Date: Signed into law on July 3, 1946 The Law: Federal law that eased immigration sanctions on Asian Indians and Filipinos Also known as: Immigration Act of 1946
Significance: The Luce-Celler Bill overturned several decades of federal immigration laws that discriminated against specific Asian nationalities by reopening immigration from India and the Philippines and granting the right of naturalization to immigrants from those countries.
Before entering World War II in late 1941, the U. S. government sought to enlist the assistance of a number of countries to join forces against the expansionist German regime that threatened to destroy much of Europe. Filipinos and Asian Indians were enlisted in the cause, but they soon found they were not allowed to immigrate to the United States and become citizens because of legal restrictions imposed on even those who served the United States during the war.
The Luce-Celler Bill permitted Filipinos and Indians who had entered the United States legally to be naturalized as citizens. At the same time, the law imposed a quota of one hundred Indian immigrants per year, effectively activating a provision of a federal law enacted earlier during the twentieth century. When a wave of Indian people began during the late nineteenth century, the United States responded with the Naturalization Act of 1870, which denied Asians the right to gain citizenship. The discrimination that followed the Indian race stemmed from the word “caucasian”and the courts’ interpretation of what race was “white enough” to gain citizenship.
The Luce-Celler Bill also permitted the naturalization of Filipinos, who had lost their status as American nationals with the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934, when the Philippines took its first legal step toward independence from the United States. President Harry S. Truman signed the bill into law on July 3, 1946—the day before the Philippines became fully independent.
Karel S. Sovak
Daniels, Roger. Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882. New York: Hill & Wang, 2004.
Jensen, Joan M. Passage from India: Asian Indian Immigrants in North America. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988.
Karnow, Stanley. In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines. New York: Random House, 1989. Leonard, Karen Isaksen. The South Asian Americans.
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997. Stern, Jennifer. The Filipino Americans. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.
See also: Asian immigrants; Asian Indian immigrants; Asiatic Barred Zone; Asiatic Exclusion League; Congress, U. S.; Filipino immigrants; Filipino Repatriation Act of 1935; History of immigration after 1891; Immigration Act of 1943; Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965; Immigration law; United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind.