The Alien Registration Act of 1940 (Smith Act) was passed as the world stage was set for World War II. Like the Alien Sedition Acts of 1798, the law was intended to protect Americans from “corrupting” foreign political influences (e.g., socialism and communism) and domestic political dissent. The Smith Act accomplished this goal in two main ways: It made it a federal criminal offense to advocate or organize the overthrow of any U.S. government, and it required noncitizen adults to register their occupational status and political beliefs with ...

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