The Immigration Act of 1917, which is also known as the "literacy act", was the next big federal law which prevented the migration of specific groups. After World War I the fear of Communism began to take hold of everyday Americans, and during the early 20th century millions of migrants were being processed on New York's Ellis Island.
As the ethnic mix of settlers from Europe diversified, the U.S. Congress responded by passing three key laws, each more restrictive than the last. The laws imposed literacy tests on immigrants and created a series of "undesirable" categories under which people could be considered "inadmissible", such as: "illiterates", "political radicals", "prostitutes", and "persons being mentally or physically defective." One section of the act also outlined an "Asiatic Barred Zone", which barred migration from most of Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Arabs, Asians and Europeans
The Johnson Reed Act of 1924 solidified America's return to nativism during the turn of the 20th century, and was aimed at preserving racial uniformity. Enacted May 26, 1924, the act drastically culled migration numbers by banning Arabs and Asians outright, and capping migration quotas further to reduce the total number of immigrants to 150,000 per year.
The chief author of the laws was Albert Johnson, a eugenicist who dabbled in racist pseudoscience and was head of The Eugenics Research Association. Johnson strongly opposed interracial marriage and supported sterilization of the mentally ill, and his scientific findings formed the basis of his immigration initiatives.
Johnson was confident that the act would fulfill its intended purpose, which was to end America's "indiscriminate acceptance of all races." The act remained one of the controlling forces behind U.S. immigration policy until 1965 when the Immigration and Nationality act was established. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised the Johnson-Reed act during a 2015 interview with Breitbart's Stephen Bannon – who is now Donald Trump's chief strategist.
Donald Trump's original travel ban indefinitely banned entry to Syrian refugees due to security concerns, but has since been revised to consider Syrian refugees on a case-by-case basis. This is not dissimilar to how Jewish refugees were treated during World War II, as President Franklin D Roosevelt asserted that Jews fleeing Europe posed a serious threat to American national security, as Nazi spies could hide among them and infiltrate the country.
Under Roosevelt, the allowed number of German Jews who could be admitted into America dropped to 26,000 annually, and it is estimated that during Hitler's reign less than 25 percent of that quota was filled.