The Alien Registration Act 1940

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The Alien Registration Act 1940

The Alien Registration Act 1940, often known as the Smith Act (18 USC 2385), was enacted in 1940.

Anyone who “knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing the Government of the United States or of any State by force or violence, or for anyone to organize any association which teaches, advises, or encourages such an overthrow, or for anyone to become a member of or affiliate with any such association” was charged under this act. It also compelled all non-citizen adult inhabitants to register with the government; the Act’s provisions resulted in 4,741,971 aliens registering within four months.

The Act is primarily recognized for being used against left-wing political organizations and persons. Prosecutions persisted until a series of Supreme Court decisions in 1957 overturned numerous Smith Act convictions as invalid. However, the law is still in effect.

Congressman Howard Smith of Virginia, a right-wing congressman who supported the poll tax and was a leader of the “anti-labor” congressional majority, introduced the Act. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law.

 

Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof–

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in this section, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

As used in this section, the terms “organizes” and “organize”, with respect to any society, group, or assembly of persons, include the recruiting of new members, the forming of new units, and the regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes, and other units of such society, group, or assembly of persons.

Download Full text of The Alien Registration Act 1940

 

SEE ALSO:

Yelling “Fire!” in a Crowded Theater – Schenck v. US;

The Hollywood Ten (1948);

Rejection of the Alien Registration Act (1951);

The Rosenberg Trial (1951);

The Communist Control Act (1954).

 

SOURCES:

The Alien Registration Act 1940

Image link for the The Alien Registration Act 1940

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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