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George Poulos

USA, 1917 - 1924. Immigration restriction laws.

I recently spent 22 days in the USA, visiting various Kytherians and Hellenes in 5 States, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, & California.

It has always intrigued me why the vast majority of Kytherians did not emigrate to the United States, given its proximity to Europe.

The answer appears to be that just as emigration from Greece was "ramping up", the United States introduced a number of laws which restricted the number and the source of immigrants from foreign countries.

If you study the brief history of USA immigration, (below), you will note that immigration laws become particularly restrictive between 1917 - 1924, and did not become more "liberal" until 1952.

Additionally, see,


for a simple, easy to follow, power point presentation of the factors behind the Immigration Laws in the USA, 1917-1933.

Meanwhile, in 1917 the book Life in Australia was published in Australia. This stimulated mass migration from Greece, to Australia, and set up a series of "chain migrations" through a multiplier effect, at exactly the time that similar immigration into the USA had been restricted.

The result was a proportionally far greater influx of non-Anglo, including Greek & Kytherian migrants to Australia than to America.

Significant Historic Dates, affecting US immigration.

Naturalization Act of 1790 Stipulated that "any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States"
1875 Supreme Court declared that regulation of US immigration is the responsibility of the Federal Government.
1882 The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited certain laborers from immigrating to the United States.
1885 and 1887 Alien Contract Labor laws which prohibited certain laborers from immigrating to the United States.
1891 The Federal Government assumed the task of inspecting, admitting, rejecting, and processing all immigrants seeking admission to the U.S.
1892 On January 2, a new Federal US immigration station opened on Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
1903 This Act restated the 1891 provisions concerning land borders and called for rules covering entry as well as inspection of aliens crossing the Mexican border.
1907 The US immigration Act of 1907 reorganized the states bordering Mexico (Arizona, New Mexico and a large part of Texas) into Mexican Border District to stem the flow of immigrants into the U.S.
1917 - 1924 A series of laws were enacted to further limit the number of new immigrants. These laws established the quota system and imposed passport requirements. They expanded the categories of excludable aliens and banned all Asians except Japanese.
1924 Act Reduced the number of US immigration visas and allocated them on the basis of national origin.
1940 The Alien Registration Act required all aliens (non-U.S. citizens) within the United States to register with the Government and receive an Alien Registration Receipt Card (the predecessor of the "green card").
1950 Passage of the Internal Security Act which rendered the Alien Registration Receipt Card even more valuable. Immigrants with legal status had their cards replaced with what generally became known as the "green card" (Form I-151).
1952 Act Established the modern day US immigration system. It created a quota system which imposes limits on a per-country basis. It also established the preference system that gave priority to family members and people with special skills.
1968 Act Eliminated US immigration discrimination based on race, place of birth, sex and residence. It also officially abolished restrictions on Oriental US immigration.
1976 Act Eliminated preferential treatment for residents of the Western Hemisphere.
1980 Act Established a general policy governing the admission of refugees.
1986 Act Focused on curtailing illegal US immigration. It legalized hundred of thousands of illegal immigrants. It also introduced the employer sanctions program which fines employers for hiring illegal workers. It also passed tough laws to prevent bogus marriage fraud.
1990 Act Established an annual limit for certain categories of immigrants. It was aimed at helping U.S. businesses attract skilled foreign workers; thus, it expanded the business class categories to favor persons who can make educational, professional or financial contributions. It created the Immigrant Investor Program.
USA Patriot Act 2001: Uniting and Strengthening America by providing appropriate tools required to intercept and obstruct terrorism
Creation of the USCIS 2003: As of March 1, 2003, the US immigration and Naturalization Service becomes part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The department’s new U.S. Citizenship and US immigration Services (USCIS) function is to handle US immigration services and benefits, including citizenship, applications for permanent residence, non-immigrant applications, asylum, and refugee services. US immigration enforcement functions are now under the Department's Border and Transportation Security Directorate, known as the Bureau of US immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE)

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