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Palmer raids

Tom Collins


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Between November 1919 and February 1920, the US Department of Justice carried out raids against suspected radical organizations, rounding up more than 6,000 “alien agitators” with the intention of deporting them. Many were arrested without warrants, denied legal counsel, and detained for months. Ultimately around 800 individuals, identified as communists or anarchists, were expelled from the United States. A. Mitchell Palmer, the politically ambitious attorney general in the Woodrow Wilson administration, oversaw the raids. He was spurred by public alarm about a perceived “red threat” following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and violent domestic incidents such as the bombing by radicals of Palmer's own home in June 1919. Palmer drew upon the Immigration Act of 1918 as his mechanism to launch the raids. This Act stipulated that aliens were subject to deportation if they belonged to an organization that espoused political violence. Under the immigration laws, deportation was regarded as an administrative function, in which the alien had no constitutional protections. The Justice Department could thereby target radical aliens without needing to prove their criminality through court proceedings. In November 1919, Palmer acted against members of the Union of Russian Workers. The headquarters in New York City operated primarily to provide basic social services for workingmen, most ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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