The act represented the first major attempt to restrict immigration into the United States. The establishment of a quota system limited immigration from southern and eastern Europe (primarily Jewish and Slavic) while allowing significant immigration from northern and western Europe. Asians were specifically excluded from immigration.
The Immigration Act of 1924 was a continuation of the
Other provisions increased the
Introduced by Congressman Albert Johnson in the House of Representatives and David Reed in the Senate, the Immigration Act of 1924 was intended to permanently restrict the immigration numbers from
Application for the readmission to the United States of a Brooklyn restaurateur who had returned to China for a visit. The letter cites the terms of the Immigration Act of 1924.
In addition to having fears about radicalism, congressional leaders were concerned about the large influx of workers willing to work for substandard wages; not surprisingly, among the supporters of the bill were the leaders of the growing unions among American workers. The fear of “cheap labor” was largely directed toward eastern Europeans. During World War I, large numbers of Latin American workers, particularly from Mexico, had entered the United States to supplement the labor force related to war industries or farming, especially in the sparsely populated Southwest. The importance of these workers was reflected in their exemption from the quota system as established by the act. In the years prior to implementation of the act, immigrants from Latin America represented approximately 30 percent of total immigration.
Changes in the demographics of the United States in the years between 1880 and 1920 played perhaps the most significant role in defining the language of the bill. The perception had been that the United States had been settled largely by western European stock, primarily Protestant, and nearly entirely white. Black people, freed from slavery only in recent generations, and mostly uneducated and living in poverty, were either excluded or simply ignored in the argument.
By the 1920’s, nearly one-third of the American population consisted of immigrants and their families. The birthrate among this segment of the population suggested that the proportion of the population they represented would continue to increase. Moreover,
The greatest influx of immigrants from eastern Europe had occurred in the two to three decades prior to the start of World War I in 1914. Thus, the basis for the quota was changed from the U.S. Census of 1910 to that of 1890, when far fewer southern and eastern Europeans had resided in the United States. Furthermore, the quota was reduced from 3 percent to 2 percent of the number of foreign-born persons of each nationality resident in the United States in 1890. By 1929, the 2-percent quota was replaced by a total annual immigration cap of 150,000.
Other changes were meant to increase the monetary cost to potential immigrants, another means to restrict the poor. The
The most immediate impact of the new law was the restriction of eastern Europeans, particularly
The long-term effects on European Jewry proved particularly devastating. With the limited quotas, European Jews in general, and French, Polish, and German Jews in particular, were largely unable to obtain visas during the years leading up to World War II, during which some six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis. While Jewish refugees such as
The national quotas were slightly modified in 1929. However, the system as established by the act of 1924 remained largely in place until 1952. Family members of U.S. citizens were not included in quota numbers, while women were not afforded equal status until the changes of 1952.
Daniels, Roger. Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life. New York: HarperPerennial, 2002. History of immigration beginning with the earliest settlements. The significance of various immigration acts and restrictions is explored. _______. Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882. New York: Hill & Wang, 2004. Synopsis of the evolution of immigration policies since the 1880’s. Highlighted are specific laws associated with major immigration legislation. Higham, John. Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2002. Examines the history of nativism and its significance to the sociology and economics of the developing United States. LeMay, Michael, and Elliott Robert Barkan, eds. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Laws and Issues: A Documentary History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. Collection of documents that covers the history of immigration laws beginning with the colonial period. Relevant court cases are discussed. Lowe, Lisa. Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1999. Explores the significance of the Asian community in America, its history and response to prejudice. Wenger, Beth. The Jewish Americans: Three Centuries of Jewish Voices in America. New York: Doubleday, 2007. Immigration, challenges, and growth of the Jewish community in America. Includes the effects of laws regulating immigration on the Jewish population.
History of immigration after 1891
Immigration Act of 1907
Immigration Act of 1917
Immigration Act of 1921
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952