World War II
The threat of war in Europe, and a growing view of immigration as a national security rather than an economic issue, reshaped the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s (INS) mission. In 1940, Presidential Reorganization Plan Number V moved the INS from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice.
The United States’ entry into World War II brought additional change as many Service personnel enlisted in the Armed Forces. This left INS short of experienced staff. At the same time, INS Headquarters temporarily moved to Philadelphia for the course of the war.
Aiding the War Effort
New national security duties led to the INS’ rapid growth through World War II. The agency’s workforce doubled from approximately 4,000 to 8,000 employees as INS instituted the following programs in support of the war effort:
- Recording and fingerprinting every noncitizen in the United States through the Alien Registration Program;
- Organizing and operating internment camps and detention facilities for enemy noncitizens;
- Overseeing the expedited naturalization of more than 100,000 members of the U.S. armed forces, including 13,587 soldiers naturalized abroad in nation’s first overseas naturalization ceremonies.
- Increased Border Patrol operations;
- Record checks related to security clearances for immigrant defense workers; and
- Administration of a program to import agricultural laborers to harvest the crops left behind by American workers who went to war.
During the war the INS was relieved the responsibility of enforcing the Chinese Exclusion Act, which Congress repealed in 1943. Other war-time developments included conversion to a new record-keeping system and implementation of the Nationality Act of 1940.