1952 Immigration and Nationality Act – The Big Red Flush


June 27, 1952 United States immigration policies changed, and not for the better. Commonly called the McCarran-Walter Act, the bill sought to exclude immigrants that were criminals, immoral,diseased, or political radicals, particularly communists. Anyone who had any association with communism could just forget about entry. The ban on all Asians was lifted, except for the Japanese.  Because of World War II, the Japanese were “out”, and the Chinese, the “good Asians”, were “in”. This was their reward for being such great allies in the war with Japan. Quotas would still exist, rigidly controlling entry according to ethnicity by nation of origin. However, if you were a good candidate for assimilation into the nation’s economy, society and political system, and, more importantly, white, odds were you’d get in. This was all done in the name of national security.

Because of the Soviet Union’s success at spreading the practice of Communism throughout China and Korea during the war, Senator Pat McCarran of Nevada, co-author of the bill, and his congressional cronies considered communism to be the biggest threat to post-war America. Now, instead of being discriminated against because of race, a new form of discrimination based on ideology emerged. Anti-communism was the underlying tone throughout the legislation.

Prior to this bill, McCarran had been the driving force behind the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950. This law required persons who were members of the American Communist Party to register with the Attorney General. The gringa is pretty certain this was not so they could be on the Attorney General’s Christmas card list. No, Big Brother was watching. Eventually, many of these folks would be rounded up as subversives and incarcerated under the authorization of Title II of that bill and its “loyalty clearance programs.” Under the umbrella of this bill’s authority, McCarran investigated Roosevelt and Truman’s administrations in efforts to flush out any communist infiltrators. The gringa thinks it’s safe to say that McCarren was most likely a passionate, commie hater.

It would also seem that McCarran did not harbor many warm sentiments toward Asians either. Journalist Phil Tajitsu Nash would look back at this legislation and conclude that it was “explicit racial discrimination against Asian immigration…” I mean, after all, annually it only allowed into the country 2,000 Asians indigenous to the area known as the “Asia-Pacific Triangle”. Countries within the “triangle” were allowed only 100 immigrants toward the quota. Also, even if a Chinese person was born in Europe, that person still counted toward the Asian quota.

Some immigrants enjoyed privileges where entry into the nation was concerned. If an immigrant already had a family member in the country, that person experienced preferential treatment in gaining entry to the nation. Such immigrants also did not count toward that ethnicity’s quota. And, if someone was from the Western Hemisphere it was practically guaranteed that person could enter the United States.

McCarran was not ashamed at all about his racist ideology. He introduced a quota system that practiced flagrant, open, ethnic bias. If you were British, Irish, or German, in other words, white, you got the preferred slot in the 70% of the immigrant quota set aside for these races. Now, if you were a skilled laborer, no matter what color your skin was, you had a pretty good chance of getting into the country. McCarran still liked the idea of importing labor that could be oppressed with no political representation as a non-citizen.

McCarran also seemed to have a great appreciation for the term “subversive”. That was a very present theme throughout the 1952 bill he co-authored. The immigration law of the land now could incarcerate a person, bar them from entry or deport them solely on ideological grounds. A person didn’t even have to do anything. They simply had to think about it or talk about it or write about. That means a person could be considered a criminal even if they were exercising their First Amendment right and talking in glowing terms about communism. Hell, the gringa would probably be considered a “subversive” and thrown in the slammer for writing something like this. My Caveman thinks it could still happen and tells me not to expect him on visiting day for getting myself in trouble with my big mouth.

The first time around, President Truman stamped the bill with a big fat veto. Remember, he viewed immigration policy from a more humanitarian point of view. He did not feel threatened by ethnic diversity. He recognized the discriminatory nature of the bill. At the time of Truman’s veto, he said, “The basic error of this bill is that it moves in the direction of suppressing opinion and belief… that would make a mockery of the Bill of Rights and of our claims to stand for freedom in the world.”

