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basis for the restrictive policy which supplanted the policy of asylum, or essentially free immigration, after World War I. Chief in importance among these was national origin.
Immigration reached a high of 5,246,613 in 1881-1890, followed by 3,687,564 in the last decade in the 19th century. Germany, the United Kingdom, and Ireland accounted for almost half of the immigration during this period, although their numbers all declined significantly in the 1890s. Immigration from these countries continued a steady and sharp decline into the first two decades of the 20th century. This was due largely to improved economic conditions, resulting from the leveling off of population growth and the increase in industrialization which absorbed increasing numbers of workers.
In contrast, immigration from Italy and Austria-Hungary increased rapidly in the
The push factors behind this migration resembled those underlying the earlier mass migration from Northern and Western Europe. Economic difficulties beset Italy, Poland, and Greece following the collapse of the old agrarian order and the disruptive early stages in industrialization, aggravated by severe overpopulation. In Italy, the cholera epidemic of 1887 was an added impetus for migration. Again, America provided an alternative to poverty and sometimes starvation for landless peasants and unemployed artisans. Others fled because of religious and ethnic persecution. These included the Russian Jews, Russo-German Mennonites, and Armenians. Others left for predominantly political reasons, including Poles and Russians.
While the United States remained willing and able to absorb the mass migration from Southern and Eastern Europe during the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the country's needs had changed. The closing of the frontier, officially announced in the 1890 census, coincided with the development of a booming industrial economy which required manpower just as settlement and the opening of the West had in a previous period. The “new” immigrants, as they were characterized by the Dillingham Commission, fueled the industrialization and urbanization of America. Quoting from the Commission's 1911 report:
A large proportion of the southern and eastern European immigrants of the past 25 years have entered the manufacturing and mining industries of the eastern and middle western States, mostly in the capacity of unskilled laborers. There is no basic industry in which they are not largely represented and in many cases they compose more than 50 percent of the total number of persons employed in such industries. Coincident with the advent of these millions of unskilled laborers there has been an unprecedented expansion of the industries in which they have been employed. Whether this great immigration movement was caused by the industrial development or whether the fact that a practically unlimited and available supply of cheap labor existed in Europe was taken advantage of for the purpose of expanding the industries, cannot well be demonstrated. Whatever may be the truth in this regard it is certain that southern and eastern European immigrants have almost completely monopolized unskilled labor activities in many of the most important industries. 5 The growing, ambivalence toward immigration during the early 20th century is apparent in this description. Immigrants were believed by many to adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers. They were also associated with the city by a country which was predominantly rural in its attitudes. As early as 1890, 62 percent of the foreign-born lived in urban places, compared to 26 percent of native whites born of native parents. The urban immigrant was blamed for the real and imagined evils of the city, including crime and poverty,
Immigration in the first decade of the 20th century reached 8,795,386, the highest number in the country's history to date, followed by the second highest number, 5,735,811, in 1911-1920. More than 1 million immigrants entered the United States in 1905, 1906, 1907, 1910, 1913, and 1914. By the end of World War I, the era of mass migration was brought to a close by the enactment of increasingly restrictive legislation.
Legislation enacted during World War I, the Immigration Act of February 5, 1917, codified existing restrictions on immigration and added new ones. Enacted over President Wilson's veto, the 1917 Act established the Asiatic Barred Zone, which further restricted the entry of Asians. It also prohibited the entry of aliens over age
5 U.S. Immigration Commission. Abstracts of Reports. S. Doc. 747, 61st Cong., 3d Sess., 191011. p. 37-38.
16 who were unable to read in any language, a measure specifically intended to curtail immigration from southeastern Europe. Literacy provisions had been passed previously in 1896, 1913, and 1915, and vetoed successively by Presidents Cleveland, Taft, and Wilson.
In his 1915 veto message, President Wilson charged that the literacy test marked a sharp departure from the traditional American belief in “the right of political asylum" which had heretofore characterized American immigration policy. Quoting from his message:
Hitherto we have generously kept our doors open to all who were not unfitted by reason of disease or incapacity for self support or such personal records and antecedents as were likely to make them a menace to our peace and order or to the wholesome and essential relationships of life. In this bill it is proposed to turn away from tests of character and of quality and impose tests which exclude and restrict; for the new tests here embodied are not tests of quality or of character or of personal fitness, but tests of opportunity. Those who come seeking opportunity are not to be admitted unless they have already had one of the chief of the opportunities they seek, the opportunity of education. The object of
such provisions is restriction, not selection. 6 President Wilson went on to note, “If the people of this country have made up their minds to limit the number of immigrants by arbitrary tests and so reverse the policy of all the generations of Americans that have gone before them, it is their right to do so." However, he did not believe this to be the case.
