The Visa Division of the State Department, which had refrained from listing Jews as such on visa applications, is adopting a new system by which all Jews must be so identified. This was confirmed today by State Department sources.Visa officials explained that the new listing is required because of “ethnic” data demanded by the McCarran-Walter Omnibus Immigration Act. The act goes into effect on December 24.Anticipating the application of the new act, visa chief Herve J. L’Heureux has issued preliminary orders to consular officers to elicit information on whether or not applicants are Jewish. The Visa Division has cited section 222-A of the McCarran-Walter Act as its authority. This section requires that each alien “shall state his race and ethnic classification.”A Visa Division source said Jews would be identified as a “special group” but that he did not yet have access to the “new details which are being worked out.”Despite the fact that the new law is not yet in effect, Jewish visa applicants have already been asked if they were Jewish as a point of information.
Immigration attorneys here point out that aliens who fail to provide an “ethnic classification” which satisfies the consular authorities may be arbitrarily denied visas under the new act. The penalty for not telling the truth is to be denied a visa, yet no definition is furnished of what constitutes the various “ethnic classifications.”
Finally, on September 18, after a month of criticism:
Eight national Jewish agencies issued a statement today announcing receipt of assurances from the State Department that “existing State Department policy does not require questioning of applicants for visas as to whether they are Jewish” and that “where consular officials inquire if applicants are Jewish, they do so without authority and in violation of State Department policy.”
But for a while in 1952, Jews who wanted to immigrate to the US were considered non-Caucasian and required to identify themselves as such. And they could potentially have been denied visas based on their Jewishness.
The co-author of the Act, Pat McCarran, definitely had limiting Jewish immigration in mind when he wrote it. "Senator Pat McCarran (D-Nevada), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposed an immigration bill to maintain status quo in the United States and to safeguard the country from Communism, "Jewish interests", and undesirables that he deemed as external threats to national security."
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