The 1920’s in America were classified as the “Roaring Twenties” marked by a period of American prosperity and optimism. However along with the good comes the bad with the rise of the Klu Klux Klan and rising intolerance with the end of World War I and the increase of immigrants coming to America. Many restrictive laws on immigration had been imposed before 1824’s Immigration Act, but they were not enough for the US citizens who felt threatened by the new influx of immigrants. As stated in Document A, the Immigration Act of 1924 restricted “the number of each nationality who may be admitted annually is limited to 2 per cent of the population of such nationality residents in the United States…”. Some factors that influenced Congress to pass the Immigration Act include the need to preserve American ideals, the need to preserve jobs for the “native” Americans, and to restore national and personal income.
In Thomas Bailey Aldrich’s poem, “The Unguarded Gates”, he describes immigrants as “bringing with them unknown gods and rites”. Aldrich’s poem in its entirety displays the worry that US citizens had for immigrants bringing with them religions, ideals and values that were strange and sometimes unknown to them. Immigrants and anyone else who were perceived as “un-American” seemed to threaten the “old ways” that the citizens were trying so hard to preserve. They appreciated that this country was founded on these “old ways” and so they felt they had to preserve these ideals and set of values. Document F stated: “… many of these alien peoples are temperamentally and racially unfitted for easy assimilation.” Americans read many newspaper articles with similar arguments like the one above, that these immigrants would not be able to accept the ways of American life and would only shelter themselves in their communities.
For example, the South End of Hartford has been deemed “Little Italy” for almost two centuries now because when Italians immigrated to America they would go to the areas where there were other people with a similar nationality. Further north of the South End of Hartford lie the “Frog Hollow” section where immigrants of French decent would immigrate to. Furthering the point that immigrants would tend to isolate themselves in their own communities and even refuse to learn the language and culture that America was based on. Document f even went on further to say, “Many second generation Americans from central and Eastern Europe, men with college degrees, are quite unassimilated to American ideals.” This quote illustrates that generations born into America from immigration are still not assimilated to American ideals.
Nevertheless, Document I presented politicians with a clear solution to these unassimilated immigrants slowly destroying American ideals and culture: “I think we have sufficient population in our country for us to shut the door and to breed up a pure, unadulterated American citizenship.” Politicians’ and citizens’ worries would have benefited from closing the “door” completely but that would have not worked because it would have stopped emigration just as well and that was not part of the problem. So politicians went to the next best thing: to place a limit on immigrants let into America. Michael Walzer describes limiting immigration as to “… serve to defend the liberty and welfare, the politics and culture, of a group of people committed to one another and to their common life.” Many Americans and politicians agreed with this view and felt that the Immigration Act would serve to help preserve American ideals.
“Those aliens who deplore our individualistic, capitalistic system are preparing to come over here by the hundred thousand to enjoy our benefits and if possible to join with their fellows already here to short-cut our capital.” This quote taken out of Document F supports the belief that these immigrants who will “deplore” American ways will jump on the opportunity to get rich fast. Document c further explains how immigrants are getting rich off of America but hurting long standing citizens: “… one great reason for their coming is that they believe on the wage which they can receive in America they can establish a higher standard than the one to which they have been accustomed. And this wage for which they are willing to sell their labor is in general appreciably below that which the native American workman requires to support his standard.” This detail displays that American workmen will be constantly “underbid” in the job market by immigrants because they are a source of cheap labor. Immigrants were coming from their native countries and ultimately stealing jobs from the native citizens of America.
These immigrants came to America, stole jobs fro the American workman and began to create fear that if there were many poor workers it would lower wages along with America’s standard of living. As it was, with an influx of immigration between 1921 and 1922, as shown in document B, the economy hurt also, with both Personal and National income both falling around fifteen billion dollars or more. At the time one would agree that there would most likely be a direct correlation between increase of immigration and decrease in income. Then after the immigration Act was institute in 1924 both the National and Personal income rose back up between 1924 and 1925 to normal as compared to the years 1919 and 1920 before the influx of immigration. With data showing job wages decreasing and income decreasing it furthered support for the immigration Act.
In summary, the Immigration Act of 1924 served to limit the number of immigrants coming into America. Politicians listening to endless debates on the topic were probably persuaded to vote in favor of the bill by the arguments to help preserve American ideals, reserve jobs for natural American workmen, and to help restore economy and keep America’s standard of living high. Immigrants posed a threat to America and can be seen today as “invading” this country with their ideals. It is believed that any established country will impose a limit on immigration to better their country. The immigration act was ultimately passed, based on these persuading factors.
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