Truman rejected the bill on the grounds that it created a second-class status among citizens based on whether an American was born here or was naturalized.  Truman was so dissatisfied with the spirit of the legislation, he commissioned an investigation of the political implications of these immigration policy changes. The Presidential Commission on Immigration and Naturalization (PCIN) advised relaxing the policies of the Act. McCarran reacted to this by accusing the commission members of, wait for it, wait for it…. Yes, he accused them of being Communist sympathizers. Mmm Hmmm. Anger somebody and get an accusing finger pointed your way, labeling you a “subversive” or a “communist”. Your enemies would get their revenge by accusing you of being a Red. McCarran’s paranoia about Communism is reflected in his statement that if immigration controls were relaxed “in the course of a generation or so, [it would] tend to change the ethnic and cultural composition of this nation.” In other words, he was afraid the nation would become less white.

Despite Truman’s strong objections and veto, Congress had enough votes to support it anyway and it became the new immigration law of the land. Thus the era was ushered in of Communist hysteria which will always be remembered by rejection of immigrant hopefuls such as Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Other Nobel laureates that were barred were British author Doris Lessing and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. They were considered “undesirable aliens” because their ideology was unacceptable. In other words, they didn’t think they way Congress wanted them to think.

This Communist hysteria would culminate in the infamous trials and 1953 executions of the Rosenbergs. So, in 1952, not only was racism alive and well in the United States, but open, state-sanctioned intolerance of a specific ideology becomes the new social trend.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1952_immigration_and_nationality_act.html

http://icirr.org/sites/default/files/IPC%20McCarran-Walter.pdf

http://immigrationinamerica.org/593-immigration-and-nationality-act-of-1952.html

Photo credit: www.foundsf.org

1943 Magnuson Act: Blueprint For Equality


December 17, the 1943 Magnusun Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt. The Chinese could once again immigrate into the United States and, even more amazing, be eligible for citizenship. Could it be that the United States was beginning to evolve socially and become less racist? Could it be that the United States had learned its lesson about insulting other nations after the disastrous and deadly outcome of spurning Japan for years?

It seems that key people banded together and put pressure on legislators, specifically, the “Citizens Committee to Repeal Chinese Exclusion and Place Immigration On a Quota Basis”. Quite a mouthful. Although these people may have been socially enlightened for their time, the gringa thinks they may have lacked the creative minds necessary to come up with a snazzier title for their think tank. This group of public figures formally organized May 25, 1943 with the purpose to reverse the racist legislation of 1882 that had sought to remove from white America an ethnicity that was singled out because of its racial, linguistic, religious and cultural differences.

During the 1930’s, author Pearl S. Buck’s book “The Good Earth”, a Pulitzer Prize winner, began to change public sentiment toward the Chinese as it depicted the privations suffered by the people of rural China. Where social evolution could not reach the hearts of the American people, it seems sympathy could. After suffering through the years of the Great Depression, the American people had obviously been humbled and could now overcome racial differences as they were able to relate to the sufferings of other human beings.

Time magazine also featured articles exposing Japan’s invasion of China. With American’s despising all things Japanese after Pearl Harbor, this was a prime example of just one more thing in common between the American and Chinese people that resulted in sympathetic feelings.

Politically speaking, Roosevelt’s motives most likely did not originate from the heart and soul of a man who wanted to right a racist wrong. His concern was what was in the nation’s best interest. As President, that was his job. If Roosevelt didn’t want to lose China to America’s enemy, Japan, the best thing he could do would be to perform a significant act that would pacify any doubt in the mind of China that the U.S. was their friend.

You see, at that time Japan was using United States history to make inroads with the Chinese. Japan’s cunning propaganda plan was to play up ethnic similarities between themselves and the Chinese and also remind China of the racist exploitation they experienced with the Americans and the insult of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Roosevelt’s motives were not because he was an apologetic non-racist, it was because he was a capitalist opportunist. In other words, Roosevelt was a typical American. The State Department even issued a public statement regarding the political necessity of this act: “The repeal of this act was a decision almost wholly grounded in the exigencies of World War II, as Japanese propaganda made repeated reference to Chinese exclusion from the United States in order to weaken the ties between the United States and its ally, the Republic of China”. In other words, the United States needed this critical wartime alliance with China. So, Roosevelt formed a committee to rally everyone in the nation to get on the pro-Chinese bandwagon.

Roosevelt’s committee was headed up by none other than Pearl S. Buck’s husband, James Walsh. I guess that seems fitting since she’s the one that got this party started. The committee consisted of over two hundred people who put pressure on groups larger and more powerful than themselves. These groups in turn would lobby Congress to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Social and professional elites of the country used their connections to advance the cause of the Chinese immigrant. When the moral argument of racial equality failed, the argument of patriotism and winning the war persuaded the hesitant.

