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Immigration and Ethnicity: Documents in United States History

Immigration and Ethnicity: Documents in United States History

By Catherine A. Paul

 

Political cartoon showing Henry Cabot Lodge cowering before Native American who is about to hit him with "An Act to Prevent the Country from being Overrun by Foreigners."
“Where Would We Be? — If the Real Americans had held Lodge’s View of Immigration there would be no Lodge Bill now — nor anything else.”
Illustration by Udo J. Keppler, 1898.
Print shows Henry Cabot Lodge (labeled “A.D. 1620”) cowering before a Native American who is about to hit him with a club around which a paper is wrapped that states “An Act to Prevent the Country from being Overrun by Foreigners”.
Image: Library of Congress
Digital ID ppmsca 28687

 

Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882

The Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law on May 6, 1882 by President Chester A. Arthur in response to native-born Americans’ belief that unemployment and declining wages were due to Chinese workers. This act was the first major law to restrict immigration into the United States, halting Chinese immigration for 10 years and prohibiting them from becoming U.S. citizens.

An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to the Chinese, May 6, 1882
An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to the Chinese, May 6, 1882
Photo: General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives

 

Dictionary of Races or Peoples, 1910, Reports of the Immigration Commission, 61st Congress

The “Dictionary of Races or Peoples” is a series of reports compiled by Dr. Daniel Folkmar and Elnora C. Folkmar for the Federal Immigration Commission during the 61st Congress in 1910. This work was officially published in 1911 during the William Howard Taft administration.

Excerpts: 

The chief difficulty in dealing with the crimes of Italians seems to be their determination not to testify in court against an enemy, but to insist on settling their wrongs after the manner of the vendetta. It is significant that Italy is one of the most illiterate countries in Europe” (82-83).

“Malay, Malaysian, or Brown race…has primitive, cruel instincts more like those of the American Indian” (95).

“Negro, Negroid, African, Black, Ethiopian, or Austafrican…They are alike in inhabiting hot countries and in belonging to the lowest division of mankind from an evolutionary standpoint” (100).

Slavic people demonstrate “fanaticism in religion, carelessness as to the business virtues of punctuality and often honesty, periods of besotted drunkenness among the peasantry, unexpected cruelty and ferocity in a generally placid and kind-hearted individual” (129).

 

This work may also be read through the Internet Archive.

The Immigration Act of 1917, The Literacy Act

The Literacy Act was enacted in 1917 under President Woodrow Wilson’s administration. The Immigration Act of 1917 implemented a literacy test, requiring immigrants 16-years-old and older to demonstrate reading comprehension in any language. Furthermore, the Literacy Act increased taxes paid by immigrants upon arrival to the United States, and it gave immigration officials more power to choose whom to bar from entering. This legislation also excluded entry from anyone born in the “Asiatic Barred Zone,” except for Japanese and Filipino individuals.

"The Americanese wall - as Congressman [John Lawson] Burnett would build it," 1916
“The Americanese wall – as Congressman [John Lawson] Burnett would build it,” 1916
Uncle Sam, behind high wall marked “Literacy Test” which is spiked with pen points, says to immigrant family below: “You’re welcome, if you can climb it”.
Photo: Library of Congress
Digital ID cph 3b00563

The Immigration Act of 1924, The Johnson-Reed Act

The Johnson-Reed Act limited the number of immigrants allowed in the United States through a national origins quota, which provided immigration visas to 2% of the total number of people of each nationality in the US based on the 1890 national census. This legislation completely excluded immigrants from Asia.

 

"Uncle Sam kicks out the Chinaman," 1886
“Uncle Sam kicks out the Chinaman,” 1886. 
Advertisement for the “George Dee Magic Washer” which the manufacturer hoped would replace laundries run by Chinese immigrants.
Photo: Public Domain

 

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, The McCarran-Walter Act

The McCarran-Walter Act upheld the controversial national origins quota system established by the Immigration Act of 1924. This legislation also ended Asian exclusion from immigrating to the United States, but instead established racial quotas for Asian nations. Furthermore, the McCarran-Walter Act introduced a system of preferences according to desired skill sets and family reunification. This act demonstrates the division between those interested in the relationship between immigration and foreign policy and those concerned with the relationship between immigration and national security. President Harry Truman considered the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 to be discriminatory and vetoed it; however, the law had sufficient congressional support to pass, despite Truman’s veto.

The pamphlet below calls for revision of the McCarran-Walter Act. The pamphlet is a Labor Report of the Atran Center, 25 East 78th Street, New York, New York. (Atran Center for Jewish Culture, Jewish Labor Committee).

 

This work may also be read through the Internet Archive.

 

Whom We Shall Welcome: Report of the President’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization, 1953

As described by President Harry TrumanWhom We Shall Welcome is a objective contribution to immigration and naturalization based on extensive hearings with individuals of different religions, faiths, and political leanings urging Congress to amend the McCarran-Walter Act.

This work may also be read through the Internet Archive.

For further reading: 

Political Cartoons, The Global Mobility Project, The Ohio State University 

Harvard University Library Open Collections Program. Aspiration, Acculturation, and Impact. Immigration to the United States, 1789 -1930. Timeline: Key Dates and Landmarks in United States Immigration History.

Harvard University Library Open Collections Program. Aspiration, Acculturation, and Impact. Immigration to the United States, 1789 -1930. The Immigration Restriction League.

Selected articles on restriction of immigration (1920).  comp. by Edith M. Phelps. (Abridged Debaters’ Handbook Series). New York: The H.W. Wilson Company.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Paul, C. A. (2018). Immigration and ethnicity: Documents in United States history. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/federal/immigration-ethnicity-documents-united-states-history/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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