From the Archives: Alien Registration Act of 1940


In 1940, Congress passed the Alien Registration Act, a national security measure that required all noncitizen adults to register with the government. In addition, the act — also known as the Smith Act — set criminal penalties for advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Registration was done through the U.S. Postal Service. In the image above, newspaper publisher Toyosaku Komai is fingerprinted by Gordon Green with Frank Huber, left, assistant superintendent of mails at the Los Angeles post office, looking on.

The next morning, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Registration of Los Angeles’ estimated 125,000 aliens, as required by the Alien Registration Act of 1940, began yesterday at the registration headquarters for the city, established at 660 E. 22nd St. by Postmaster Mary D. Briggs.


Long before the doors of the building opened at 9 a.m., the first persons arrived to tell Uncle Sam all about themselves in compliance with the law.

By late afternoon more than 500 aliens had registered, given the government the required information about themselves and been fingerprinted in compliance with the law.

They ranged from Mexicans, Japanese and Chinese to Poles, Finns, Germans, English and Canadians. Many of them had lived in the United States for years, some as long as 20 years. Many of them, too, had taken out their first citizenship papers….

Registration is in charge of Frank Huber, assistant superintendent of mails at the Los Angeles post office, who had a staff of more than 50 clerks, fingerprint men, stenographers, interpreters and other workers on hand for the job….

Registration will extend for four months, at which time it is expected that all the nation’s 3,600,000 noncitizens will be listed.

In a Nov. 27, 1940, article, The Times reported that 80,000 noncitizens had registered in Los Angeles.

This post was originally published on Feb. 14, 2012.