The passage of the Magnusun Act of 1943 repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, allowed for Asians to become naturalized citizens, and established quotas to allow Chinese immigrants entry into the United States. The citizenship gate that had historically swung open only for free, white, men and remained closed to other ethnicities, had now become unhinged. This, however, did not mean that domestic racism had ceased. Although many in the nation may have been softening, the labor unions could only see the Chinese as potential competition among laborers and a threat to wages. Once the work had been completed to change the laws, the work began anew to change the hearts and minds of the people. This work was necessary to reverse racist opinions toward the Chinese that had been about one hundred years in the making. Until that happened, equality, although the law of the land, was, in reality, a myth.

The United States has always been designed to be a capitalist utopia with power vested in the hands of the wealthy. Historically, powerful, white men managed the masses for their own benefit as well as to strengthen the nation. Racism is a tool. If it is profitable to be racist, racist practices take place. If it is not profitable to be racist, the leaders reverse course. Racism seems to be fused with capitalist political agendas. But that doesn’t mean every American, and every American politician, thinks this way. The writer of the bill, Senator Warren G. Magnusun, spent the rest of his congressional career working to improve relations between Americans and the Chinese. Men and women like Magnusun are just the kind of socially evolved legislators the United States needs to grow into a nation that practices true equality.

In 1943 it only took seven months for the power of just one small group of wealthy, socially influential people to sway public opinion and effect significant legislative change. Why, then, have the social elites of today not succeeded in the same for the many non-white groups in the United States who experience racism on an oppressive level? I guess ethnic groups need to find a way for their cause to be either profitable or in the best interest of national security. That’s how it worked for the Chinese.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1943_magnuson_act.html

http://immigration.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000766

http://immigrationinamerica.org/431-citizens-committee-to-repeal-chinese-exclusion.html

http://immigrationinamerica.org/591-immigration-act-of-1943.html

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=8993

Photo credit:  http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/

Wartime Measure of 1941 – Entry Into The U.S. By Businessmen’s Approval


By 1941, World War II was raging across Europe and the mood of the good people of the United States was pretty surly. The Defense Department was in need of a study supply of goods and services to supply the nation’s military that was engaged in a conflict of unprecedented scale in modern history. Every person in America was barely getting by after the lean years of the Great Depression. Big industry was raking in war profits hand over fist and the little guy wanted his share. President Roosevelt just wanted everyone to behave themselves, report to work and churn out the mechanical parts, machines, steel, coal, transportation and ships the country needed to keep our soldiers moving and the nation bankrolled. This created the conditions which resulted in legislation creating yet another change to the country’s immigration policies.

In 1941, labor unions were seriously flexing their muscles. Beginning in January and lasting until April, laborers at the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee dug in for a long strike over whether the company would be a “closed shop” or if workers could opt out of union membership. Bethlehem Steel Corporation of Pennsylvania, which had a long history of profiting from government defense contracts as well as a long history of organized workers, held a five day strike in March over the election of new collective bargaining representatives. In the following month of April, over four hundred thousand Appalachian coal miners organized a strike over a wage dispute. After a month of such shenanigans President Roosevelt got involved to assist in negotiating an agreement.

American citizens were quickly developing anti-labor sentiments. Strikes throughout the nation continued to keep the population embroiled in controversy no matter which side of the fence someone sat. Most Americans were simply happy to be employed after the jobless years of the Great Depression. The nation looked to its elected leaders to resolve these conflicts once and for all so everyone could focus on the American way of life, earning a paycheck then cashing and spending it. The U.S. government’s solution to all this industry mayhem was to pass the Smith-Connally Act on June 25, 1943 (also called War Labor Disputes Act) which gave the president authority to seize and operate private industries critical to manufacturing war products. This power was exercised by President Roosevelt twice within two months of its passage, and later, in October, when there was a strike at Air Associates, Inc.

