US immigration policy without WWI?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
23,557
SoCal
Without WWI, what would US immigration policy have looked like? Would there have eventually been sharp curbs on immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe like there were in the 1920s in real life? Or would immigration restrictionism have been a somewhat less potent force in a scenario where there would have been no WWI--in part due to the lack of a crisis in Europe as well as a lack of revolutionary sentiments in Europe? (A crisis in Europe could compel a lot of Europeans to move to the US and thus strain the US while revolutionary sentiments in Europe could cause Americans to fear that they are importing potential revolutionaries if their immigration policy isn't actually going to be restrictive enough.)

For what it's worth, in real life, there was already some discussion about imposing immigration curbs on Southern and Eastern Europe with the Dllingham Commission in 1907-1911. Basically, there was a fear that Southern and Eastern European immigrants are going to be harder to assimilate than the previous Anglo-Saxon wave of immigrants was. There might have also been a concern about too many smart Jews coming to the US--which also helps explain why various US colleges and universities adopted Jewish quotas after the end of WWI. However, before WWI, there was also some pushback in regards to the idea of immigration restrictionism. In 1913, President Taft vetoed a literacy test for potential immigrants to the US that Congress passed; Congress was narrowly unable to get the necessary two-thirds to overrule Taft's veto. This repeated itself in 1915 but with Wilson taking Taft's place. Of course, in 1917, the US finally did pass a literacy test over Wilson's veto, but immigration restrictionists quickly realized that, due to the increasing literacy in Southern and Eastern Europe, a mere literacy test alone simply isn't going to result in significant immigration reduction to the US--hence the need for more restrictive immigration quota legislation in 1921 and 1924.

Anyway, what do you think that US immigration policy would have looked like without WWI? Any thoughts on this?
 
Jul 2019
163
Pale Blue Dot - Moonshine Quadrant
The United States already had a long history of resistance to immigration for non-Protestants that was well-established even before there was a surge Catholic immigration fleeing the Irish Potato Famine. For example, only one Catholic had been a signer of the Declaration of Independence and in an act of terrorism the Ursuline convent in Charlestown Massachusetts had been burned in 1834.

The Irish immigration triggered ethnic and anti-Catholic rioting in many northern cites, the largest occurring in Philadelphia in 1844 during a period of economic depression – conditions that always magnify existing social tensions. Protestants, Catholics and local militia fought in the streets. Over a dozen people were killed, dozens more were injured and over 40 buildings were demolished. This violence was fed by claims that Catholics were destroying the culture of the United States. Irish Catholic immigrants were blamed for spreading violence and drunkenness – thus tying Temperance to anti-immigration policies and the rise of the Know-Nothing Party.

The anti-immigrant reaction was not without real social causes. Immigration during the first five years of the 1850s reached a level five times greater than a decade earlier. Most of the new arrivals were poor Catholic peasants or laborers from Ireland and Germany who crowded into the tenements of large cities. Crime and welfare costs soared. For example Cincinnati's crime rate tripled between 1846 and 1853 and its murder rate increased sevenfold. The city of Boston saw its expenditures for poor relief rise threefold during the same period. In the Protestant stronghold of Massachusetts the Know-Nothings were especially strong. The new party controlled all but three of the 400 seats in the legislature and exhibited an early instance of assertive, intrusive, positve government policies seeking to mold a white, Protestant society that stood in direct opposition to the restrained, negative policies that characterized the Night Watchman State the founders sought to establish.

The divisive push of Protestant reform against Catholics was powerful and long lasting. In 1875, Republican President Ulysses S. Grant called for a Constitutional amendment that would mandate free public schools and prohibit the use of public funds for what he called "sectarian" schools. Grant feared a future with "patriotism and intelligence on one side and superstition, ambition and greed on the other" which he identified with the Catholic Church. Grant, hardly an exemplar of learning even before he discovered whiskey in the army (he graduated twenty-first in a class of thirty-nine at West Point), called for public schools that would be "unmixed with atheistic, pagan or sectarian teaching." In that era “public” schools meant Protestant and given the very large recent Irish, German, and later Italian Catholic immigrations, the point of Grant’s call was obvious.

