Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Joshua Freeman

Committee Members

Gerald Markowitz

Jonnathan Rosenberg

Subject Categories

American Politics | Ethnic Studies | Labor History | Political History | Social History | United States History


Immigration, ethnicity, citizenship, communist, McCarthyism, Cold War, activism, left


The American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born (ACPFB), was a Communist-affiliated legal advocacy organization that operated from the 1930s through the 1970s, witnessing several periods of ideological and social change in immigration policy and politics. As a radical campaign group, it developed as an outgrowth of the twentieth-century American left and created a distinct platform devoted explicitly to defending the rights of immigrants. Using the courts, popular protest, policy advocacy and other innovative campaign strategies, the group, along with regional affiliates such as the Los Angeles Committee for Protection of Foreign Born, pioneered a framework of constitutional rights and legal protections for the immigrants who were persecuted and threatened with deportation due to their links to the labor left. During the Second Red Scare of the postwar period, their work defending foreign-born radicals against deportation gradually expanded to include other immigrant communities, and more broadly, to broach issues of civil and human rights as an extension of their vision for a more just and humane migration policy.

Over time, the ACPFB and its national network of local and regional branches constructed a broad-based civil rights organization as well as an extensive legal and propaganda apparatus. The agenda centered on reforming Cold War immigration laws and championing the rights and civil liberties of immigrant activists and their communities. Tracking the history of this group over a formative decade of political and cultural tumult sheds light on the ideological evolution of immigrants' rights activism, starting from a time when there was little concrete political foundation for immigrants' rights as a concept, through a period of intense persecution for both migrants and leftist activists, and into the postwar era of liberalized immigration policy. Their historical arc as an advocacy organization and an activist institution shows how leftist activism and the politics of immigrants' rights mutually shaped each other, as both reflections and drivers of social change.


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