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Alien Registration Act of 1940 [updated]

Alien Registration Act of 1940 [updated]

Aug. 28, 1940: During the first day under the Alien Registration Act of 1940, Toyosaku Komai, publisher of Rafu Shimpo, a Los Angeles Japanese-English newspaper, is fingerprinted by Gordon Green, right. Looking on is Frank Huber, left, assistant superintendent of mails at the Los Angeles post office. [A previous version identified H. Toyosaku as being fingerprinted in the above photo.]

In 1940, Congress passed the Alien Registration Act, a national security measure that required all non-citizen adults to register with the government. In addition to alien registration, the act — also know as the Smith Act —  set criminal penalties for advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government.

The next morning, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Registration of Los Angeles’ estimated 125,000 aliens, as required by the Alien Registration Act of 1940, began yesterday at the registration headquarters for the city, established at 660 E. 22nd St. by Postmaster Mary D. Briggs.

Long before the doors of the building opened at 9 a.m., the first persons arrived to tell Uncle Sam all about themselves in compliance with the law.

By late afternoon more than 500 aliens had registered, given the government the required information about themselves and been fingerprinted in compliance with the law.

They ranged from Mexicans, Japanese and Chinese to Poles, Finns, Germans, English and Canadians. Many of them had lived in the United States for years, some as long as 20 years. Many of them, too, had taken out their first citizenship papers….

Registration is in charge of Frank Huber, assistant superintendent of mails at the Los Angeles post office, who had a staff of more than 50 clerks, fingerprint men, stenographers, interpreters and other workers on hand for the job….

Registration will extend for four months, at which time it is expected that all the nation’s 3,600,000 noncitizens will be listed.

In a Nov. 27, 1940, article, The Times reported that 80,000 had registered in Los Angeles.

The three photos in this post were not published in the Times. The images are in the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA.

The Alien Registration forms filled out from 1940 to 1944  are now microfilmed. Access is through this U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Aug. 28, 1940: With the help of clerks, non-citizen Los Angeles residents  register at a center established at 660 E. 22nd St. by the U.S. Post Office. During the first day, about 500 registered. Credit: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

Aug. 28, 1940: Non-citizen Los Angeles residents line up outside the Alien Registration Center at 660 E. 22nd St. Credit: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA


  1. February 14, 2012, 7:39 pm

    The man being fingerprinted is my grandfather Toyosaku Komai (the caption is incorrect). He was the pre-war publisher of the Rafu Shimpo, the largest Japanese English newspaper in Los Angeles. I was told that he wanted to be photographed getting fingerprinted to set a good example for the Japanese community. He believed if the community showed it was willing to cooperate with the government, the government would treat them fairly. But when the war began, the FBI picked up my grandfather on December 7, 1941 and held him, without charge and without trial, until 1946.

    By: Chris Komai
  2. February 15, 2012, 9:18 pm

    Thanks for the information. This post has been corrected.

    By: Scott Harrison

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