The eminent University of Wisconsin sociologist Edward Alsworth Ross, a favorite of Theodore Roosevelt and an archetype of a progressive social scientist objected to Chinese immigrant labor on both economic and racial grounds. He was an early supporter of the "race suicide" doctrine and expressed his wish to restrict entry of other races in strong and crude language in public speeches and Japanese immigration altogether. In the speech that was the catalyst for his potential firing and ultimate resignation, he was quoted as declaring:

“And should the worst come to the worst it would be better for us if we were to turn our guns upon every vessel bringing Japanese to our shores rather than to permit them to land.”

The Reverend T.W. Cuyler, president of the National Temperance Society, made his position clear in the summer of 1891: “How much longer [will] the Republic ... consent to have her soil a dumping ground for all Hungarian ruffians, Bohemian bruisers, and Italian cutthroats of every description?” Irish, German, and Italian immigrants were all culturally tolerant of alcohol and while there there were some German Protestants much of the immigration by that point was Catholic.

Eugenics was also up and running before WW I – and there was a real tie between eugenics and immigration. Murray Rothbard saw in postmillennial pietism a key to the entire Progressive Era. The postmillennials preached that Jesus would inaugurate His kingdom only after the world had been reformed, and they accordingly saw a religious mandate to institute the social reforms they favored. Their influence was pervasive. For example, Rothbard drew an unexpected connection between Progressive ideas and eugenics:

One way of correcting the increasingly pro-Catholic demographics ... often promoted in the name of “science,” was eugenics, an increasingly popular doctrine of the progressive movement. Broadly, eugenics may be defined as encouraging the breeding of the “fit” and discouraging the breeding of the “unfit,” the criteria of “fitness” often coinciding with the cleavage between native, white Protestants and the foreign born or Catholics — or the white-black cleavage. In extreme cases, the unfit were to be coercively sterilized.

Certainly, wars make all social problems worse but the thrust of anti-immigration was strong even without the war.
 
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pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,092
People are tribal. They tend to dislike those who are not like they are, and they do not like being forced to coexist with them.

When the United States was expanding economically and industrially, that was overlooked by the elite industrial interests who needed the immigrant labor that foreigners could provide. Chinese railroad workers; Polish coal miners; Hungarian and Czech steel/iron workers, and Italian masons and fishermen were - if not welcome - at least accepted economically. From about 1890 to WW I the US economy needed them. By the 1920s a new middle class and the more prosperous working class had their fill of foreigners and actually supported legislation limiting further immigration. After all, Europeans were responsible for the worst war of all time, and Orientals were all part of the "Yellow Peril."

However, it was still basically tribal, and if anyone thinks anti-immigration sentiment is any different in the 21st century......it isn't.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
23,557
SoCal
People are tribal. They tend to dislike those who are not like they are, and they do not like being forced to coexist with them.

When the United States was expanding economically and industrially, that was overlooked by the elite industrial interests who needed the immigrant labor that foreigners could provide. Chinese railroad workers; Polish coal miners; Hungarian and Czech steel/iron workers, and Italian masons and fishermen were - if not welcome - at least accepted economically. From about 1890 to WW I the US economy needed them. By the 1920s a new middle class and the more prosperous working class had their fill of foreigners and actually supported legislation limiting further immigration. After all, Europeans were responsible for the worst war of all time, and Orientals were all part of the "Yellow Peril."

However, it was still basically tribal, and if anyone thinks anti-immigration sentiment is any different in the 21st century......it isn't.
What do you think that US immigration policy would have looked like without WWI, though?
 
Apr 2014
208
New York, U.S.
The United States already had a long history of resistance to immigration for non-Protestants that was well-established even before there was a surge Catholic immigration fleeing the Irish Potato Famine. For example, only one Catholic had been a signer of the Declaration of Independence and in an act of terrorism the Ursuline convent in Charlestown Massachusetts had been burned in 1834.

