History Repeats Itself: What Trump and others can learn from the 1924 Immigration Act

Donald_August_19_(cropped)The evolution of terrorism and spread of the Islamic state is forcing the United States to reexamine our immigration practices. Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigration while others consider less draconian approaches.

This is not the first time our nation has reevaluated immigration intake in response to international factors. The 1924 Immigration Act was the first bill to meaningfully limit immigration in our nation’s history. Two factors—both foreign and domestic—coalesced for Congress to pass this Act.

First, the country was experiencing unprecedented waves of immigration following WWI, doubling previous annual immigration admissions. Labor organizations worried that they would lose the important wage gains and improved labor conditions they had achieved as a result of increased competition.

Second, the Communist Revolution successfully (and violently) gained control of the Soviet Union and communism was spreading to other European countries.  The American public feared the spread of communism at home and the government needed to act to prevent a revolution on U.S. soil.

Influenced by both of these issues, Congress passed the 1924 Immigration Act, which restricted immigration from nearly 900,000 immigrants a year to closer to 300,000. This level allowed immigrants to more quickly assimilate American values, including both commitment to democracy and equitable work place wages/standards.

However the 1924 Immigration Act was not entirely positive. It set a quota system that heavily favored certain European countries and discriminated against immigrants based on national origin—completely barring admissions from Asian countries.

The combination of today’s labor issues and national security threats are similar to what our nation faced almost a century ago. The United States admits over a million legal immigrants every year, though the middle class has not seen income growth for almost two decades. Now ISIS is spreading through Europe and has threatened to infiltrate the United States.

We can look to the 1924 Immigration Act as model for both what to emulate and avoid. History reflects that reducing the numbers was positive for both jobs and diminishing the spread of radicalism at home. As we look at the purpose of our immigration system and how it affects both labor market dynamics and national security, reducing admissions makes sense. What we need to consider is how to fairly set criteria for admissions and limits. In doing so, we should be careful not to repeat the same mistakes of discriminating against individuals based solely on their country of origin or religion. 

About Author


Content written by Federation for American Immigration Reform staff.


  1. avatar

    Before any Muslim is allowed into the United States they should be required to renounce any and all allegiance or affection to the Koran which advocates the killing of all non-Muslims.

    If the current immigration policy continues it will cause a backlash to the Constitutional compromising needed to accommodate Muslim’s and their sharia law that will result in a revolutionary war and blood bath on American soil.

    The Koran and our Constitution are so incompatible that they cannot coexist.

  2. avatar

    The Law 414 of June 27, 1952. This law refers to any organization that advocates the overthrown of the USA

    government is not allwed entrance in the United States. For more information se Chapter 2 Section 212 (28) (F).

    My question is: Many senators are attorneys, Why they do not enforce this law on Obama and his agenda to bring

    muslins refugees to USA ? The Koran is in this classification, no the muslin religion.

  3. avatar

    The United States of America has been attacked. We are in a war.

    We are also broke and only the continuity of cash flow keeps us afloat as we are BANKRUPT AND ALMOST $19 TRILLION IN DEBT, and with interest accruing.

    Common sense must prevail over stupidity.


  4. avatar

    There is a flaw in this otherwise excellent article. Quote:

    “However the 1924 Immigration Act was not entirely positive. It set a quota system that heavily favored certain European countries and discriminated against immigrants based on national origin—completely barring admissions from Asian countries.”

    Does the Author claim that if the America was founded by pilgrims from China and then populated and built by immigrants from Asia then it would be equally successful, prosperous, and free country as it has been?

    If so then she needs to provide a proof of her claim. Because what we see around us contradicts such a proposition.

    For instance, the Chinese show strong, stereotypical tendency towards collectivism the traces of which have been found as far back as two millennia ago. It would be very unlikely that once on North American continent they would miraculously form individualist society similar to one that our Constitution and the Bill of Rights codify.

    We need to stop perpetuating unproven fiction that all peoples are capable of the same accomplishments. The history of the world strongly suggest that they are not. For the future of our wonderful country may depend on whom (and not just how many) are we going to let in.

