"This Deportation Business": 1920s and the Present
Date Written: 2016-05-01
Publisher: Against the Current
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21380
This article examines the growth of the deportation regime during the 1920s, and explores the enduring ramifications of early deportation practice and the renegotiation of the state's coercive power over migrants.
Individual states had exercised their own forms of immigration control since the colonial era, but it was only in the 1870s and 1880s that the United States consolidated its first federal immigration laws. The nation did so in line with accelerating and diversifying migration, as well as rising industrialization and increased global mobility of unskilled labor migrants.
The 1875 Page Act, the first exclusion law enacted by the federal government was designed as a labor control act, barring "alien convicts," prostitutes and "coolies." In 1882 the federal government extended the excludable classes to include "any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge," as well as creating the first federal legal infrastructure for removing and returning undesirable migrants and banning most Chinese migrants.
It is telling to note that in the early decades of the 20th century, authority for immigrant removals was vested with the Secretary of Labor; only in 1940 was the Immigration and Naturalization Service (formerly the Bureau of Immigration) transferred from the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice, revealing how closely migration restriction was tied to labor control.