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Letter: Old immigration laws discriminated

Immigration activists march along Front Street in Hempstead

Immigration activists march along Front Street in Hempstead on May 1, 2015, calling for an end to deportations and for laws granting millions legal status. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

I’ve been hearing presidential contenders and others say it’s un-American to limit immigration according to nationality or race. Our country opens its borders to all [“Cruz may have an edge in Utah,” News, March 20].

Obviously, our history has been ignored because it is not politically correct in 2016. The Immigration Act of 1921 imposed a quota from 1921 to 1924. This federal law limited the annual number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 3 percent of their number already living in the United States.

The Immigration Act of 1924, or the Johnson–Reed Act, included the National Origins Act and Asian Exclusion Act. It reduced the cap to 2 percent from 3 percent set by the 1921 law.

These laws primarily aimed to restrict immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans. They severely restricted the immigration of Africans and outright banned Arabs and Asians. According to the U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, the purpose of the act was “to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity.” Congressional opposition was minimal.

I’m a descendant of Southern Europeans whose family was prevented from immigrating to the United States under the 1924 act.

Catherine Tsounis, Oakland Gardens