As U.S. nationals from a colony of the United States, Filipinos could not be excluded along with other Asians. To resolve this problem, exacerbated by fervent anti-Filipino campaigns on the west coast, Congress promised eventual independence to the Philippines in 1945. This change in status allowed Congress to impose an immigration quota of 50 persons per year, effectively ending Filipino immigration.
AN ACT To provide for the complete independence of the Philippine Islands, to provide for the adoption of a constitution and a form of government for the Philippine Islands, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States o f America in Congress assembled,
CONVENTION TO FRAME CONSTITUTION FOR PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
SECTION 1. The Philippine Legislature is hereby authorized to provide for the election of delegates to a constitutional convention, Which shall meet in the hall of the house of representatives in the capital of the Philippine Islands, at such time as the Philippine Legislature may fix, but not later than October 1, 1934, to formulate and draft a constitution for the government of the Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands, subject to the conditions and qualifications prescribed in this Act, which shall exercise jurisdiction over all the territory ceded to the United States by the treaty of peace concluded between the United States and Spain on the 10th day of December 1898, the boundaries of which are set forth in article, III of said treaty, together with those islands embraced in the treaty between Spain and the United States concluded at Washington on the 7th day of November 1900. The Philippine Legislature shall provide for the necessary expenses of such convention.
RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES PENDING COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE
. . . .
(1) For the purposes of the Immigration Act of 1917, the Immigration Act of 1924 (except section 13(c)) this section, and all other laws of the United States relating to the immigration, exclusion, or expulsion of aliens, citizens of the Philippine Islands who are not citizens of the United States shall be considered as if they were aliens. For such purposes the Philippine Islands shall be considered as a separate country and shall have for each fiscal year a quota of fifty. This paragraph shall not apply to a person coming or seeking to come to the Territory of Hawaii who does not apply for and secure an immigration or passport visa, but such immigration shall be determined by the Department of the Interior on the basis of the needs of industries in the Territory of Hawaii .
Independence, under commonwealth status, reproduced many features of the colonial relationship. Citizens of the Philippine Commonwealth continued to owe allegiance to the United States, yet the act declared that “citizens of the Philippine Islands who are not citizens of the United States shall be considered as if they are aliens” and that “for such purposes the Philippine Islands shall be considered a separate country” with an annual immigration quota of fifty. Because the minimum quota for all countries under the Immigration Act of 1924 was one hundred, the Philippine quota was a gratuitous gesture meant to degrade Filipinos to a status something short of nationhood, their American tutelage placing them just barely above the fully excludable Asiatic races . . . .
The Salinas Philippines Mail called the Tydings-McDuffie Act “a bait to entrap us . . . It restricts our liberty of action. We cannot send our products [into] American markets. We cannot come to the United States. We must stay home and slave to pay off principal and interest on bonds held by foreign capitalists.” Indeed, with independence at least a decade away and by losing the protection of the tariff and the right to enter the United States without restriction, Filipinos would seem to have been handed a poor bargain.
Ngai, M. M. (2004). Impossible subjects: Illegal aliens and the making of modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.