11.11.1 - Immigration and Restriction in Twentieth Century America
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Immigration and Restriction in Twentieth-Century America
Clips from The New York Tribune, 1920
Danielle Vigneaux, Ph.D. Candidate University of California, Irvine
Immigration Restriction 1924-1965 • Created a new ethnic and racial map based on new categories and hierarchies of difference • Articulated a new sense of territoriality, marked by unprecedented awareness and state surveillance of the nation’s contiguous land borders • Created illegal immigration and the illegal alien, whose inclusion within the nation was simultaneously a social reality and legal impossibility – a subject barred from citizenship
Immigration before the 1920s • U.S. Immigration was numerically unrestricted • Free global movement of labor (encourages movement from capitalism’s rural peripheries to industrializing centers) • Until the late Nineteenth Century, immigrants came largely from northern and eastern Europe, but immigrants also came from southern and western Europe, as well as from China
Early Tensions over Immigration • The 1870 census counted 63,000 Chinese, ¾ of Chinese in CA, and most of them men • the 1880 census counted 105,000 Chinese, more than 70% of whom lived in CA, at a 20:1 male-to-female gender ratio • Completion of the Union-Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah in 1869 makes Chinese immigration a growing concern for westerners
Harper’s Weekly, 1879 New York
"Pale face 'fraid you crowd him out, as he did me."
The Wasp, 1882 San Franciso, CA
1882 Chinese Exclusion Act • Prohibited entry of Chinese laborers – defined as “both skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining” • Initially intended as a 10-year ban, the law became more stringent over time • The Chinese Exclusion Act made Asians racially ineligible for naturalization (broadened by Supreme Court cases Takao Ozawa v. U.S. in 1922 & U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind in 1923) • Racial requirements for citizenship were not abolished until 1952 (McCarran-Walter Act)
Enduring Contention The Wasp, 1889 San Francisco, CA
European Immigration & Restriction • The U.S. Immigration Service excluded only 1% of the 25 million immigrants from Europe from 1880 through WWI • Excluded individuals: criminals, prostitutes, paupers, the diseased and anarchists • The Immigration Act of 1917 – Made literacy a requirement for admission – Intended to reduce immigration from southern and eastern Europe – Gendered implications of the literacy requirement – Targeting of anarchists and communists (Palmer Raids)
Causes of Increased Restriction WWI Refugee Crisis Specter of millions of destitute European war refugees seeking entry into the United States
The Day Book, March 7, 1917 Chicago, Illinois
Causes of Increased Restriction • Domestic Politics during the WWI Era – Nativism: the intense opposition to an internal minority on the grounds of its foreign (i.e., “unAmerican”) connections – Eugenics: the idea that social undesirability derived from innate character deficiencies, perceived to be biologically rooted in race, gender, or “bad blood” – Organized Labor and concerns about domestic job scarcity
• Rising Role of Nationalism in Immigration Policy & Exclusion – Anti-Bolshevism
Emergency Quota Act of 1921 • First numerical restrictions on immigration • 3% quotas based on the 1910 census – Quotas based on the number of foreign-born in the population in 1910
• Nativists disfavored the legislation – They felt the numbers allowed for too many new southern and eastern Europeans to immigrate (northern/western Europeans received 55% of the quotas and southern/eastern Europeans received 45% of the quotas)
Responses to the Emergency Quota Act
The Lehi Sun, April 28, 1921 Lehi, Utah
Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924 • First comprehensive restriction law • First established numerical limits on immigration • Established a global racial and national hierarchy that favored some immigrants over others • National Origins Quota System abolished in 1965 (Hart-Cellar Act)
What does the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act do? • Restricted immigration to 155,000 per year • Established temporary quotas based on 2% of the foreign-born population in 1890 • Mandated the secretaries of labor, state and commerce to determine quotas on the basis of national origins by 1927 • Excluded from immigration all persons ineligible to citizenship (Asian exclusion) • No numerical restrictions on immigration from countries of the Western Hemisphere
Congressional Reactions to Restriction Senator Ellison DuRant Smith South Carolina
Congressman Robert H. Clancy Detroit, Michigan
“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…If you were to go abroad and some one were to meet you and say, ‘I met a typical American,’ what would flash into your mind as a typical American, the typical representative of that new Nation? Would it be the son of an Italian immigrant, the son of a German immigrant, the son of any of the breeds from the Orient, the son of the denizens of Africa?”
