This Day in American History: February 5, 1917 – Congress passes the Immigration Act of 1917

Everything old is new again.

The Immigration Act of 1917 (also known as the Literacy Act and less often as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act) was the most sweeping immigration act the United States had passed until that time. It was the first bill aimed at restricting, as opposed to regulating, immigrants and marked a turn toward nativism. The law imposed literacy tests on immigrants, created new categories of inadmissible persons and barred immigration from the Asia-Pacific Zone.

Though the Act passed with an overwhelming majority, the difference relative to current circumstances is that Congress overrode President Woodrow Wilson‘s December 14, 1916, veto.

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