February 5, 1917 – Immigration Act Passed Denying U.S. Entry to Immigrants from Eastern Asia & Pacific Islands

On this day in history, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917 by an overwhelming majority, overriding President Woodrow Wilson’s December 14, 1916 veto.

The 1917 Immigration Act, also known as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act, restricted the immigration of ‘undesirables’ from other countries, including:

All idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, epileptics, insane persons; persons who have had one or more attacks of insanity at any time previously; persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority; persons with chronic alcoholism; paupers; professional beggars; vagrants; persons afflicted with tuberculosis in any form or with a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease; …polygamists…anarchists… prostitutes and anyone involved with prostitution…” inter alia.”

This very long and detailed legislation goes on to state that entry will also be denied to immigrants from the ‘Asiatic Barred Zone’–much of eastern Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Much of the Immigration Act is devoted to delineating penalties and fines for violating the restrictions set forth in the act. You can read it in its entirety here.


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