Abstract

Between the spring of 1920 and early 1921, the Assistant Secretary of Labor, Progressive-turned-bureaucrat Louis Freeland Post, refused to sign the warrants that would have been used to deport almost three thousand alleged immigrant radicals detained as a result of the Palmer Raids. Although this action has long been remembered as a triumph of US civil liberties, this article argues that Post’s objections to the deportations were grounded in his concern with the growing capabilities of mechanized bureaucracy and the tendency of these managerial technologies to discourage informed adjudication. Rather than opposing laws that would allow for the deportation of political radicals, Post vocally protested the “sign on the dotted line” style of governance he was expected to enact. As a result of his inaction, participants at every level of the emerging gate-keeping and immigration system objected to Post’s inability to let the deportation “machine” run.

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