Immigration was a thorny issue during the Depression. Legislation was already in place barring certain ethnic groups from entering the United States, and immigration remained restricted during the era owing to economic factors. Many refugees fleeing Nazi persecution were denied entrance to the United States because of ethnic quotas.
Beginning in the 1880’s,
Rampant job losses caused by the Depression generated anti-Mexican sentiment, which had grown following World War I and had since redoubled with the massive number of Mexicans who immigrated during the mid-1920’s. As the Depression deepened, government authorities determined that the expense would be less to return Mexicans to Mexico than to keep them on the welfare program.
Dust Bowl conditions in the Plains states of the Midwest sent many poor American farmers on the road to find agricultural work in the Far West. The resulting influx of migrant American workers severely limited the number of jobs available for foreign workers.
With the cooperation of the Mexican government, the United States repatriated about one-half million Mexicans between 1929 and 1935. Some of the people sent back to Mexico were actually U.S. citizens with long-established residences and others who were tricked or forced to go. Indicative of their historical pattern of immigration and deportation, Mexicans were welcomed back to the United States a decade later, when they were invited to fill the gaps in the American workforce as the United States mobilized for World War II.
As the Depression wore on, immigration into the United States declined significantly. The average annual number of immigrants for 1931-1940 was 6,900–a mere trickle compared to the 1.2 million total for the year 1914 alone. Despite the decrease in immigration, however, public sentiment against immigrants, particularly Filipinos, continued to increase. The massive number of Filipino immigrants who arrived during the 1920’s, the targets of violent attacks by U.S. citizens, continued to vex immigration restrictionists. Proclaimed by federal courts as American nationals following the
During World War II, thousands of Jewish refugees fled Nazi persecution, and a number of them were refused
Chomsky, Aviva. “They Take Our Jobs!” and Twenty Other Myths About Immigration. Boston: Beacon Press, 2007. In debunking the most common misconceptions about immigration, Chomsky provides informative discussions on history, law, and racism. Daniels, Roger. Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life. 2d ed. New York: HarperPerennial, 2002. Daniels examines individual racial groups entering the United States, their patterns of immigration, and the reactions of U.S. citizens to these groups. Krikorian, Mark. The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. New York: Sentinel, 2008. Krikorian argues that since economic, societal, and even technological changes in the United States hinder the assimilation of immigrants, the United States should permanently reduce immigration. Mills, Nicolaus, ed. Arguing Immigration: The Debate over the Changing Face of America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007. Contains a wide variety of opinions on immigration from the standpoints of politics, economics, and race and ethnicity. Rauchway, Eric. The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Analyzes Roosevelt’s New Deal policies to combat the Great Depression.
Filipino Repatriation Act of 1935
Immigration Act of 1917
Immigration Act of 1924
Mexican deportations of 1931