Washington state legislators pass the Alien Land Law in 1921.

  • By Heather MacIntosh
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2124

In 1921, Washington state legislators pass the Alien Land Law restricting property ownership. Washington's 1889 constitution had banned the sale of land to "aliens ineligible in citizenship." Asians were the only immigrants ineligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens. The new law extended the restrictions to cover leasing or renting land and renewing old leases.

Issei (first generation Japanese immigrant) farmers got around the law by making arrangements with white farmers, who would technically own the land and employ the Japanese farmers as "managers." Issei farmers also bought land in the names of their children (Nisei), who were American citizens by virtue of being born in the U.S., or in the name of other, older Nisei, but that loophole was closed by a 1923 amendment to the land law.


David A. Takami, Divided Destiny: A History of Japanese Americans in Seattle (Seattle: Wing Luke Asian Museum and University of Washington Press, 1998); Japanese Americans: From Relocation to Redress, ed. by Roger Daniels, et. al. (University of Washington Press: Seattle, 1991), pp. 168-169.

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