National quotas set by U.S. immigration laws during the 1920’s directly controlled the flow of immigrants from individual countries and effectively banned all Asian immigration for many years. The quotas also prevented many Jews seeking refuge from Nazi genocide during the 1930’s from finding safe havens in the United States. In 1965, national quotas were replaced by much more flexible hemispheric quotas.
The first numerical limits on immigrants from specific countries in U.S. immigration law appeared in the 1921
The quotas had their most significant impact upon eastern Europeans, particularly
After the United States entered World War II during the early 1940’s, there was some loosening of quota restrictions. In 1943, for example, China, a U.S. ally in the war, was allowed to send 105 immigrants. During the same year, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was repealed. The Philippines and British India were also granted small quotas in this period.
During the late 1940’s and 1950’s, the government continued to loosen the quota system. It also created mechanisms that allowed people to immigrate outside the quota system. For example, the
The quota system underwent its most serious alteration with passage of the
Barde, Robert Eric. Immigration at the Golden Gate: Passenger Ships, Exclusion, and Angel Island. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2008. While much of immigration history focuses on the East Coast, Barde focuses on the West Coast, including Angel Island in California, which was the entry point for most who immigrated from Asia and who were also the most often targeted by quotas and bans. Daniels, Roger. Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life. New York: Harper Perennial, 2002. A leading historian, Daniels examines the various peoples who have immigrated to American over the years, combining broad discussions with vignettes about many famous immigrants. He also details the native-born reaction to those immigrants and includes a discussion of the twentieth century immigration quota systems. Graham, Otis. Unguarded Gates: A History of America’s Immigration Crisis. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. General history of immigration, focusing mostly on the twentieth century. Argues that immigration needs to be limited, particularly for national security reasons, and suggests that unchecked immigration will lead to a population explosion. King, Desmond. Making Americans: Immigration, Race, and the Origins of the Diverse Democracy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000. King points out that quotas and categories were used to exclude many immigrants during the 1880 to 1960 period. He also argues that these exclusions had lasting effects on America. Shanks, Cheryl. Immigration and the Politics of American Sovereignty, 1890-1990. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001. Examines how people have defined their Americanness, and how this relates to sovereignty and immigration.
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S.
Displaced Persons Act of 1948
Henderson v. Mayor of the City of New York
History of immigration after 1891
Immigration Act of 1921
Immigration Act of 1924
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965