American entry into World War I brought about major changes in the U.S. government’s immigration policy that infringed on the civil liberties of many people during and after the war and led to new immigration restrictions.
Beginning in the 1880’s, new immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and Japan arrived at American ports of call in great numbers. Fleeing from poverty, religious persecution, and disease, they poured into the East and West coasts searching for employment and a better life. The America they encountered, however, was less than welcoming. Fearful that the immigrants, largely uneducated, would not assimilate, vocal citizens advocated immigration restriction.
First introduced in 1887 by economist
Progressive Era reform efforts encouraged the humanitarian work of reformers such as Frances Kellor and
With American shipping threatened, President Wilson demanded uncompromising Americanism, considering it essential for the survival of the republic. By 1915,
Ironically, despite the repressive atmosphere of the period, the war Americanized some immigrants. After Wilson called for a
Despite the patriotism of many newcomers who served their adopted country, a resistant America supported the passage of the
Following the war, millions of
Wary of the dislocation that war had brought, the United States turned inward, especially against radical ideas from abroad, and strove to divorce itself from foreign influence. The country rejected internationalism, especially the League of Nations
On a positive note for native-born and immigrant women, the war resulted in the ratification of the
Barkan, Elliott Robert. From All Points: America’s Immigrant West, 1870’s-1952. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007. Scholarly study detailing American immigration history in the West and its peculiar set of problems. Bennett, Marion T. American Immigration Policies: A History. Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1963. Invaluable narrative that focuses on how immigration legislation affected America. Higham, John. Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925. New York: Atheneum, 1963. Preeminent historian’s groundbreaking study of immigration, labeling the height of nativism “the tribal twenties.” Kennedy, David M. Over Here: The First World War and American Society. 1980. Reprint. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. History of the World War I home front. Important evaluation of how immigration affected America during and following the war. LeMay, Michael, and Elliott Robert Barkan, eds. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Laws and Issues: A Documentary History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. Compilation of major documents relating to immigration history. Includes a handy chronology and a brief introduction.
Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917-1918
History of immigration after 1891
Immigration Act of 1917
Immigration Act of 1921
World War II