Digital History>eXplorations>Japanese American Internment>Internment and the Law>The Alien Registration Act or Smith Act of 1940
Alien Registration Act or Smith Act (18 USC 2385) of 1940
act made it a criminal offense for anyone to "knowingly or
willfully advocate, abet, advise, or teach 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 to affiliate
with any such association." It also required all non-citizen
adult residents to register with the government; within four months
4,741,971 aliens had registered under the Acts provisions.
Act is best known for its use against political organizations
and figures, mostly on the left. Prosecutions continued until
a series of United States Supreme Court decisions in 1957 threw
out numerous convictions under the Smith Act as unconstitutional.
The statute remains on the books, however.
Act was proposed by Congressman Howard Smith of Virginia, a right
wing legislator who supported the poll tax and was a leader of
the "anti-labor" bloc of Congressmen. It was signed
into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.