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Anarchist Exclusion Act

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The Anarchist Exclusion Act refers to two different acts passed by the United States Congress intended to keep immigrants that subscribed to anarchist ideas from entering the country.

The 1901 act[edit]

The first Anarchist Exclusion Act (officially listed as An Act To regulate the immigration of aliens into the United States, ch. 1012, Template:USStat)[1] was passed by the 57th United States Congress, on its last day of session, March 3, 1903 (and re-enacted June 29, 1906),[2] soon after the assassination of U.S. President William McKinley by a Polish immigrant, Leon Czolgosz. Then-president Theodore Roosevelt requested the legislation from Congress, which was the first legislation in the U.S. since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 that permitted those attempting to enter the country to be questioned about their political beliefs.[3] The act specifically barred anyone
"who disbelieves in or who is opposed to all organized government, or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization entertaining or teaching such disbelief in or opposition to all organized government."[4]
Immediately following a speech given by a Scottish anarchist named John Turner at the Murray Hill Lyceum, Immigration officials arrested Turner, and found a copy of Johann Most's Free Society, and Turner's speaking schedule, which included a memorial to the Haymarket Martyrs. This was enough evidence to deport him. Immediately following, Emma Goldman organized a Free Speech League to contest the deportation. She recruited Clarence Darrow and Edgar Lee Masters to defend him.[5] After Goldman organized a meeting at Cooper Union of those opposing the deportation, the New York Times editorialized in favor of the act, and deportation of Turner. They referred to the people at the meeting as "ignorant and half-crazy dreamers" and declared that it was the country's "right - in the belief of Congress and of many, probably of most, Americans', it makes it our duty - to exclude him."[4]

Darrow and Masters presented their defense of Turner before the U.S. Supreme Court. They argued that the law was unconstitutional and that Turner was merely a "philosophical anarchist", and therefore not a threat to the government. The Court ruled against Turner, with Chief Justice Melville Fuller writing the majority opinion. Fuller held that the Bill of Rights did not apply to aliens, and that Congress had the right to deny entry to anyone they deemed a threat to the country. Turner became the first person deported under the act.[5]

The following year, of 7,994 people denied entry into the U.S., one was denied for being an anarchist.[6]

The 1918 act[edit]

The second act (also known as the Immigration Act of October 16, 1918, ch. 186, Template:USStat) was enacted on October 16, 1918.[7] It specified
"that aliens who are anarchists; aliens who believe in or advocate the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of the United States or of all forms of law; aliens who disbelieve in or are opposed to all organized government; aliens who advocate or teach the assassination of public officials; aliens who advocate or teach the unlawful destruction of property; aliens who are members of or affiliated with any organization that entertains a belief in, teaches, or advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of the United States or of all forms of law, or that entertains or teaches disbelief or opposition to all organized government, or that advocates the duty, necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or killing of any officer or officers, either of specific individuals, or of officers generally, of the Government of the United States or any other organized government, because of his or their character, or that advocates or teaches the unlawful destruction of property, shall be excluded from admission into the United States"

In 1919, the New York Times reported that in the fiscal year 1918, two people were "excluded from the United States"... and "(t)hirty-seven 'were deported after being found illegally in this country.'"[8] After more than four thousand alleged Communists were arrested for deportation under the act, the Department of Labor refused to deport the bulk of those arrested; Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson was threatened with impeachment over the refusal.[9] This act was repealed in 1952.


  1. Van Dyne, Frederick (1904/1980). Citizenship of the United States, Wm. S. Hein Publishing.
  2. Greeley, Horace (1909). The Tribune Almanac and Political Register, The Tribune Association.
  3. Vowell, Sarah (1999). Assassination Vacation, Simon and Schuster.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "In Defense of Anarchy" (in English) (newspaper). New York Times (New York, New York: The New York Times): p. 8. December 5, 1903. Retrieved 2007-07-12. </li>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Chalberg, John (1991). Emma Goldman: American Individualist, Harper Collins.
  6. Farnsworth Hall, Prescott (1906). Immigration and its effects upon the United States, H. Holt.
  7. Remsen Crawford (July 10, 1921). "New Immigrant Net: How Other Causes Have Anticipated Effect of the Dillingham Act" (in English) (newspaper). New York Times (New York, New York: The New York Times). Retrieved 2007-07-12. </li>
  8. "Alien Anarchists" (in English) (newspaper). New York Times (New York, New York: The New York Times): p. 14. December 15, 1919. Retrieved 2007-07-12. </li>
  10. </ol>