The Immigration Act of 1924 is arguably the most restrictive and racist immigration law ever to have been passed by the US Congress. It was not unprecedented in its restrictive nature—since 1882 Congress had imposed qualitative exclusions on persons deemed likely to become public charges or otherwise morally or physically deficient—or in its racism: notably, the Chinese and Asiatic exclusion laws of the nineteenth and early twentieth century paved its way. But the 1924 act marked a historical turning point in immigration policy. It imposed, for the first time, a numerical ceiling on the number of immigrants admitted into the country; it also applied a racial hierarchy of desirability to all countries in the world. The first element, numerical restriction, has become a normative feature of American immigration policy. The second, racial desirability, was formally repealed in 1965 but was reproduced in more subtle ways and haunts immigration policy and...

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