Before Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, there were several restrictions for immigrants who desired a better life in the United States. “Immigrants and anyone else perceived as “un-American” seemed to threaten the old ways” (Nash pg. 749). Several Acts had been passed, one of them passed in 1882 prohibited the entry of criminal, paupers and the insane, and special agreements like the one that restricted both Chinese and Japanese immigration in 1908. Another Act was passed in 1917 over President Wilson’s veto, for the first time in history an act that required a literacy test came in action.
“Under the act of 1924 the number of each nationality who may be admitted annually is limited to 2 per cent of the population of such nationality resident in the united states according to the census of 1890” (Document A). In other words, Congress limited European immigration to 3 per cent of the number of each nationality present in the country in 1910 but changed the quota to only 2 per cent in 1924.
The immigration Act of 1924 established quotas for immigration based on the US population of each ethnic group in 1910. It made it even more difficult for people from southern and eastern Europe to migrate, only 2 percent of the given year 1890 not 3 per cent as in 1810. In the United States bureau of the census, historical statistics of the Unites states can be found, in here we can find how many southern and eastern Europeans entered the us between 1900 and the outbreak of the World War I, especially in the peak of 1907(Document B).
This Act had four main principal factors, which influenced Congress into accepting this new act. These four reasons were mainly over political, economic, social and cultural (ethnic) issues.
Political issues were very important when deciding the faith of the Immigration Act. In Philadelphia Inquirer you can see a Bulsobist trying to get under the US flag, trying to incorporate Anarchism to the US (Document E). This fear that this could be any alien migrating to the United States contributed into passing the Act of 1924. Also, for this exact reason The Saturday Evening Post published in 1920 that, “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 to fortune by confiscating our capital” (Document F).
In other words they did not want any one to migrate to the United States to be safe in case anyone wanting to interfere with the government and it’s economy. Also, some organizations declared in favor of the bill to limit the immigration of aliens into the United States. This were patriotic organizations including the sons of the American Revolution and the American Legion, Organized labor, farmers and other member of a coalition (Document H).
Not only politic issues influence in this decision, as mentioned before, economy was another big issue. In the editorial of 1020, The Saturday Evening Post published that “a manufacturer wants cheap labor” (Document F), meaning that the United States only wanted certain people to work cheaply for them. Certainly, money was something that Americans valorized a lot. Henry P. Fairchild published his book called Immigration in 1913. Where he wrote “as a major premise, it will be granted that the standard of living of the working classes of the United States has been and still is superior to that of the nations which have furnished the bulk of the immigrants” (Document C). What Fairchild means by this is that people who migrate to the United States are not well educated and have not the same ideal. Therefore they do not know how to live like the rest of the Americans and will not know how to keep up with them, which could be a harm to the US.
Another factor that influenced the Congress of the United States was social and cultural control. Americans thought that their race was superior and better that the rest. They wanted a society where only Anglo-Saxons lived. Senator Ellison d. smith, from South Carolina said on April 9, 1924, “I think we now have sufficient population in our country for us to shut the door and to breed up a pure, unadulterated American citizenship” (Document I). This was another reason why they did not wanted to allow more aliens, that way they would not be able to get in the way of the perfect race.
Culture was also trying to be controlled by not allowing more outsiders. Mr. Morgan Keaton from California wrote to John E. Raker in San Francisco in 1924, “We are standind behing you 100 per cent in your fight to make this coast a white man’s country” (Document G). By passing the Immigration Act, congress thought that Anglo-Saxon race was going to breed purely, this is the reason why Keaton supported Raker in his opinion.
In short, the Immigration Act passed in 1924 had only one purpose and that was to restrict immigration to the United States. “Arguments for unrestricted immigration always go back to some petty selfish reason–never to the greatest good of the country… aliens want to take over our property and our country” (Document F). In other words there was no reason to let immigrants into the US since they really did not care about the country but for them selves. There were four main factors, which were used to influence Congress into passing this Act. One was to maintain political control, another had to do with US economy, thirdly was society and last but not least cultural control.
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