  5. avatar

    Discussing the Immigration Act of 1924 is comparing apples to oranges. “FAIR” needs to address the McCarron-Walters Bill of 1952-Oublic Law No. 82-414 which was passed on June 27, 1952. Democrat President Jimmy Carter invoked this law in 1979 and prohibited the immigration of Iranian citizens. It appears that there were approximately 50,000 Iranian students in the U.S.A. at that time. They were ordered to report to U.S. Immigration. Around 15,000 Iranians were forced to leave the U.S .apparently barring people from a terrorist country is not against our (U.S.A.) values after all. It may even be who we are. Either that or Democrat Carter was a so called “racist monster” just as the Liberals call Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump’s proposal of a TEMPORARY PAUSE in admitting Syrian-terrorist country citizens makes a lot of sense in these time of threatened attacks from terrorists. It is good common sense. Remember, Mr. Trump did not propose a permanent stop of immigration. Maybe these are facts that the Liberals and the Liberal Media simply do not want to admit or to deal with.

  6. avatar

    But why should we not take-in more Christians and fewer Muslims? Islam is not compatible with our laws! CONGRESS should decide the rules, not President Obama!

    • avatar

      As long as the Christians are not The born again crazies , that well be ok . I am Eastern Orthodox my self .

    • avatar
      Lawrence Schreiber on

      Is the President a Christian? Wasn’t he once a Muslim, Communist? When did he throw off those identifiers?

    • avatar

      Islam the religion and Islam the govt are one in the same. The govt makes its laws and rules based on Islam.

      That is NOT SUITABLE for the USA and other CIVILIZED countries.

  7. avatar

    PROBLEM IS that ISLAM is a dangerous political ideology DISGUISED as a religion! ~ ISIS is following the Islamic Koran to the letter!!! ~ Let us not be blissfully ignorant about this and allow our country to be overthrown due to eventual demographic change that will have our future generation cursing us!!!

    • avatar

      Trumps’ idea is not “draconian”. Stop using that term to sound impressive. It seems that the last few generations here don’t know enough about our history. As long as its not any of the families, of the current members of Congress who object to Trumps idea aren’t being shot or blown to bits, its “draconian” to control who enters United States? Want to know what really goes on in Congress? Read “A Time for Truth”, by Senator Cruz.

  8. avatar

    1924 and 2015 are Apples and Oranges

    The needs for more America workers existed back then, they ABSOLUTELY do not exist today. We need a new revised plan with today’s automation, outsourcing, in sourcing and slave labor. We need Trump’s common sense.

  9. avatar
    Rodney Watkins on

    People of the United States. The suspension of the U S Constitution did in fact occur in 1871( http://byronwine.com/files/1871.pdf ) That is why it is important to have the pledge of allegiance say: “to the Republic for which it stands.” The Republic was washed away with the Act of 1871 but as long as the word “Republic” is in the pledge of allegiance there may be hope that someday the word “Republic” will be recognized for what it really means and the USA today recognized for that which it no longer is. Only with knowledge and understanding within our young and the voting body politic can the change back to a “Republic” begin, the ‘Republic” the founding fathers created. The pledge reminds one of the founders “Republic” I do not want to argue about “under God” which I know many hate and was added to the pledge in the 1950’s McCarthy era. However, we can push for some enlightened debate on the subject of the demise of the Republic. I really doubt that either Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump realize what the actual structure and effect of the corporation they are campaigning under really is. Further, the SCOTUS case outlined below happened well before 1871 and it in itself set the stage for 1871, the final act of treason that set the stage for the destruction of the Republic. There would never have been a ‘Citizens United” case decided before the supreme court recently if it weren’t for Dartmouth College v. Woodward and the Act of 1871.

    To restore the Republic of the United States of America:

    1. Un-incorporate the United States from the District of Columbia.

    2. The SCOTUS needs to reopen the debate on Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. 518 (1819). A corporation cannot possibly be a person. It doesn’t have a bloodstream, a soul, any morals, and it has only one ethic, “Profit.” That Supreme Court decision opened the halls of city, state, and federal government to legalized bribery. No entity with more than 50 employees should be allowed anywhere near an elected official of any kind. The recent SCOTUS decision for “Citizens United” would never have taken place if it were not for Dartmouth College v. Woodward. Citizens United is the great grandchild of Dartmouth v. Woodward.