The Irish immigration triggered ethnic and anti-Catholic rioting in many northern cites, the largest occurring in Philadelphia in 1844 during a period of economic depression – conditions that always magnify existing social tensions. Protestants, Catholics and local militia fought in the streets. Over a dozen people were killed, dozens more were injured and over 40 buildings were demolished. This violence was fed by claims that Catholics were destroying the culture of the United States. Irish Catholic immigrants were blamed for spreading violence and drunkenness – thus tying Temperance to anti-immigration policies and the rise of the Know-Nothing Party.

The anti-immigrant reaction was not without real social causes. Immigration during the first five years of the 1850s reached a level five times greater than a decade earlier. Most of the new arrivals were poor Catholic peasants or laborers from Ireland and Germany who crowded into the tenements of large cities. Crime and welfare costs soared. For example Cincinnati's crime rate tripled between 1846 and 1853 and its murder rate increased sevenfold. The city of Boston saw its expenditures for poor relief rise threefold during the same period. In the Protestant stronghold of Massachusetts the Know-Nothings were especially strong. The new party controlled all but three of the 400 seats in the legislature and exhibited an early instance of assertive, intrusive, positve government policies seeking to mold a white, Protestant society that stood in direct opposition to the restrained, negative policies that characterized the Night Watchman State the founders sought to establish.

The divisive push of Protestant reform against Catholics was powerful and long lasting. In 1875, Republican President Ulysses S. Grant called for a Constitutional amendment that would mandate free public schools and prohibit the use of public funds for what he called "sectarian" schools. Grant feared a future with "patriotism and intelligence on one side and superstition, ambition and greed on the other" which he identified with the Catholic Church. Grant, hardly an exemplar of learning even before he discovered whiskey in the army (he graduated twenty-first in a class of thirty-nine at West Point), called for public schools that would be "unmixed with atheistic, pagan or sectarian teaching." In that era “public” schools meant Protestant and given the very large recent Irish, German, and later Italian Catholic immigrations, the point of Grant’s call was obvious.

The eminent University of Wisconsin sociologist Edward Alsworth Ross, a favorite of Theodore Roosevelt and an archetype of a progressive social scientist objected to Chinese immigrant labor on both economic and racial grounds. He was an early supporter of the "race suicide" doctrine and expressed his wish to restrict entry of other races in strong and crude language in public speeches and Japanese immigration altogether. In the speech that was the catalyst for his potential firing and ultimate resignation, he was quoted as declaring:

“And should the worst come to the worst it would be better for us if we were to turn our guns upon every vessel bringing Japanese to our shores rather than to permit them to land.”

The Reverend T.W. Cuyler, president of the National Temperance Society, made his position clear in the summer of 1891: “How much longer [will] the Republic ... consent to have her soil a dumping ground for all Hungarian ruffians, Bohemian bruisers, and Italian cutthroats of every description?” Irish, German, and Italian immigrants were all culturally tolerant of alcohol and while there there were some German Protestants much of the immigration by that point was Catholic.

Eugenics was also up and running before WW I – and there was a real tie between eugenics and immigration. Murray Rothbard saw in postmillennial pietism a key to the entire Progressive Era. The postmillennials preached that Jesus would inaugurate His kingdom only after the world had been reformed, and they accordingly saw a religious mandate to institute the social reforms they favored. Their influence was pervasive. For example, Rothbard drew an unexpected connection between Progressive ideas and eugenics:

One way of correcting the increasingly pro-Catholic demographics ... often promoted in the name of “science,” was eugenics, an increasingly popular doctrine of the progressive movement. Broadly, eugenics may be defined as encouraging the breeding of the “fit” and discouraging the breeding of the “unfit,” the criteria of “fitness” often coinciding with the cleavage between native, white Protestants and the foreign born or Catholics — or the white-black cleavage. In extreme cases, the unfit were to be coercively sterilized.

Certainly, wars make all social problems worse but the thrust of anti-immigration was strong even without the war.
You mentioned eugenics in your post.
In the US, The influence of this belief can clearly be demonstrated in the Immigration Act of 1924 which severely reduced Asian immigration and immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. Refer to the Wikipedia article for that law and you will see a pretty comprehensive description.
 
