The Immigration Act of 1891 centralized immigration enforcement authority in the federal government, overriding state governments’ previous responsibilities to carry out federal immigration laws. The Act also extended immigration inspections to land borders and created the Office of Superintendent of Immigration to supervise new immigration inspectors at points of entry within the Treasury Department, which was charged with overseeing immigration law in 1882. Beyond strengthening the federal government’s power to enforce immigration law, the 1891 Act also placed further regulations on contract labor and expanded the list of excludable and deportable immigrants to include felons, polygamists, “all idiots, insane persons, paupers or persons likely to become a public charge” as well as those suffering from infectious diseases.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
That the following classes of aliens shall be excluded from admission into the United States, in accordance with the existing acts regulating immigration, other than those concerning Chinese laborers: All idiots, insane persons, paupers or persons likely to become a public charge, persons suffering from a loathsome or a dangerous contagious disease, persons who have been convicted of a felony or other infamous crime or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, polygamists, and also any person whose ticket or passage is paid for with the money of another or who is assisted by others to come . . . .
SEC. 3. That it shall be deemed a violation of said act . . . to assist or encourage the importation or migration of any alien by promise of employment through advertisements printed and published in any foreign country . . . .
SEC. 7. That the office of superintendent of immigration is hereby created and established . . . The superintendent of immigration shall be an officer in the Treasury Department, under the control and supervision of the Secretary of the Treasury . . . .
That the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe rules for inspection along the borders of Canada, British Columbia, and Mexico . . . .
All duties imposed and powers conferred upon State commissioners, boards, or officers acting under contract with the Secretary of the Treasury shall be performed and exercised . . . by the inspection officers of the United States . . . .