    3. The Federal Reserve Bank needs to be abolished. It is nothing more than an international group of banksters. They have transferred most of the wealth built up over 200 years in the United States to their private coffers. The National Bank of the United States needs to be established and all Federal Reserve Notes abolished and replaced with a commodity backed U S Greenback. The Bank of the United States would have a president and board answerable only to Congress with Senate oversight.

    4. The IRS needs to be abolished and a flat tax on transactions instituted. The IRS has become totally politicized and unconstitutional. Its abuse of power is massive.

    5. The Federal Government has no business in “education.” It HAS NO PLACE in Education. The US Department of education (established by Carter in 1979) needs to be eliminated and returned to a cabinet post only. In today’s world the average high school and college graduate since the start of the Department of Education is graduated mentally handicapped and in Financial Servitude. Education is a State issue and all education should be returned to the parents in individual communities and cities with mild State approved over- site. Presently the Federal Dictator is pushing for mandatory boarding schools which will be little more than Marxist factories. Since the Dept of Education was established in 1979 under Carter US education has gone from standing number 1 in the world to 26th in the world today, proof of its failure and uselessness.

    6. A Constitutional Amendment needs to be passed at the Convention of States terminating the TSA and denying the Federal Government any form of “National Police Force” leaving the FBI intact and giving local Sheriff’s Departments more power in their counties than the Federal Government agents.

    7. The Convention of States needs to Amend the Constitution such that the Supreme Court can only interpret the Constitution on the basis of its most literal and strict interpretation.

    8. The Convention of States should amend the constitution such that all “citizens,” “immigrants” when taking the oath of citizenship or office rebuke and renounce forever any allegiance to any other political philosophy (Islam has 1400 years of terrorist activity proving it not to be a religion) that is in direct conflict with our Judeo/Christian inspired Constitution. Islam’s sharia is in direct conflict with the US Constitution and the goodwill of the people of the United States.

    9. Any foreign national attending any institution of learning in the United States that rebukes or criticizes the USA, its people, its constitution, or its laws, or advocates censorship of all forms of discourse must be immediately deported even at taxpayers’ expense.

    10. As the Qur’an is a book with a total life philosophy, spirit, and intent diametrically opposed to Judeo/Christian beliefs, and the basic tenets of the U S Constitution no Islamic shall ever be permitted immigration or refuge in the United States of America and all Islamic’ landed in the United States since 2008 should be immediately deported.

    11. A Constitutional Amendment Stating no Federal or State elected official can serve more than two terms in any office. Then they must return to private life. This so they are forced to live under the law they created while in office.

    12, The salary cap for deductions for Social Security should be completely removed on the Employee share for income over $100,000.00 with Employer contributions held at the $100,000.00 level as long as the employer has established a moveable retirement deposit program for its employees which is vested at the time of employment.

    13. Remove the stain of Obama’s communist takeover of the medical system by rescinding Obamacare in its entirety.

    14. Islam must be labeled a terrorist organization. The CAIR is worse than the Communist Party. A political force bent on destruction of the Constitution and the rule of its law. Islam is bent on replacing the Constitution with Sharia. It is a completely treasonous organization hiding in plain site as a “religious nonprofit” one that a sheik just gave 32 billion to help spread Islam in the USA. Every time we fill our gas tank we are paying for our own destruction. The west should immediately terminate as much oil purchased in the Middle East as a matter of survival policy. A recent find in an ancient Qur’an was proved by carbon dating to be older than Mohammed and thus proves Islam was produced from a plagiarized document in his time. Islam is not a religion but a 1400 year old terrorist organization. The only thing Islam can lay claim to is being the oldest, largest, and most dangerous terrorist organization in history.

    15. Move the UN and all of its spies, hucksters’, sex traffickers, murders, charlatans, Islamic’(30% of UN membership is Islamic), and freeloaders out of the most expensive real estate in New York State and into the Central African Republic where the squalor and poverty they are responsible for will be all around them . The CAR is a more appropriate place with cheap land, cheap labor, and all the vices the delegates to the UN are so comfortable with.

  10. avatar
    Concerned Citizen on

    An excellent commentary from Ashley Hall. We need to learn from the 1924 Immigration Act–both pro and con. We want our 21st century immigration reform to reflect modern values. We need to craft our policies thoughtfully in order to avoid the future moral and political backlashes that would result from creating a discriminatory system. We don’t want to will this fight to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and by doing this the right way, we can win over the long term.