Two years later, a wartime Congress overrode a subsequent veto by President Wilson, and the literacy requirement became law. Under the combined pressure of wartime nationalism and post-war isolationism, the economics of increasing urbanization, and a concern about the large numbers of immigrants entering from southeastern Europe, the American public, as reflected by the Congress, opted to reverse the policy of providing political asylum for one of comparative restriction. Numerical limitations followed in 1921 and, in varying forms, have remained in effect ever since.
G. THE 1920s: NUMERICAL RESTRICTIONS
Until the 1920s, legal restrictions on immigration had essentially remained qualitative rather than quantitative. That is, there were no restrictions on the number of aliens who could enter, provided that they met the criteria set forth in the law. During the 1920s numerical restrictions were placed on immigration from the Eastern Hemisphere. Western Hemisphere immigration remained numerically unrestricted until 1968.
The temporary Quota Act of May 19, 1921, was followed by the permanent Immigration Act of May 26, 1924, which remained in force until 1952. Under the national origins quota formula which went into effect on July 1, 1929, the annual quota of any nationality was “a number which bears the same ratio to 150,000 as the number of inhabitants in the United States in 1920 having that national origin bears to the number of white inhabitants of the United States in 1920, with a minimum quota of 100 for each nationality.”? Natives of countries in the “barred zone,' encompassing most Asian countries, were generally inadmissible as immigrants with certain exceptions.
The movement toward numerical limitations initially reflected a genuine fear of being engulfed by the refugees of war-ravaged Europe, together with the growing nationalism of the United States as an emerging world power and the isolationism which characterized the country following World War I. As the 1920s progressed, the arguments in favor of numerical restrictions were buttressed and shaped by popular biological theories of the period alleging the superiority of certain races. Two statements by Dr. Harry N. Laughlin, a eugenics consultant to the House Judiciary Committee on Immigration and Naturalization in the early 1920s indicate the important role these theories played in the direction taken by immigration policy immediately after World War I:
6 Wilson, Woodrow. Not Tests of Quality but of Opportunity. Reprinted in Immigration and the American Tradition. Moses Rischin, ed. Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1976. p. 285286.
? U.S. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. Revising the Laws Relating to Immigration, Naturalization, and Nationality. H. Rept. 1365, 82d Cong., 2d Sess. Feb. 14, 1952. Washington, GPO, 1952. p. 37.
We in this country have been so imbued with the idea of democracy, or the equality of all men, that we have left out of consideration the matter of blood or natural born hereditary mental and moral differences. No man who breeds pedigreed plants and animals can afford to neglect this thing . The National Origins provisions of the immigration control law of 1924 marked the actual turning point from immigration control based on the asylum idea ... definitely in favor of the biological basis ....8
H. THE 1930S AND 1940s: REFUGEES AND BRACEROS
The history of U.S. immigration policy from the 1930s to the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980 was characterized by a tension resulting from the attempt to accommodate our traditional ideal of providing asylum from oppression within the framework of a comparatively restrictive immigration law. This tension resulted in part from the fact that the fortunate congruence in the 19th century between our economic needs and our humanitarian desire to offer refuge to the oppressed no longer exists. We no longer have the manpower requirements which characterized the settling of the wilderness followed by the industrialization of the nation.
Immigration in the 1930s totaled 528,431, down from 4,107,209 in the 1920s, and accompanied by substantial emigration. Restrictive immigration laws combined with the Depression to slow the immigrant flow to the lowest point since the 1830s. Without question, Hitler was a major “push” factor of the period; Germany led the sending countries, and many more would have come if they had been permitted.
In a campaign speech in October 1932, Herbert Hoover said, “With the growth of democracy in foreign countries, political persecution has largely ceased. There is no longer a necessity for the United States to provide an asylum for those persecuted because of conscience.” 9 Hitler came to power shortly thereafter, and proved him tragically wrong. The flight of refugees from Germany began in 1933 and continued for the rest of the decade, to be followed by an even greater exodus of displaced persons throughout Europe after World War II.
