As the secretary of labor under three U.S. presidents, Davis helped to enforce the national origins quotas of 1920’s immigration law and advocated additional restrictions on immigration.
Born in 1873, James John Davis was the son and grandson of skilled workers in Welsh iron mills. His family emigrated to Pennsylvania when he was eight. At the age of eleven, Davis became an apprentice in a steel mill; by sixteen, he was a puddler who stirred molten metal. At that time, he joined the ironworkers’ union, in which he eventually became a leader.
James John Davis (right) with future U.S. president Herbert Hoover during the early 1920’s.
After leaving factory work, Davis became rich and achieved a national reputation as director general of the fraternal Loyal Order of Moose. In March, 1921, President
In May, 1924, while Davis was still head of the Labor Department, the U.S. Border Patrol was established under the department’s jurisdiction. Five years later, Davis felt frustrated by what he called the “patchwork” nature of federal enforcement of immigration laws and urged Congress to codify the immigration laws. He specifically suggested deterring unauthorized entry through the use of detention facilities and air patrols. He kept his cabinet post under both President
Chapple, Joseph. “Our Jim”: A Biography of James Davis. Boston: Chapple Publishing, 1928. Davis, James John. The Iron Puddler: My Life in the Rolling Mills and What Came of It. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1922. _______. Selective Immigration. St. Paul, Minn.: Scott-Mitchell, 1925. Zolberg, Aristide. A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006.
Border Patrol, U.S.
Bureau of Immigration, U.S.
Immigration Act of 1917
Immigration Act of 1921
Immigration Act of 1924
Iron and steel industry