“Hungarian Gypsies all of whom were deported” reads the caption of this photo, published alongside a February 12, 1905 New York Times piece.
The article tells of the pressure on William Williams, the new commissioner of immigration, to judge who was fit to enter America and who was deemed undesirable and kicked back to Europe.
His job was to carry out the law—namely the 1891 Immigration Act, which put tougher restrictions on who was allowed into the United States.
“A strict execution of our present laws makes it possible to keep out what may be teemed the worst riff-raff of Europe—paupers, diseased persons, and those likely to become public charges—and to this extent these laws are most vaulable,” Williams told the Times.
“But these laws do not reach a large body of immigrants, who, while not riff-raff, are yet generally undesirable, because unintelligent, of low vitality, of poor physique, able to perform only the cheapest kind of manual labor, desiring to locate almost exclusively in the cities, by their competition tending to reduce the standard of living of the American wage-worker, and unfitted, morally or mentally, for good citizenship.”