The United States accepted an estimated 250,000 refugees from Nazi persecution prior to our entry into the war in 1941. 10 The country was undergoing the worst depression in its history, and efforts to liberalize the immigration law were unsuccessful.
U.S. motives in the admission of refugees from the 1930s until the present time have combined humanitarian concerns with foreign policy considerations. We have, in effect, traded the wilderness for the world. Our sense of our role as the leader of the Western alliance was a major factor in the passage of special legislation allowing for the admission of displaced persons and refugees in the wake of World War II.
The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 was the first refugee legislation enacted in the Nation's history. Together with its subsequent amendments, it provided for the admission of more than 400,000 displaced persons through the end of 1951, by mortgaging future immigration quotas. Poles accounted for one-third of the admissions, followed by German ethnics. 11
Total immigrant admissions doubled during the 1940s compared to the 1930s, going from 528,431 to 1,035,039. This was still the lowest 10-year figure since the 1830s, exclusive of the preceding decade. Of this number, 354,804 entered from the Western Hemisphere.
The total number of permanent entries from the Western Hemisphere during the 1940s and 1950s was far exceeded by the number of admissions for temporary employment from the Western Hemisphere countries, led overwhelmingly by Mexico. The Mexican bracero program lasted from 1942 until 1964, and authorized the entry of between 4 and 5 million temporary agricultural workers. Significant, although much smaller numbers also entered from the Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, British Honduras, Canada, and Newfoundland.
8 Quoted by Abba Schwartz. The Open Society. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1968. p. 105– 106.
9 Quoted by Robert Divine. American Immigration Policy, 1924-1952. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1957. p. 92.
10 Ibid., p. 104.
11 A table prepared by the Immigration and Naturalization Service entitled, Refugees and Asylees Granted Lawful Permanent Resident Status by Region and Selected Country of Birth, Fiscal Years 1946-89, appears as Table 2 at the end of this Appendix.
I. THE IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY ACT OF 1952 The Immigration and Nationality Act enacted on June 27, 1952, was a major recodification and revision of existing immigration and nationality law. It codified and carried forward, with modifications, the essential elements of both the 1917 and 1924 Acts discussed above, as well as those provisions of the Internal Security Act of September 23, 1950, relating to the exclusion of Communists.
The 1952 legislation reflected the cold war atmosphere and anti-communism of the period, following World War II and at the onset of the Korean War. The law was, Robert Divine asserted, “in essence an act of conservatism rather than of intol
.” 12 The difference between the climate of opinion in the 1920s and the early 1950s is apparent in the following statement in the 1950 report of the Senate Judiciary Committee, "Without giving credence to any theory of Nordic superiority, the subcommittee believes that the adoption of the national origins quota formula was a rational and logical method of numerically restricting immigration in such a manner as to best preserve the sociological and cultural balance of the United States." 13 In contrast to the 1920s, the case for the national origins quota system in the 1950s was not generally argued on the grounds of racial superiority, but on sociological theories of the time relating to cultural assimilation. The provisions effectively prohibiting entry from most Asian countries were also slightly relaxed by the 1952 Act.
However, the legislation was characterized by supporters and opponents alike as a restrictionist measure, and was a severe disappointment to those who had hoped for a liberalization of the immigration law. In particular, the continuation of the national origins quota system was viewed by critics of the legislation as being inappropriate to the needs of U.S. foreign policy. Foremost among these critics was President Truman, whose veto was overridden by a vote of 278 to 113 in the House, and 57 to 26 in the Senate. Quoting from his veto message:
Today, we are "protecting” ourselves as we were in 1924, against being flooded
dead hand of the past, as we are in this field of immigration. 14 In addition to continuing the national origins quota system for the Eastern Hemisphere, the 1952 Act also established a four-category selection system. Fifty percent of each national quota was allocated for first preference distribution to aliens with high education or exceptional abilities, and the remaining three preference categories were divided among specified relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens. This four-point selection system was the antecedent of our current preference system, which places higher priority on family reunification than on needed skills. However, under the 1952 law national origins remained the determining factor in immigrant admissions, and Northern and Western Europe were heavily favored. As in the past, the Western Hemisphere was not subject to numerical limitations.