“The foreign born of my district writhe under the charge of being called ‘hyphenates.’ The people of my own family were all hyphenates—English-Americans, German-Americans, IrishAmericans…My family put 11 men and boys into the Revolutionary War, and I am sure they and their women and children did not suffer so bitterly and sacrifice until it hurt to establish the autocracy of bigotry and intolerance which exists in many quarters to-day in this country.”
Consequences of Regulation • Minimizing the immigrant population loosened American ethnic groups’ ties to their homelands • Numerical restriction created a new class of persons within the national body – illegal aliens – whose inclusion in the nation was at once a social reality and a legal impossibility • The number of aliens expelled from the country rose from 2,762 in 1920 to 9,495 in 1925 and 38,796 in 1929 • New emphasis on control of the nation’s contiguous land borders – especially the border with Mexico
A Tale of Two Borders U.S. – Canada Border • Europeans often immigrated to Canada first, and after residing in Canada for five years, they could be legally admitted to the United States. – The proportion of lawful admissions from Canada of persons not born in Canada increased from 20% in 1925 to over 50% in the early 1930s.
U.S. – Mexico Border • U.S.-Mexico border became a cultural and racial boundary. The immigration service instituted new policies – new inspection procedures and the formation of the Border Patrol – that accentuated the difference between the United States and Mexico.
Inspection at the U.S.-Mexico Border • Bathing, delousing, medical-line inspection, and interrogation (occasional psych profile) – Humiliating & Gratuitous
• Prospective immigrants had to present a medical certificate to the U.S. consul when applying for a visa (before travel). – Ellis Island: Line inspection eliminated in 1924 – El Paso, Texas: Immigration service exempted all Europeans and Mexicans arriving first class rail from line inspections, baths and literacy tests
The Border Patrol (est. 1924) • Comprised of cowboys, skilled workers, and small ranchers – Majority were young, many had military experience, and some were associated with the Ku Klux Klan
• Clifford Perkins, the first Border Patrol inspector at El Paso charged that patrolmen “were a little too quick a gun, or given to drinking too much, too often.” • Most training took place on the job. – During the 1920s, the turnover rate was 25% – Lack of professionalism plagued the force (drinking, reading, socializing on duty, reckless driving, etc)
El Paso Border Patrol, 1927
Of 34 patrol inspectors in the El Paso district in 1927, only one was Mexican American
West Coast Demand for Farm Labor • 1920-1929: ≈14,000 Filipinos migrated from Hawai’i to the U.S. mainland, and another 37,000 came directly from the Philippines • Nearly 85% of the Filipinos arriving in CA during the 1920s were under 30 years of age – 93% were male – 77% were single
• In SF & LA, Filipinos worked as domestics, and in hotels or restaurants as bellmen, cooks, dishwashers, and janitors
Filipino farm workers in Pajaro Valley, CA (1939) *Most Filipinos were migrant laborers who worked in agriculture (they cut asparagus, picked fruit and hops, topped beets , etc)
Racial Tension on the West Coast • 1929-1930: at least thirty incidents of racial violence against Filipinos took place on the Pacific Coast, including two large-scale race riots and several fire bombings • The perception of widespread job competition between white laborers and Filipino migrants fueled racial animus • The perception of Filipino men as a sexual menace to white society fueled violence
Calls for Filipino Exclusion • Supported by: California Joint Immigration Committee (1927), American Federation of Labor (1928) and the American Legion (1929) • The movement for exclusion began to identify its interests with Philippine independence • 1934, The Philippine Independence Act – Declared that “citizens of the Philippine Islands who are not citizens of the United States shall be considered as if they are aliens” and that “for such purposes the Philippine Islands shall be considered a separate country” with an annual immigration quota of fifty.
The Welch Bill • Made Filipino nationals eligible for federallyfunded repatriation between 1936-1941 – “No Filipino who receives the benefits of this Act shall be entitled to return to the continental United States except as a quota immigrant…”
• INS advertised the act in Filipino newspapers & posted translations in pool halls, restaurants, and other sites frequented by Filipinos – A total of 2,064 Filipino nationals used the program to return to the Philippines
Selected Bibliography • Daniels, Roger. Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2004). • Ngai, Mae M. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2005). • Stern, Alexandra Minna. Eugenic Nation: Faults & Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005).