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B. INTRODUCTION U.S. immigration policy has been shaped not only by the perceived needs of this country, but by the needs and aspirations of the immigrants themselves. This paper reviews the major streams of immigration to the United States in the context of the country's changing views of immigration.
During the initial immigration of settlers and pioneers to the first European colonies on the North American continent, the objectives of the immigrants and their sending colonial powers were dominant--a complex blend of religious, political, and economic motives which eventually produced the new American society.
Following the establishment of the United States at the end of the 18th century, a wave of mass migration flowed from the European continent to the new nation throughout the 19th century. ' For the immigrants, economic, religious, and political motives continued to be dominant. The United States' goals in receiving them included the need for new citizens who would participate in national economic and political growth, as well as the humanitarian desire to provide a refuge for the oppressed of other lands. During this period, there were few restrictions on the entering immigrants; our national purposes coincided with essentially unlimited immigration.
As the Nation entered the 20th century, cultural conflicts resulting from the changing ethnic character of the immigrant population from Northern and Western Europe to Southern and Eastern Europe, and economic strains in the Nation began to generate domestic political opposition to unrestricted immigration. Following World War I, this political opposition led to restrictive legislation focusing predominantly on the ethnic origins of the new immigrants, and also on the size of the immigrant flow. By the 1930s this legislation, in combination with the economic disincentive of the Great Depression, had resulted in a massive reduction in the inflow of immigrants.
Following World War II and continuing through the 1950s, the pattern of immigration as we know it today began to emerge, consisting of immigrants, refugees, and temporary and/or undocumented workers. Refugees came by the hundreds of thousands, fleeing the ravages of World War II and the spread of communism. Immigrants continued to come primarily under the terms of the national origins quota system, which was extended with minor revisions in 1952, and continued in effect until 1965. Agricultural workers came from Mexico, some legally as braceros and others illegally—the historical predecessors of today's undocumented aliens.
The distinction between refugees and immigrants became firmly established during the period following World War II, and has continued until the present time. Defined broadly, refugees flee, generally in large groups, from political or religious persecution; immigrants come voluntarily, generally on an individual basis and in an orderly fashion. A third group, illegal or undocumented aliens, come outside the law, generally for economic reasons.
In the case of immigrants, the purposes and goals of the United States as defined in Federal immigration law are dominant in deciding who comes. The admission of refugees is also subject to Federal legislation, but it has tended to be in reaction to events beyond the control of either the receiving society or the refugees themselves.
The distinction between immigrants and refugees was unheard of during the mass migrations of the 19th century; no difference was perceived between the Irish fleeing the potato famine and the German “forty-eighters” fleeing political persecution. It developed in the wake of World War II, primarily as a means of reconciling our traditional ideal of asylum with restrictions in the immigration law.
Since the 1940s, the goals and purposes of our immigration policy have diverged regarding the admission of refugees and immigrants. In the case of refugees, humanitarian concerns and foreign policy considerations have been dominant. Domestic, as opposed to foreign, policy considerations have been paramount in the admission of immigrants. The United States' desire in the 1920s to protect and preserve what was then seen as its national ethnic heritage led to the adoption of the national origins quota system. This system was repealed in the context of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, rather than on the predominantly foreign policy grounds for change advanced in the 1950s by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the flow of refugees from political turmoil in other nations continued, requiring the enactment of special legislation. The equal treat
A table prepared by the Immigration and Naturalization Service entitled, Immigration by Region and Selected Country of Last Residence, Fiscal Years 1820–1989, appears as Table 1 at the end of this Appendix.
ment of all nations and family reunification emerged as the primary goals of our policy for admitting immigrants. The flow of illegal or undocumented aliens, particularly from other countries in the Western Hemisphere, resulted in political pressure for more effective measures to restrict illegal immigration.
During the 1980s through 1990, Congress reviewed and revised all aspects of immigration policy in an attempt to articulate a workable approach which accommodated both our past tradition of asylum as well as the economic and political realities of the present. Legislation providing for flexibility in our response to refugees within the framework of the basic immigration law was enacted in 1980. This was followed in 1986, after lengthy and intensive debate, by legislation aimed at controlling illegal immigration. In 1990, Congress passed legislation significantly changing the regulation of legal immigration, among other things increasing the comparatively limited number of visas available for independent non-family immigration and for certain underrepresented countries. In part because of the repeal of the national origins quota system, the majority of immigrants were coming from Asia and Latin America, as opposed to Europe. Concern was expressed about the lack of accessibility for the traditional "old source” countries such as Ireland, an issue addressed by the 1990 legislation. Beyond legal immigration, the Immigration Act of 1990 represented a major revision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which remains the basic immigration law.