Immigration during the decade 1951-1960 totaled 2,515,479, the highest since the 1920s. This was not surprising, since the two intervening decades included the depression of the 1930s and World War II. The gap between Eastern and Western Hemisphere immigration also narrowed: of the 2.5 million entries, almost a million entered from the Western Hemisphere.
Less than half of the immigrants who entered during the 1950s were admitted under the quota system. While many came under special temporary laws enacted to permit the admission of refugees and family members outside the quotas, many
12 Divine, American Immigration Policy, p. 190.
13 U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. The Immigration and Naturalization Systems of the United States. S. Rept. 1515, 81st Cong., 2d Sess. Washington, GPO, 1950. p. 455.
14 U.S. Congress. House. Message from the President of the United States. H. Doc. 520, 82d Cong., 2d Sess. June 25, 1952. p. 5.
others entered as nonquota immigrants (e.g., from the Western Hemisphere) under the basic law. The gradual recognition that the national origins quota system was not functioning effectively as a means of regulating immigration was an important factor leading to the major policy revision which came in 1965.
J. REFUGEE ADMISSIONS IN THE 1950s AND 1960s Major refugee admissions occurred outside the national origins quota system during the 1950s. The Refugee Relief Act of August 7, 1953, and the August 31, 1954 amendments authorized the admission of 214,000 refugees from war-torn Europe and escapees from Communist-dominated countries. Thirty percent of the admissions during the life of the Act were Italians, followed by Germans, Yugoslavs, and Greeks.
The Refugee Relief Act originated as an Administration bill, and combined humanitarian concern for the refugees and escapees with “international political considerations.” Quoting from President Eisenhower's letter which accompanied the draft legislation:
These refugees, escapees, and distressed peoples now constitute an economic and political threat of constantly growing magnitude. They look to traditional American humanitarian concern for the oppressed. International political considerations are also factors which are involved. We should take reasonable steps to help these people to the extent that we share the obligation of the free
world. '15 In particular, the inclusion of the category of “escapees” from Communist domination in this and subsequent refugee legislation reflected the preoccupations of this Cold War period. This concern was also a major factor in the admission of refugees from the unsuccessful Hungarian revolution of October 1956. A total of 38,000 Hungarian refugees were eventually admitted to the United States, 6,130 with Refugee Relief Act visas and the remainder under the parole provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The Act of September 11, 1957, sometimes referred to as the “Refugee-Escapee Act,” provided for the admission of certain aliens who were eligible under the terms of the Refugee Relief Act, as well as “refugee-escapees," defined as persons fleeing persecution in Communist countries or countries in the Middle East. This was the basis for the definition of “refugee” incorporated in the Immigration and Nationality Act from 1965 until 1980. A total of 29,000 entered under the temporary 1957 refugee provisions, led by Hungarians, Koreans, Yugoslavs, and Chinese. Many entered with visas authorized by, but unused under, the expired Refugee Relief Act. In addition, the 1957 legislation repealed the quota deductions required by the Displaced Persons Act.
During the 1960s, refugees from persecution in communist dominated countries in the Eastern Hemisphere and from countries in the Middle East continued to be admitted, first under the Fair Share Law, enacted July 14, 1960, and subsequently under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Approximately 19,700 refugees entered under the 1960 legislation. Its primary purpose was to enable the United States to participate in an international effort to close the refugee camps which had been in operation in Europe since the end of World War II. U.Š. participation was limited to one-fourth of the total number resettled.
Cuban refugees began entering the United States with the fall of the Batista government in 1959, and continued throughout the 1960s and, in smaller numbers, the 1970s. Approximately 700,000 Cuban refugees had entered the United States prior to new influx which began in April 1980. In the past, the United States has accepted the Cubans as refugees from communism through a variety of legal means.
K. THE IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY ACT AMENDMENTS OF 1965
AND THEIR AFTERMATH The 1965 amendments to the 1952 Act repealed the national origins quota system and, according to one authority, “represented the most far-reaching revision of immigration policy in the United States since the First Quota Act of 1921.” 16 In place
15 U.S. Congress. Senate. Final Report of the Administrator of the Refugee Relief Act of 1953, As Amended. Refugee Relief Act of 1953, As Amended. Committee Print, 85th Cong., 1st Sess. Nov. 15, 1957. Washington, GPO, 1958. p. 1.
16 Harper, Elizabeth J. Immigration Laws of the United States. 3d ed. Indianapolis, BobbsMerrill Co., Inc., 1975. p. 38.