immigration act of 1917

The Americanese wall - as Congressman [John Lawson] Burnett would build it - “You’re welcome in–if you can climb it!” 1916.

Part of Congressman Burnett’s legacy is that he worked to restrict the entry of immigrants to the U.S. By 1911, Burnett had assumed the chairmanship of the Committee on Immigration. When first appointed to the committee, Burnett began building support for a literacy test that would be part of the admission process for incoming immigrants to restrict the entrance of unskilled workers. He introduced the Burnett Immigration Bill in 1912, and although the Bill didn’t pass at first, by 1917 the mood had changed. Burnett’s Immigration Act of 1917 not only introduced a literacy test but also barred individuals, including homosexuals, the mentally disabled, and alcoholics, who were viewed as “undesirable.” The act also barred migrants from a region that included most of Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Artist: Raymond O. Evans