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1921 Emergency Quota Act

Warren Harding

1921 Emergency Quota Act: Warren Harding was the 29th American President who served in office from March 4, 1921 to August 2, 1923. One of the important events during his presidency was the 1921 Emergency Quota Act.

Definition and Summary of the 1921 Emergency Quota Act
Summary and definition:
The 1921 Emergency Quota Act, also referred to as the Emergency Immigration Act, the Immigration Restriction Act, the Per Centum Law, and the Johnson Quota Act was sponsored by Albert Johnson, the Republican Representative from Washington and signed into law by President Warren Harding on May 19, 1921.

The Emergency Quota Act restricted the number of immigrants to 357,000 per year, and also set down an immigration quota by which only 3 per cent of the total population of any ethnic group already in the USA in 1910, could be admitted to America after 1921. The Emergency Quota Act was intended to be a temporary measure but the National Origins Formula continued until 1965.

Emergency Quota Act Facts for kids: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Emergency Quota Act for kids.

What was the Emergency Quota Act? The Emergency Quota Act was a law signed by President Harding to restrict the levels of immigration to the United States by establishing a temporary quota system.

Why was the Emergency Quota Act passed? The Emergency Quota Act was passed restricting immigration following many events in the United States that provoked anti-immigration hysteria including the 1919 recession and high unemployment, civil unrest, the Red Scare and the policy of Isolation adopted by the US Government.

Why was the Emergency Quota Act important? Designed as a purely temporary measure Emergency Quota Act it determined entry to the US by ethnic identity and national origin. The use of such a National Origins Formula continued until 1965.

When was the Emergency Quota Act passed? The Emergency Quota Act was passed on May 19, 1921

Facts about 1921 Emergency Quota Act
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on 1921 Emergency Quota Act.

Background History: The rise in Nativism in America had led to the Immigration Act of 1907 and the establishment of the Dillingham Commission in response to growing political concern about the effects of immigration in the US. The role of the Commission was to report on the social, cultural, physical, economic, and moral welfare of the nation.

Background History: The subsequent, damning Dillingham Commission Report discriminated between Old and New Immigration concluded that the "New Immigrants" were "inferior, uneducated and posed a serious threat to American society" and recommended that immigration to America should be restricted.

Background History: Following WW1 (28 July, 1914 - 11 November, 1918), the policy of Isolationism was evident in the measures taken by the Federal Government to limit and control immigration.

Background History: Between 1901 and 1920 14,531,197 immigrants had arrived in America, and the majority were classified as 'New Immigrants' from southern and eastern Europe were accused of bringing radical socialist and communist ideas into America and were blamed for the outbreak of strikes, riots, violence and civil unrest that erupted in 1919.

Background History: The Red Scare (1917-1920) added to the anti-immigration hysteria with the fear of communists and anarchists, especially after bombings in the homeland such as the 1920 Wall Street bombing. 1901 - 1920 a total of 14,531,197 immigrants had arrived in the US.

Background History: Big Business, once so keen to promote immigration as a source of cheap labor, feared new immigrants as radicals and joined in the cries to "Keep America American"

Background History: The "Keep America American" slogan was also taken up during the Resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and targeted the 'New Immigrants', Asians, Jews, Catholics, Asians and any radical "un-American" groups.

All of the above events, and the post-war recession, high unemployment and the influence of the Eugenics Movement (Pseudo-Scientific Racism) took their toll on the American people. In 1921 President Harding signed the Emergency Quota Act to establish a temporary system to limit immigration.

The act was sponsored by Albert Johnson (1869-1957), the Republican Representative from Washington. The law was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

The 1921 Emergency Quota Act (or percentage laws) used of quota system to establish limits and restricted the number of immigrants from a given country

According to the act 3% of the number of residents from that same country living in the United States based on the 1910 U.S. Census could be admitted in a single year.

The 1921 Emergency Quota Act restricted the number of immigrants to the United States to 357,000 people per year.

Exceptions: The provisions of Emergency Quota Act were not applicable to:

  • Government officials and their families

  • Tourists and temporary workers

  • Immigrants from western hemisphere

  • Children of U.S. citizens

  • Any country with bilateral agreements with the United States on immigration.

Impact: Based on the use of the quota system formula, the number of immigrants admitted to the United States fell from 805,228 in 1920, to 309,556 in 1921.

Impact: In theory the Emergency Quota Act restricted the immigrants from all countries - but in practice it heavily discriminated against the people categorized as 'New Immigrants' from southern and eastern Europe.

Impact: By the passing of this law admission to the United States of America was determined by ethnic identity and national origin.

Impact: The law meant that more people of Northern Europe, who had similar cultures to that of America, were likely to be admitted to the United States

Impact: The law was intended to be a temporary measure, in force until June 30, 1922. In 1922, the act was renewed for another two years.

The 1924 National Origins Act made immigration restriction a permanent US government policy. The National Origins Formula was an American system of immigration quotas, between 1921 and 1965, which restricted immigration on the basis of existing proportions of the population.

The use of such a National Origins Formula continued until 1965 when the Immigration and Nationality Act established the current immigration quota system.

US American History
1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition
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