C. EARLY IMMIGRATION
Technically speaking, U.S. immigration began with the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which accorded the United States recognition as a nation. Official immigration statistics began to be kept in 1820. However, the settlers and pioneers who colonized North America before the founding of the United States were also immigrants. These early immigrants came from a variety of nations and for a variety of reasons to a new land which placed few constraints on their coming. They provided the people needed to explore and settle the continent, and to develop a new society.
The early colonists were primarily of European stock, representing the nations which laid claim to the new land. Colonists came from Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands to settle the Eastern seaboard of the continent. In the Southeast, France sent colonists to settle Louisiana. In the South and West, Spanish colonists settled in Florida, in the areas which are now Texas and New Mexico, and in California. Along with these settlers came involuntary immigrants—black men and women brought as slaves from the African continent. Colonists came for a variety of reasons: to serve as soldiers and civilian representatives of the colonizing power; to obtain religious and political freedom; to convert others to their religious views; to improve their economic status and pursue economic gain; to seek adventure; and involuntarily as slaves to provide labor for colonial agriculture and industry.
A brief listing of some of the colonial settlers suggests the diversity of motives which inspired the early immigrants as well as the kaleidoscope of nations from which they came. A combination of religious, political, and economic motives brought settlers from Great Britain to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Quaker settlement in Pennsylvania, the Catholic settlement in Baltimore, and the colony of Georgia. Spanish settlers came to California, Florida, and Mexico to search for gold, trade with and bring Christianity to the Indians, and expand the Spanish Empire. French settlers came to Louisiana and Canada to seek land and business opportunities, convert the natives, and protect French trading interests. French Huguenots fled religious persecution after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.
German Pietist sects, including the Mennonites and Moravians, also fled persecution in search of religious freedom, many in response to the sympathetic Quaker teachings of William Penn. A later German group, the Hessians, came to fight as mercenaries with the British in the American Revolution, and 5,000 stayed to become immigrants. Dutch and Swedes came for political freedom and economic opportunity, and the Scotch-Irish came throughout the 18th century for economic, religious, and political motives.
The first black slaves were brought to the English colonies in 1619 on a Dutch ship. The term “slave” initially was applied loosely to both white and black servants, and both were treated as indentured servants. However, conditions worsened as the slave trade became more profitable. Slaves were brought to the English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch colonies throughout the 18th century. The numbers are not known, although they have been estimated in the millions. Slave
importation was prohibited in 1808, but an illicit slave trade continued until the Civil War.
When the first census was taken in 1790, the total population was recorded at 3,227,000. English, Scots, and Scotch-Irish accounted for 75 percent; Germans made up 8 percent; other nationalities with substantial numbers included the Dutch, French, Swedish, and Spanish. The 1790 census showed a black population of approximately 750,000. By the census of 1810, the white population had increased to approximately 6 million, and the black population to approximately 1,378,000.
À new society was effectively established here by the end of the 18th century, taking its language, the basis for its law, and many of its customs from England, with major contributions from other European countries. The country's libertarian principles included a belief in the mission of America to provide asylum for the oppressed, and in the corollary right of the oppressed to seek freedom and opportunity in America. As will be seen, these ideals were remarkably appropriate to the needs of the United States and Europe during the 19th century.
At the same time, there were indications as early as the 18th century of a more negative view of immigration which was to emerge as the dominant one in the 1920s. Perhaps the best known expression of this view was Benjamin Franklin's warning in 1753 about the Germans in Pennsylvania:
those who came hither are generally the most stupid of their own nation, and as ignorance is often attended with great credulity, when knavery would mislead it, and with suspicion when honesty would set it right; and, few of the English understand the German language, and so cannot address them either from the press or pulpit, it is almost impossible to remove any prejudices they may entertain . . :. Not being used to liberty, they know not how to make
modest use of it. 2 Franklin feared that the Germans would eventually outnumber the English, "and even our government will become precarious”.
Similar fears, although not about the Germans, led to the adoption of the national origins quota system 168 years later. However, one of the largest mass migrations in recorded history preceded this step. During the century between the fall of Napoleon and World War I, from 30 to 35 million immigrants came to the United States.
