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12 The history of the treatment of alien residents in the United States reveals tension between the liberty of the individual, as expressed in state and federal bills of rights, and the security of the nation. The concepts of “guilt by suspicion” and “guilt by association” pervaded statutory law concerning aliens from as early as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, a series of four bills passed by the Federalists in the aftermath of the French Revolution to remove po­ liti­ cal heresy and to silence dissent that might undermine their administration.1­ These laws asserting the power of the government over the public initiated a pattern of imposing limits on civil liberties through legislation and executive action during the Civil War, the World Wars, and the Cold War.2 In all cases, government policy was directly ­ shaped by fears that foreigners on American soil would commit disloyal acts and threaten U.S. security. ­ Those fears ­ were typically heightened by a broader cultural xenophobia that has existed at vari­ ous key moments in American history. The widespread xenophobia of the late nineteenth and early twentieth­ century led to specific immigration laws and restrictions that also laid the groundwork for the national security programs applied to Italians during World War II. Beginning in 1875, the United States initiated immigration and deportation procedures of a summary and nonjudicial nature that ­ were designed to keep out undesirable races, the poor, and the physically infirm.3­ Toward the end of the nineteenth ­ century, a fear grew of aliens with radical po­ liti­ cal beliefs, despite the basic conservatism of peasant immigrants in their yearning for tradition (especially religion), status, and authority.4 In 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court deci­ ded that deportation was not a punishment for crime but an administrative pro­ cess for the return of undesirable alien residents.5 As a consequence, immigration officials could follow procedures that guaranteed results instead of providing due pro­ cess for deportees . Fearing anarchists, Congress passed a series of immigration acts beginning in 1903 that excluded certain immigrants from entry into the United States ­ because of presumed beliefs and associations.6 The Naturalization Act of 1906 ­ under President Theodore Roo­ se­ velt further targeted alien radicals in requiring an oath that the alien was not opposed to or­ ga­ nized chapter one The ­ Legal and Po­ liti­ cal History of Italian Immigrants in the United States before 1941 government, supported the U.S. Constitution, and had exhibited five years of good moral character.7 Hysteria over the threat to security posed by resident aliens heightened with the entry of the United States into World War I. ­ After signing the declaration of war in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation invoking the 1798 Alien ­ Enemy Act, asserting his right to apprehend and deport alien enemies, and requiring them to register. Regulations enforceable by the attorney general prohibited alien enemies from possessing , among other ­ things, guns, explosives, and radio transmitters, from coming within a half mile of military zones, from entering and leaving the United States, and from publishing attacks or threats against the government .8 Attorney General Thomas Gregory instructed his department that his plan was to consider each individual alien ­ enemy separately.9 John Lord O’Brian, head of the Justice Department’s Emergency War Division, interned German and Austro-­ Hungarian aliens for the duration of the war whenever a government official had reasonable doubts about the alien’s reliability , and he overruled clemency pleas, believing that the law required internment whenever an alien appeared to pose any mea­ sure of danger.10 Some 2,300 Germans nationwide, including crew members and sailors of German steamships seized by the federal government when the United States declared war against Germany, ­ were taken into custody and interned at Hot Springs, North Carolina.11 In addition to ­ these activities within the executive branch, national anxiety over alien radicals also found expression in legislation. The Espionage Act of 1917 was an aggressive mea­ sure designed to ferret out disloyal ele­ ments in the population. This act made it a crime to make or convey false reports for the purpose of interfering with American military success, to cause disloyalty in the military, or to obstruct recruitment or enlistment in the armed forces.12 Although it was intended to protect the armed forces from propaganda, the Justice Department and the judiciary used the Espionage Act of 1917 to suppress all “disloyal utterances.”13 The Immigration Act of 1918 expanded...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469634364
Related ISBN
9781469634333
MARC Record
OCLC
1005354200
Pages
250
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Language
English
Open Access
No
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