using the 1910 census, was temporary, and new national-origin limits went into effect (after several postponements) in 1929. The national origins system put into place then limited immigration from the Eastern Hemisphere to approximately 150,000.5 Each nation received a quota based on its proportion of the population according to the 1920 census. This system increased immigration from Southern and Eastern European nations compared with using the 1890 census of the foreign-born, but it still gave the largest quotas to the countries in Northern and Eastern Europe. The 1924 act also barred aliens who were ineligible for citizenship, thus excluding Asian immigrants (except for Filipinos) who, as a group, had been declared ineligible for U.S. citizenship in previous naturalization legislation.6

During the Great Depression and World War II, few immigrants came to America. The quota of 150,000 from the Eastern Hemisphere—in practice from Europe, because immigration from Asia was barred—was not fully filled because the United States at times made it difficult for immigrants to enter. Various groups feared that immigrants might take jobs from native-born Americans and they wanted tight enforcement of laws to prevent immigrants from becoming public charges. For the Western Hemisphere there were no quotas, either for the entire hemisphere or for individual nations. Immigrants had difficulty, however, finding employment, and local, state and federal governments sent many Mexicans home instead of placing them on welfare.

By the 1940s, there were substantial numbers of Hispanic residents in the southwestern region of the United States. Some Hispanic residents were descendants of original settlers in the area, having resided there prior to its incorporation by the United States. Others had entered in previous decades from Mexico, although many Mexicans were deported from the United States in the 1930s during the Great Depression.

An unintended consequence of the 1920s legislation was an increase in illegal immigration. Many Europeans who did not fall under the quotas migrated to Canada or Mexico, which were not subject to national-origin quotas; subsequently they slipped into the United States illegally. In response, during the 1920s, additional funds were regularly granted to establish the Border Patrol and to expand its operations. By the early 1930s, the Bureau of Immigration aimed the bulk of its attention at exclusion and deportation.


The Western Hemisphere comprises North, Central, and South America as well as the Caribbean. The rest of the world makes up the Eastern Hemisphere.


Congress acted to cut Filipino immigration during the Great Depression of the 1930s when it gave the Philippines an annual quota of only 50 visas. When independence came, immigration from the Philippines was scheduled to be barred like all East and South Asian countries. However, this changed after World War II. In 1943 Congress gave China a small quota and allowed Chinese immigrants to become U.S. citizens. It did the same for the Philippines and India in 1946. Other foreign-born Asians were not to regain the right of citizenship through naturalization and immigration until 1952.

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