and other individuals deemed subversive by the federal government.
During the early Cold War period, the United States entered a period of intense fear and persecution of communism. The successful Soviet test of an atomic weapon in 1949, the establishment of a
Senator Pat McCarran in 1947.
Pat McCarran, the Democratic senator from Nevada, was one of these supporters, and he sponsored the Internal Security Act of 1950 as a means of combating communism in the United States. The major thrust of the law was to prevent communist sympathizers from obtaining employment in defense industries. In order to accomplish this goal, organizations sympathetic to communist objectives were required to register with the newly created Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB). Past or present members of those organizations were then denied federal employment. The law also denied registered individuals from obtaining passports so that they were unable to leave the country.
McCarran also opposed immigration, and portions of the law directly targeted immigrants. Specifically, it prevented past or present members of communist organizations from entering the United States or from obtaining citizenship. The law had poorly defined standards for what constituted support of communism. As a result, members of foreign labor organizations or citizens of nations with communist governments could be denied entry without actually being practicing communists. Additionally, the law allowed the deportation of communist immigrants already within the United States, and it provided for the creation of detention centers where individuals deemed subversive could be held during times of emergency without trial. In effect, it changed the deportation from a punishment for actual crimes committed into a tool for eliminating political dissent in the immigrant community.
Oshinsky, David M. A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Patenaude, Marc. The McCarran Internal Security Act, 1950-2005. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag, 2008.
History of immigration after 1891
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952
Industrial Workers of the World