“The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law” re-examines the Immigration Act of 1924 by taking a deeper, more comprehensive look into the political and geographical goings-on that concurred with the event. From nonsense with the census to political back-dealings, there was certainly a lot of finagling going on behind the scenes
Obviously, the most interesting part of this law has to be the ‘race-quotas’ it delineates for immigrants coming into the United States. Called a “national origins quota,” it was, unsurprisingly (it was made by a bunch of stupid, nationalistic racists), very inconsistent. While people of certain countries weren’t allowed to immigrate in numbers larger than 100, others were able to supersede this rule entirely. As you could have probably guessed, a lot of this had to do with one’s ability to fit into a specific category of the “five colored races,” ie. black, mullatto, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian. What is interesting to note about this is the fact that it was actually easier for people considered “black” to immigrate to the U.S. than those who were more difficult to categorize. Native and Mexican Americans for, example, often had the hardest time receiving American citizenship. This would remain true even after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo made it easier for Mexican Americans to classify themselves as a particular race (in this case, “white”,) and Mexican Americans would continue to be one of the largest groups of people to routinely illegally immigrate to the country.
Something that surprised me about this reading was just how much of this actually had to do with one’s nationality. People “from nearly half the world’s population,” for example, were exempt from entering the country at all. This mostly included Chinese people, Koreans, those from Japan, and those from South Asia. Interestingly enough, though, Filipino citizens were exempt from this rule, mostly having to do with the Philippines’ status as a colony at the time. As the Journal of American History points out, unsurprisingly, white people were also exempt from these strict “100” quotas. As can be seen in their chart on page 74, people from Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, and Ireland (along with many more) all came in much larger numbers than those from ‘less desirable’ countries. As it turns out, much of this can be attributed to the works of one Francis Walker. An MIT professor, it was Walker’s firm belief that most non-white immigrants were “retarding the American growth rate” and stealing jobs from honest, hard-working American citizens.