Immigration and nationality act

Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952
Other short title(s) McCarran-Walter Act
Long title An Act to revise the laws relating to immigration, naturalization, and nationality; and for other purposes.
Enacted by the  82nd United States Congress
Effective June 27, 1952
Public Law Stat. 66 163
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 5678 by Francis E. Walter (D-PA), Pat McCarran (D-NV) on October 9, 1951
  • Passed the House on April 25, 1952 (passed)
  • Passed the Senate on May 22, 1952 (passed)
  • Reported by the joint conference committee on May 23, 1952; agreed to by the House on June 10, 1952 (adopted) and by the Senate on June 11, 1952 (adopted)
  • Signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on June 27, 1952
  • Vetoed by President Harry S. Truman on June 25, 1952
  • Overridden by the House on June 26, 1952 (278-113)
  • Overridden by the Senate and became law on June 27, 1952 (

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (immigration law but were not organized within one body of text.


H.R. 5678 was named after its sponsors, Senator Pat McCarran (D-Nevada), and Congressman Francis Walter (D-Pennsylvania).

President Truman vetoed the Act because he regarded the bill as "un-American" and discriminatory. His veto message said:[1][2][3]

Today, we are "protecting" ourselves as we were in 1924, against being flooded by immigrants from Eastern Europe. This is fantastic...We do not need to be protected against immigrants from these countries–on the contrary we want to stretch out a helping hand, to save those who have managed to flee into Western Europe, to succor those who are brave enough to escape from barbarism, to welcome and restore them against the day when their countries will, as we hope, be free again....These are only a few examples of the absurdity, the cruelty of carrying over into this year of 1952 the isolationist limitations of our 1924 law.

In no other realm of our national life are we so hampered and stultified by the dead hand of the past, as we are in this field of immigration.

Truman's veto was overridden by a vote of 278 to 113 in the House and 57 to 26 in the Senate.

Speaking in the Senate on March 2, 1953, McCarran said:[4]

I believe that this nation is the last hope of Western civilization and if this oasis of the world shall be overrun, perverted, contaminated or destroyed, then the last flickering light of humanity will be extinguished. I take no issue with those who would praise the contributions which have been made to our society by people of many races, of varied creeds and colors.... However, we have in the United States today hard-core, indigestible blocs which have not become integrated into the American way of life, but which, on the contrary are its deadly enemies. Today, as never before, untold millions are storming our gates for admission and those gates are cracking under the strain. The solution of the problems of Europe and Asia will not come through a transplanting of those problems en masse to the United States.... I do not intend to become prophetic, but if the enemies of this legislation succeed in riddling it to pieces, or in amending it beyond recognition, they will have contributed more to promote this nation's downfall than any other group since we achieved our independence as a nation.


The Act abolished racial restrictions found in United States immigration and naturalization statutes going back to the Naturalization Act of 1790, which had limited naturalization to immigrants who were "free white persons" of "good moral character." The 1952 Act retained a quota system for nationalities and regions. Eventually, the Act established a preference system which determined which ethnic groups were desirable immigrants and placed great importance on labor qualifications.

The Act defined three types of immigrants: immigrants with special skills or relatives of U.S. citizens who were exempt from quotas and who were to be admitted without restrictions; average immigrants whose numbers were not supposed to exceed 270,000 per year; and refugees.

The Act allowed the government to deport immigrants or naturalized citizens engaged in subversive activities and also allowed the barring of suspected subversives from entering the country. It was used to bar members and former members and "fellow travelers" of the Communist Party from entry into the United States, even those who had not been associated with the party for decades.

It expanded the definition of the "United States" for nationality purposes, which already included Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to add Guam. Persons born in these territories on or after December 24, 1952 acquire U.S. citizenship at birth on the same terms as persons born in other parts of the United States.[5]

A 1962 guideline explained procedures under the Act:[6]

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 requires an alien to apply for a petition for naturalization. This form may be obtained from any office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, a division of the Department of Justice, or from any court authorized to naturalize aliens.

Before applying, an alien must be at least 18 years old and must have been lawfully admitted to live permanently in the United States. He must have lived in the United States for five years and for the last six months in the state where he seeks to be naturalized. In some cases, he need only have lived three years in the United States. He must be of good moral character and "attached to the principles of the Constitution". The law states that an alien is not of good moral character if he is a drunkard, has committed adultery, has more than one wife, makes his living by gambling, has lied to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, has been in jail more than 180 days for any reason during his five years in the United States, or is a convicted murderer.


Among those excluded under the Act before it was amended in 1990 were:[7]


Parts of the Act remain in place today, but it has been amended many times and was modified substantially by the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965.

When regulations issued under the authority of the Passport Act of 1926 were challenged in passport. Until that legislation, under the Travel Control Act of 1918, the president had the authority to require passports for foreign travel only in time of war.

As a result of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Act underwent a major restructuring beginning in March 2003 and its provisions regarding the admissibility and removability of terrorist suspects have received much media and scholarly attention.

See also


External links

  • Bertram M. Bernard Immigration Law Index, U.S. immigration and nationality law, 1952–82
  • Immigration and Nationality Act (2011) HTML version