D. 19TH CENTURY IMMIGRATION
The mass migration of the 19th century was the result of a near perfect match between the needs of a new country and overcrowded Europe. Europe at this time was undergoing drastic social change and economic reorganization, severely compounded by overpopulation. An extraordinary increase in population coincided with the breakup of the old agricultural order which had been in place since medieval times throughout much of Europe. Commonly held lands were broken up into individually owned farms, resulting in landless status for peasants from Ireland to Russia. At approximately the same time, the industrial revolution was underway, moving from Great Britain to Western Europe, and then to Southern and Eastern Europe. For Germany, Sweden, Russia, and Japan, the highest points of emigration coincided with the beginnings of industrialization and the ensuing general disruption of employment patterns. The artisans joined the peasants evicted from their land as immigrants to the United States. Population pressure and related economic problems, sometimes in the extreme form of famine, are generally cited as being the major causes of the mass migration of this long period, followed by religious persecution and the desire for political freedom.
America, on the other hand, had a boundless need for people to push back the frontier, to build the railways, to defend unstable boundaries, and to populate new States. The belief in America as a land of asylum for the oppressed was reinforced by the commitment to the philosophy of manifest destiny. Immigration was required for settlement, defense, and economic well-being.
The coincidence of European and American interest in mass migration during this period is well illustrated by two quotations, one from the European and one from the American point of view. The first is from a letter written home by a Frenchman, J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur, in 1792:
There is no wonder that this country has so many charms and presents to Europeans so many temptations to remain in it. A traveller in Europe becomes a
2 Quoted by Franklin D. Scott. The People of America: Perspectives on Immigration. Washington, American Historical Association, AHA pamphlets 241, 1972. p. 15.
stranger as soon as he quits his own kingdom; but it is otherwise here. We know, properly speaking, no strangers; this is every person's country; the variety of our soils, situations, climates, governments, and produce, hath something which must please everybody .... He does not find, as in Europe, a crowded society, where every place is over-stocked; he does not feel that perpetual collision of parties, that difficulty of beginning, that contention which oversets so many. There is room for everybody in America; has he any particular talent, or
industry. He exerts it in order to procure a livelihood, and it succeeds. 3 The second quotation is from the Republican party platform in 1864, which Abraham Lincoln participated in writing: “Foreign immigration which in the past has added so much to the wealth, resources, and increase of power to this nation—the asylum of the oppressed of all nations should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy.” 4 The United States throughout the 19th century was in the happy position of doing well by doing good, of adding to its "wealth, resources, and increase of power” by serving as the asylum of the oppressed of all nations."
Official, albeit imperfect, immigration statistics were recorded beginning in 1820 by the Department of State, which continued to perform this task until 1870. The immigration data collection function was subsequently transferred to the Treasury Department's Bureau of Statistics, and from there to the Bureau of Immigration, housed first in the Department of Labor and subsequently in the Department of Justice.
Data collection began in 1819 in response to a Federal law requiring ship captains arriving from abroad to submit a manifest to the customs collector showing the sex, occupation, age, and country of all passengers aboard. Initially, data was recorded only on vessels arriving at Eastern ports; Western ports were included beginning in 1850. During the Civil War, data was available only from ports under Federal control. Immigration over land borders was recorded haphazardly until around 1910.
The generally accepted estimate of the number of immigrants entering between the end of the Revolutionary War and 1819 is 250,000. In 1820, 8,385 entries were recorded; by 1840 annual immigration had increased tenfold, to 84,066. Germany, the United Kingdom, and Ireland accounted for 70 percent of the 750,949 entries between 1820-1840. Emigration from Ireland and England was primarily in response to economic problems. In Germany, economic problems were aggravated by liberal discontent with political developments following the Napoleonic Wars.
Immigration increased almost 600 percent, to 4,311,465, during the subsequent 20year period, 1841-1860. Ireland, Germany, and Great Britain accounted for 87.5 percent of the total. This was the period of the potato famine, which hit hardest in Ireland but affected other parts of Europe as well.
Even with high rates of out-migration, Ireland's population had almost doubled from 1800-1840, increasing from 4.5 million to over 8 million. The increasingly impoverished peasants had become almost wholly dependent on the potato for sustenance. When the entire potato crop was wiped out in 1846 and 1847, half a million people died, 3 million lived on charity, and hundreds of thousands fled to America. Just under 1.7 million came from Ireland between 1841-1860. Emigration from Ireland reduced rather than simply slowed population growth, and in the second half of the century significant amounts of money flowed back into the country in the form of remittances from America.
