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Alien land laws were acts passed to prohibit or otherwise restrict landholding by noncitizens in the United States. Enacted amid mounting anti-Asian sentiment and general xenophobia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such legislation was a predominantly, though not exclusively, western phenomenon.

Anxiety about alien landownership was on the rise during the late nineteenth century, as western and midwestern farmers’ economic conditions grew increasingly tenuous. While many factors contributed to their plight, landholding rights—particularly the interrelated questions of whether the surging ranks of noncitizens and corporations should be entitled to the same land rights as individual citizens—became a focal point of political debate during the post–Civil War era. By the 1880s, sentiment against alien landownership was widespread. At the national level, both the Republican ...

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