It was a bizarre situation. The U.S. government, which months earlier had deemed Tsien too dangerous to send back to China, now ordered his deportation. And Tsien, the Chinese alien who had tried desperately to leave then, was now fighting for the privilege to stay.
An explanation given by the INS years later claims that there were two separate government policies working against Tsien. One was the 1918 Anarchist Act, which had been revised under the Internal Security Act of 1950. It had been created by Congress to expel those aliens who might subvert the United States political system. It was under this law that the INS hoped to deport Tsien. But at the same time, the Department of State was charged with preventing the departure of aliens whose technical training might be used by an enemy nation to undermine military defense. Tsien's experience in jet propulsion no doubt placed him in this category.
"Obviously, Dr. Tsien was caught between two contradictory policies," wrote Marian Smith, INS historian. "Other subversives of the time were ordered deported, but the majority of them were not Chinese scientists. Similarly, other Chinese scientists were prevented from departing, but most of them were not already under deportation orders."