Emergency Quota Act (United States) (1921)

Signed in May 1921, the Emergency Quota Act established the first ethnic quota system for selective admittance of immigrants to the United States. With widespread concern about the importation of communist and other radical political ideas, Americans widely supported more restrictive legislation. The measure limited immigration to 357,800 annually from the Eastern Hemisphere; more than half the quota was reserved for immigrants from northern and western Europe.
Even as the United States entered World War I in 1917, there was substantial concern over the “dumping” of dangerous and poor immigrant refugees from Europe. When the Immigration Act of 1917 failed to halt a continuing flood of hundreds of thousands of Europeans after the war, support for an ethnic quota grew. Support for immigration restriction included, for the first time, many within the business community, who found that immigrants from Canada, Mexico, and the West Indies were dramatically lessening the need for potentially radicalized European labor. In order to ensure that Bolsheviks, anarchists, Jews, and other “undesirables” were kept to a minimum, the Emergency Quota Act set the number of immigrants from each national origin group at 3 percent of the foreign-born population of that country in 1910. During 1909 and 1910, immigration from England, Ireland, Scotland and Scandinavia had been particularly high. About 1 percent of the quota was allotted to non-Europeans.

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