Reflecting the growing popularity of the eugenics movement (see also: Eugenics Movement fuels nativism and racism, 1915) in the early twentieth century, the Immigration Act of 1917 expanded the criteria for inadmissibility to the United States to include illiteracy, epilepsy, and mental illness. The 1917 Act also established the Asiatic Barred Zone, which extended exclusionary measures aimed at would-be Chinese immigrants (see also:Chinese immigrants face exclusion) to include all of Asia and the Pacific Rim.
This law came on the heels of several other pieces of legislation that curtailed immigration, including the 1903 Anarchist Exclusion Act, the first law barring entry based on political opinion, and the Immigration Act of 1907, which barred entry to individuals whose physical or mental capacities might “affect the ability to earn a living.” Additionally, the Expatriation Act of 1907 revoked the citizenship of any U.S. American woman who chose to marry a foreign national. In this same period, immigration officials also grew concerned with immigrants whom they perceived to be gender and sexual dissidents. Though the term “homosexuality” would not appear in immigration law until the 1950s, officials increasingly used the 1917 Act to deny entry to such persons on the grounds that they were “likely to become a public charges.”