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Nativism (politics) : United States 20th century 1


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In the 1890s–1920s era, nativists and labor unions campaigned for immigration restriction following the waves of workers and families from southern and eastern Europe, including Italy, the Balkans, Poland, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. A favorite plan was the literacy test to exclude workers who could not read or write their own foreign language. Congress passed literacy tests, but presidents—responding to business needs for workers—vetoed them. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge argued need for literacy tests and its implication on the new immigrants:

It is found, in the first place, that the illiteracy test will bear most heavily upon the Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, and Asiatics, and lightly, or not at all, upon English-speaking emigrants, or Germans, Scandinavians, and French. In other words, the races most affected by the illiteracy test are those whose emigration to this country has begun within the last twenty years and swelled rapidly to enormous proportions, races with which the English speaking people have never hitherto assimilated, and who are most alien to the great body of the people of the United States.
Responding to these demands, opponents of the literacy test called for the establishment of an immigration commission to focus on immigration as a whole. The United States Immigration Commission, also known as the Dillingham Commission, was created and tasked with studying immigration and its effect on the United States. The findings of the commission further influenced immigration policy and upheld the concerns of the nativist movement.

Following World War I, nativists in the twenties focused their attention on southern and eastern Europeans due to their Catholic and Jewish faith, and realigned their beliefs behind racial and religious nativism. The racial concern of the anti-immigration movement was linked closely to the eugenics movement that was sweeping the United States in the twenties. Led by Madison Grant's book, The Passing of the Great Race nativists grew more concerned with the racial purity of the United States. In his book, Grant argued that the American racial stock was being diluted by the influx of new immigrants from the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the ghettos. The Passing of the Great Race reached wide popularity among Americans and influenced immigration policy in the twenties.[46] In the 1920s a wide national consensus sharply restricted the overall inflow of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. The second Ku Klux Klan, which flourished in the U.S. in the 1920s, used strong nativist, anti-Catholic, and anti-semitic rhetoric, but the Catholics led a counterattack, such as in Chicago in 1921 where ethnic Irish residents hanged a Klan member in front of 3,000 people.

After intense lobbying from the nativist movement the United States Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act in 1921. This bill was the first to place numerical quotas on immigration. It capped the inflow of immigrations to 357,803 for those arriving outside of the western hemisphere. However, this bill was only temporary as Congress began debating a more permanent bill.

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