Jul 2019
163
Pale Blue Dot - Moonshine Quadrant
You mentioned eugenics in your post.
In the US, The influence of this belief can clearly be demonstrated in the Immigration Act of 1924 which severely reduced Asian immigration and immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. Refer to the Wikipedia article for that law and you will see a pretty comprehensive description.
I agree Eugenics was a major factor in U.S policy that ran far deeper than it is convenient for most to concede. Scientists, everyday citizens, and corporate entities were involved. For Example, the American eugenics movement received extensive funding from various corporate foundations including the Carnegie Institution, Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harriman railroad fortune.

The first eugenics movement in America was founded in 1903 and included many of the best known biologists in the country: David Star Jordan was its chairman (a prominent biologist and chancellor of Stanford University), Luther Burbank (the famous plant breeder), Vernon L. Kellog (a world renowned biologist at Stanford), William B. Castle (a Harvard geneticist), Roswell H. Johnson (a geologist and a professor of genetics), and Charles R. Henderson of the University of Chicago.

Progressive social scientists were especially attracted to eugenic ideas. Scholars like Irving Fisher, Francis Amasa Walker, Henry Rogers Seager, Edward Alsworth Ross, John R. Commons, Sidney Webb, Charles Richmond Henderson, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and journalists like Paul Kellogg of the Survey and the New Republic’s Herbert Croly, all invoked eugenic ideas, especially to justify the exclusionary labor and immigration legislation that is a central legacy of the Progressive Era.

Eugenics was widely accepted in the U.S. academic community. By 1928 there were 376 separate university courses in some of the United States' leading schools, enrolling more than 20,000 students, which included eugenics in the curriculum.

Novelist Virginia Woolf confided to her diary that “imbeciles” “should certainly be killed”; T. S. Eliot favorably reviewed eugenic articles from journals such as Eugenics Review; in 1908, D. H. Lawrence indulged in an extermination fantasy: “If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly, and then I’d go out in back streets and main streets and bring them all in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile at me.”

In his influential The Promise of American Life, Herbert Croly of the New Republic put his case for a vigorous national government in eugenic language, arguing that artificial selection was superior to natural selection. The state, said Croly, had a responsibility to “interfere on behalf of the really fittest.” Croly required the qualifier “really” because, on the Darwinian account, the fittest are those with greatest reproductive success – and that was not at all what Croly had in mind. In an unsigned editorial for the New Republic in 1916, Croly was clear:

“We may suggest that a socialized policy of population cannot be built upon a laissez faire economic policy. So long as the state neglects its good blood, it will let its bad blood alone. There is no certain way of distinguishing between defectiveness in the strain and defectiveness produced by malnutrition, neglected lesions originally curable, or overwork in childhood. When the state assumes the duty of giving a fair opportunity for development to every child, it will find unanimous support for a policy of extinction of stocks incapable of profiting from their privileges.”

Even Helen Keller, who had benefitted so little from medical science and so much from old fashion human charity that allowed her to flourish as much as possible, shockingly wrote:

“Our puny sentimentalism has caused us to forget that a human life is sacred only when it may be of some use to itself and to the world.”

In 1915, she also called for “physicians’ juries for defective babies” in the pages of Croly’s New Republic.

"It is the possibility of happiness, intelligence and power that give life its sanctity, and they are absent in the case of a poor, misshapen, paralyzed, unthinking creature,”
Keller said, adding that allowing a "defective" child to die was simply a “weeding of the human garden that shows a sincere love of true life.”

The feminist Margaret Sanger had her view:

"Every single case of inherited defect, every malformed child, every congenitally tainted human being brought into this world is of infinite importance to that poor individual; but it is of scarcely less importance to the rest of us and to all of our children who must pay in one way or another for these biological and racial mistakes."


As did Theodore Roosevelt:

“Society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce.”

The U.S. Supreme Court was explicit enough when Justices Louis Brandeis and William Howard Taft joined the infamous Buck v. Bell Supreme Court decision, where Oliver Wendell Holmes, a proponent of eugenics, opined that “the principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.”…“Three generations of imbeciles,” they agreed, “is enough.”