Germany sent almost 1.4 million immigrants to America during 1841-1860. Germany suffered a severe economic crisis during the 1840s, as well as political unrest culminating in the revolution of 1848. The “forty-eighters” joined those fleeing to America from the potato famine, high prices, and widespread unemployment. An additional 700,000 came from Great Britain.
By 1860, the population of the United States had increased to 31 million, from 7 million in 1810. More than 5 million immigrants had added to this increase. About half of them were from Great Britain and Ireland, followed by more than 1.5 million Germans and 50,000 Scandinavians.
Immigration to the United States was widely, although not universally, encouraged during the mid-19th century; pull factors were operative in addition to the push factors discussed above. Of major importance was the so-called “American letter." These were letters to relatives at home encouraging others to follow, and sometimes including one-way steamship tickets. Another important factor was the active recruitment of passengers by steamship companies and railroad workers by the railroads.
3 Crevecoeur. Letters from an American Farmer. Reprinted in Immigration and the American Tradition. Moses Rischin, ed. Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1976. p. 29-30.
4 Quoted by William S. Bernard. American Immigration Policy. New York, Harper and Bros., 1950. p. 6.
Following the Civil War, the development of the Union Pacific and other railways required the western movement of immigrants. The migration west of immigrants was also encouraged by western States through brochures and agents sent to New York and abroad, and by reducing the residence period required to vote. The Homestead Act of 1862 made western lands available to immigrants as well as the nativeborn. The Contract Labor Law passed in 1864 was intended to encourage immigration by advancing money for passage. However, it was repealed in 1868, under pressure from U.S. labor groups.
Anti-immigration, or nativist, feeling was also strong during the mid-19th century. The nativist movement of this period was inspired by a combination of anti-Catholicism, fear for American labor, the linking of immigration with crime and poverty, and concern about the political impact of immigrants. The nativist Know Nothing party showed considerable strength in the 1850s, but it ebbed by 1860.
Immigration increased to 5,127,015 during the 20-year period 1861-1880, a figure approximately equal to total previous immigration since the country had gained its independence. Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland continued to account for the largest numbers. Additionally, there were significant numbers from Sweden, Norway, and China. The high level of immigration during this period reflected, in part, the growing improvements in international communication and transportation, which resulted in widespread circulation of stories about the new land, as well as a less arduous sea voyage.
In Sweden, the winter of 1867-1868 brought a monetary crisis, followed by a crop failure and local famine. These developments, in combination with precarious agricultural conditions, the displacement of artisans by industrial development, and ideological and religious differences, resulted in mass Swedish emigration in the late 1860s. A similar pattern was repeated in Norway and throughout other countries as agrarian difficulties beset Europe during the 1880s. Eventually, the pressure was eased by the growth of industrial employment in both rural areas and the towns and a slowing population growth. Immigration from the Scandinavian countries eased off in the second decade of the 20th century.
F. THE 1880s THROUGH WORLD WAR I
The last two decades of the 19th century were particularly significant for immigration. The volume of immigration continued to increase, the principal sources shifted from Northern and Western Europe to Southern and Eastern Europe, and the Federal Government assumed an increasingly active role.
Federal legislation barring the entry of convicts and prostitutes was enacted on March 3, 1875. The Act of August 3, 1882, is considered the first general immigration statute. It was enacted in response to a combination of factors, including the increasing number of immigrants; the fear that criminals, paupers, and mental and physical defectives were being systematically sent to the United States; and an 1875 Supreme Court ruling that State laws regulating immigration infringed on Congress's exclusive power over foreign commerce and were unconstitutional. This latter development led to lobbying by private welfare organizations in Eastern cities for the establishment of Federal controls.
The Immigration Act of 1882 gave the Secretary of the Treasury authority over immigration, basing this jurisdiction on a newly established head tax of 50 cents per immigrant. The law also continued the bar against undesirables, including convicts, mental defectives, and paupers. This legislation marked the beginning of an active Federal role in immigration. It was enacted primarily in response to problems associated with what the Immigration Commission was to characterize in its 1911 report as the "old" immigration, from Northern and Western Europe; the “new” immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe was just getting underway.
The year 1882 also saw the enactment of the first legislation basing eligibility-or ineligibility-for entry on national origin. This was the Chinese Exclusion Act of May 6, 1882, which remained in effect until its repeal in 1943. Contract labor laws, prohibiting the importation under contract of foreign labor, were also enacted in the 1880s, following the depression, strikes, and efforts of the Knights of Labor during mid-years of the decade. The three elements contained in this early legislation-individual qualifications, national origin, and protection of U.S. labor—formed the