A Hundred Years of Immigration Quotas: The 1921 Emergency Quota Act and U.S. Immigration Policy

Solicited by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (IEHS). Endorsed by the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (SHGAPE)

Friday, April 16, 2021, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Immigration and Internal Migration; Legal and Constitutional; Race


One hundred years ago, Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, and then, three years later, the 1924 Immigration Act. Together, these laws inaugurated an unprecedented era of immigration restriction, further legitimized discrimination based on race and national origin in U.S. immigration law and established the national origins quota system that remained in force for over forty years. This roundtable will explore the roots and the consequences of the immigration system created by the 1921 and 1924 Immigration Acts.

Session Participants

Chair: Maddalena Marinari, Immigration history, ethnic history, and political history
Maddalena Marinari teaches history at Gustavus Adolphus College. She has published extensively on immigration restriction and immigrant mobilization. She is the author of Unwanted: Italian And Jewish Mobilization Against Restrictive Immigration Laws, 1882-1965 and a co-editor of A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered: U.S. Society in an Age of Restriction, 1924-1965.

Panelist: Adam Goodman, University of Illinois at Chicago
Adam Goodman is an assistant professor of Latin American and Latino Studies and History at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). His research and teaching interests include migration history and policy; Mexican American and Latina/o history; border and borderlands history; and recent U.S., Mexican, and Central American history.

Goodman's book, The Deportation Machine: America’s Long History of Expelling Immigrants (Princeton UP, forthcoming spring 2020), traces the troubling history of the US government’s systematic efforts to terrorize and expel noncitizens over the past 140 years. The book uncovers public officials' use of force, coercion, and fear to purge immigrants from the country and exert control over those who remain. It introduces the politicians, bureaucrats, businesspeople, and ordinary citizens who have pushed for and profited from expulsion. The Deportation Machine chronicles the devastating human costs of punitive enforcement policies and the innovative strategies people have adopted to fight against removal and redefine belonging in ways that transcend citizenship.

Goodman has written articles, essays, and reviews that have appeared or are forthcoming in academic venues like the Journal of American History and the Journal of American Ethnic History, and in popular outlets such as The Nation and the Washington Post. He has received support for his work from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright Program, and Immigration and Ethnic History Society, among others.

Panelist: Romeo Guzman, Claremont Graduate University
I am an assistant professor in U.S. and Public History at Fresno State, where I direct the Valley Public History Initiative. I received my Ph.D. in Latin American history at Columbia University. I am currently writing a book that examines how migrant families used formal politics and daily and cultural practices, to engage U.S. and Mexican citizenship during the twentieth century. I have conducted archival research in Mexico and the U.S. and presented it in France, Mexico and the U.S.

My essays on migration, popular culture, and public history have appeared in a range of outlets, including Tropics of Meta, UC Press’s Boom Magazine, KCET, the encyclopedic volume, Icons of Mexico, and The History of the Family. I am also an editor at the academic blog, Tropics of Meta.

As a child of Mexican migrants and first generation college student, I have worked on initiatives to increase racial and social diversity at Columbia University and sought to build a transnational community of thinkers and cultural workers at La Casa de El Hijo del Ahuizote in Mexico City. As the South El Monte Arts Posse co-director, I have worked on building a new archive for and with South El Monte and El Monte community members. I currently reside in the Central Valley (with regular visits to the San Gabriel Valley) with Carribean Fragoza, the writer, and Aura, our sassy and fierce six year old.

Panelist: Carl D. Lindskoog, Raritan Valley Community College
Professor Lindskoog teaches history at Raritan Valley Community College and the author of Detain and Punish: Haitian Refugees and the Rise of the World’s Largest Immigration Detention System. His current book project focuses on revolution, migration, and the Sanctuary Movement from Reagan to Trump.

Panelist: Yael Schacher, Refugees International
Yael Schacher is a senior U.S. advocate at Refugees International, where she focuses on U.S. asylum, U.S. refugee admissions, temporary protected status, and immigration practices that have refugee protection implications. Prior to joining Refugees International, Yael spent a decade researching the relationship between immigration and refugee policy for her forthcoming book on the history of asylum in the U.S. since the late nineteenth century. She has taught at the University of Connecticut and lectured on immigration history and refugee policy at Harvard Law School, the University of Minnesota, and numerous academic conferences and public forums. In recent years, Yael has focused on direct legal representation of behalf of those seeking asylum and other humanitarian statuses at the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants. Most recently, Yael was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, where she combined historical research on asylum and advocacy on behalf of asylum seekers (with the law school’s immigration clinic and with the organization Justice for Our Neighbors).