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Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA)

Also known as the McCarran-Walter Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 was intended to reform immigration laws often criticized for harming U.S. international relations. But rather than dismantle the controversial policies, the act reinforced them by upholding the national origins quota system established by the Immigration Act of 1924.

The INA continued to codify the National Origins Quota System, which set annual national immigration quotas at one-sixth of one percent of each nationality’s population in the United States in 1920. Consequently, 85 percent of the nearly 155,000 visas available were allotted to people born in northern or western Europe.

The new law also symbolically created pathways for immigration for people from Asia by removing previous laws preventing immigration from Asia and eliminating laws preventing them from naturalizing. But it also imposed a 100-visa annual limit for every Asian country, as well as created a quota system based on race, rather than nationality, in which an individual with one or more Asian parent, born anywhere in the world and possessing the citizenship of any nation, would be counted toward the national quota of the Asian nation of their race. The low quota allotment and the discriminatory racial construction for how to apply ensured total Asian immigration remained very low.

President Truman vetoed the act, but the law had enough support in Congress to pass over his veto.