One seldom-mentioned explosive fact is that German Nazis hyper-aggressively followed, not led, the American Progressive tradition in this regard. "Now that we know the laws of heredity," Hitler told a fellow Nazi, "it is possible to a large extent to prevent unhealthy and severely handicapped beings from coming into the world. I have studied with interest the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would, in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock."

The Progressive state of California was at the vanguard of the American eugenics movement, performing about 20,000 sterilizations, or one third of the 60,000 nationwide, from 1909 up until the 1960s.

While California had the highest number of sterilizations, North Carolina's eugenics program which operated from 1933 to 1977, was the most aggressive of the 32 states that had eugenics programs. An IQ of 70 or lower meant sterilization was appropriate in North Carolina. The North Carolina Eugenics Board almost always approved proposals brought before them by local welfare boards. North Carolina even gave social workers the power to designate people for sterilization. "Here, at last, was a method of preventing unwanted pregnancies by an acceptable, practical, and inexpensive method," wrote Wallace Kuralt in the March 1967 journal of the N.C. Board of Public Welfare. "The poor readily adopted the new techniques for birth control."

It is a sobering exercise to revisit the Scopes Monkey Trial of the 1920’s, after which theologically-based science was ejected from the school curriculum. The textbook Civic Biology by George W. Hunter was openly racist and taught eugenics within that framework. It cited eugenic biologist Charles Davenport founder of the Eugenics Record Office who authored a 1929 work of scientific racism published as Race Crossing in Jamaica, which attempted to provide statistical evidence for biological and cultural degradation following interbreeding between white and black populations. If teachers taught from Hunter’s text today, they would be prosecuted. In Civic Biology, Hunter advocated both eugenics and segregation, writing that:

“Hundreds of families such as those described above exist to-day, spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe. Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites.

If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country."


Even today, the subject of eugenics lurks just beneath the surface.

Co-discover of DNA Francis Crick reportedly wrote in a letter:

“The main difficulty is that people have to start thinking out Eugenics in a different way. The Nazis gave it a bad name and I think it is time something was done to make it respectable again.”

In his 1978 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, On Human Nature, scientist E. O. Wilson voiced support for a renewed program of eugenics. While he conceded a current limited understanding of human genetics, he maintained that in the future, when we have “almost unimaginably greater knowledge of human heredity,” we may be able to institute a “democratically contrived eugenics.” Just how democracy, which by definition is rule by the statistical average will be able to determine which superior traits will be selected for reproduction was left unexplained.

A Richard Dawkins 2006 quote is another example:

“…if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability?”

It seems to me that the root issue of eugenics is not the science, although that is unimaginably complex, but a normative question what is good and who is to decide.
 
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Jun 2017
734
maine
Why do people uproot themselves from their native culture, from their support networks, and strike out into the unknown? For both internal and external migrations, I think the rationale can be summarized as (not in any order of priority):
1. Freedom--especially of religion and from persecution.
2. Economic (crop failure & famine, jobs , taxes).
3. Over population.
4. Avoidance of military service and flight from a war zone.

The peak year for immigration to the US was 1907 but WWI didn't begin until 1914. The European causes may have been tied into reasons 1, 2, and 3. IMO, the world war had no appreciable impact and its absence would have made no difference.
 
Jun 2015
1,305
Scotland
A question related to the topic.

I vaguely remember reading that a law was passed in the US denying those of Chinese origin the right of citizenship or to marry a US citizen. Is this correct and if so is it the only denial of such rights due to race?
 
Jun 2017
734
maine
A question related to the topic.

I vaguely remember reading that a law was passed in the US denying those of Chinese origin the right of citizenship or to marry a US citizen. Is this correct and if so is it the only denial of such rights due to race?
There were several harsh anti-Chinese and anti-Asian immigration acts but I don't know of any specific prohibition of citizenship; you may be thinking of some of unpleasant clauses of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882). Certainly access to citizenship has been unequal.

Yes, there were marriage prohibitions-- " Miscegenation" laws varied by state; Wikipedia has as good an description as any of the mish-mash of regulations: Interracial marriage in the United States - Wikipedia.