Boyle Heights Victory House; courtesy the Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley
Human Rights and the Opening of Borders
World War II profoundly changed many Americans' views on immigration. Having witnessed the horrors and devastation of the Holocaust, American leaders were compelled to pay greater attention to the question of human rights around the globe. Many Americans also saw newsreel footage and read articles about the many millions of Jewish, Polish, and war refugees who no longer had a nation or a place to call home. They reconsidered and rejected the restrictive immigration laws that had dominated U.S. policy since the 1920s. The war marked the beginning of a period of liberalization toward immigration. Still, liberalization meant a loosening of restrictions rather than a return to the policy of open borders.
Repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act
The first major instance of immigration liberalization came in 1943 with the repeal of the 60-year-old Chinese Exclusion Act. The repeal, however, was brought about largely as a matter of wartime propaganda responding to Japanese claims of American racism; following the repeal, only 105 Chinese were allowed to enter the United States each year.