This law legalized and bureaucratized labor recruitment practices similar to indentured servitude to encourage immigration to the United States and economic development. It allowed employers, such as railroad and mining interests, to contract an immigrant workers to come to the United States under guidelines established by the federal government. Under the law, immigrant workers would pay for their passage with up to a year’s wages. Although many poor Europeans had arrived as indentured servants during the colonial period, the practice had ended in the 1820s. In the face of vociferous protests by labor organizations, Congress repealed this law in 1868.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint a Commissioner of Immigration . . . .
SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That all contracts that shall be made by emigrants to the United States in foreign countries, in conformity to regulations that may be established by the said Commissioner, whereby emigrants shall pledge the wages of their labor for a term not exceeding twelve months to repay the expenses of their emigration . . . .
SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That there shall be established in the City of New-York an office to be known as the United States Emigrant Office; and there shall be appointed, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, an officer for said City, to be known as Superintendent of Immigration . . . and such Superintendent shall, under the direction of the Commissioner of Immigration, make contracts with the different railroads and transportation companies of the United States for transportation tickets, to be furnished to such immigrants, and to be paid for by them, and shall, under such rules as may be prescribed by the Commissioner of Immigration, protect such immigrants from imposition and fraud, and shall furnish them such information and facilities as will enable them to proceed in the cheapest and most expeditious manner to the place of their destination…
APPROVED, July 4,1864.