Immigration Acts of the 1950s

In the midst of Cold war hysteria, congress passed, the two most controversial bills regarding immigration restrictionism in the United States, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (The McCarran-Walter Act) and The Subversive Activities Control Act of 1952. The Immigration and Nationality Act Bill was sponsored by Senator Pat McCarran in response to spreading anti-communist fears from immigrants from foreign. It was passed through senate and made legislature even though President Truman threatened to veto it,only seven democratic senators out of a 100 senate seats voted against. The lack of votes against it was the result of widespread anti-communist fear.

The McCarran act required communist organisations and people suspected of communist organization affiliations to register with the U.S Attorney general. This legislature unfairly targeted Asians, and created largely symbolic opportunities.Any immigrant identified as a communist could never achieve citizenship and could detained without any burden for proof. The United States had quotas of how many people would be allowed in the country, especially from those of communist regimes. The government was afraid that they would spread communistic subversiveness ,and destablizie the country. Countries like Britain had huge quotas whilst, Asian countries were only allotted about 100 quotas. Breaking down the “Asiatic Barred Zone” was a step toward improving U.S. relations with Asian nations. At the same time, however, the new law only allotted new Asian quotas based on race, instead of nationality.

The 1952 Act created symbolic opportunities for Asian immigration, though in reality it continued to discriminate against them. The 1952 act had one good thing in that it eliminated laws preventing Asians from becoming naturalized American citizens. Low quota numbers and a uniquely racial construction for how to apply them ensured that total Asian immigration after 1952 would remain very limited. Individuals with special skills or families already resident in the United States received precedence, a policy still in use today.


Warner, Judith Ann. “MCCARRAN-WALTER ACT OF 1952.” Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society. Ed. . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2008. 879-81. SAGE Reference Online. Web. 27 Feb. 2012.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (The McCarran-Walter Act)” U.S Department of State. Office of the Historian, n.d Web 22 Feb 2012