In June President Roosevelt exercised emergency powers to commandeer North American Aviation in California as a result of a labor strike. August 20th, motor coach and street car operators affiliated with the AFL went on strike forcing over 400,000 Detroit workers who depended on public transportation to walk, hitch-hike or car pool. Also happening in August, workers at New Jersey’s Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company rejected an agreement put forth by the National Defense Mediation Board panel and a seventeen day strike commenced. Later that month President Roosevelt seized control of the plant.

Many Americans were not supportive of the disruptions created by organized labor and strikes. Typical cultural sentiment was to just get to work and not cause trouble. Do your part as an American and keep the country moving forward. Not only did the majority of the population support legislation that kept unions in check, they were also desiring policies that would prevent foreign rabble-rousers from importing their Socialist ideas and throwing a monkey wrench in all this progress. Although the economic tide was turning, people were still suffering privations because of how disastrous the Great Depression had been. Overall, at this time, the United States was seeing economic improvement but full-fledge prosperity was still some time away.

As a result of these concerns, the United States thought new immigration legislation was necessary for national security. The 1941 Wartime Measure of June 20th provided for refusal of entry for any immigrant if an American diplomat or consular thought their purpose was to cause trouble. It was rather vague in interpretation and application. It would eventually be exercised to its fullest extent after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Two months after the attack, by the power of  Executive Order 9066, approximately 120,000 Japanese were forced into internment camps on American soil. Of those prisoners, sixty-two percent were U.S. citizens. This injustice, yet, only ten people were ever convicted of spying for Japan and they were Caucasian.

Two months after the passage of this Act, President Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Newfoundland to create their war effort plan known as the Atlantic Charter. Considering the amount of time and planning for two heads of state to meet at a neutral location, it is safe to assume that at the time legislators were working on this new immigration policy, they did so with full knowledge it was in preparation for the country moving toward entering the war. To get into America now, you had to pass muster of the personal opinion of an American diplomat or consular. Who were these diplomats? Were they even qualified to make such a determination of a person?

One American diplomat at this time was W. Averell Harriman. He was a U.S. diplomat who carried on dialogue with the Soviet Union during the conflict of World War II. During 1932-1946 he was chairman of the board with Union Pacific Railroad Company. An enviable position probably secured for him by his daddy, railroad bigwig E.H. Harriman. Hey, the gringa understands all about nepotism. It is regularly practiced here in the barrio with Junior heading out to work right beside Big Daddy on a regular basis. But, does working as a railroad wheeler-dealer qualify a person to decide if another person will make a good U.S. citizen?

Harriman also served as an officer of the National Recovery Administration from 1940-1941, which assisted in developing Roosevelt’s New Deal scheme. Specifically, he advised on the provisions that eliminated what would be considered “cut throat” competition and establishing “fair practices” in industry and trade. He also sat on the National Defense Advisory Commission as well as the Office of Production Management.

He made a career as an effective negotiator between the United States and Great Britain as well as the United States and the Soviet Union. Harriman’s profile was the typical resume for American diplomats. Boardroom negotiators have what it takes to navigate treaty talks with other nations.

American diplomats sound like great guys in stiff suits. The gringa’s just not so sure they would really be the go-to guys that would understand the heart of an immigrant, who probably didn’t even own a suit. In a nutshell, as a capitalist utopia run by the rich white guys, the gringa thinks the immigration changes of 1941 were appropriate for the times, but enacted and enforced by the wrong folks. But, that’s no surprise. War has always resulted in reactionary legislation that, in hindsight, causes the people to say, “What the hell were we thinking?”, from the Wartime Measure of 1941 to the Patriot Act of 2001. Say it ain’t so.

Addendum:  I would like to thank Samir Chopra for his encouragement and his own contribution to the story of American immigration. For an interesting read, please visit his blog and read the following article “The Cruelest Cut Of All: Punjabis Are Not White“. This link will take you directly to it…   http://samirchopra.com/2015/04/09/the-cruelest-cut-of-all-punjabis-are-not-white

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1941_wartime_measure_1.html

http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/library/primary-sources/1941-wartime-measure

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=138

https://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/war-time-conferences

http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2149&context=lcp

http://newdeal.feri.org/survey/sg41578.htm

http://www.britannica.com/topic/Smith-Connally-Anti-Strike-Act

http://www.historyonthenet.com/ww2/japan_internment_camps.htm

http://www.britannica.com/biography/W-Averell-Harriman

Photo credit:  wikipedia