Although there are many different and complex reasons to why the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed I will focus on the conception of eugenics that was present before this act and also the general ill- sentiment towards immigrants and racism leading up to the passing of this act. The implications of the National Origins Act (Immigration Act) will also be discussed as they pertained particularly to Asians and southeastern Europeans. The major triumph of the advocates of eugenics was the Immigration Act of 1924. Eugenics was a big reason why Asians and these southeastern Europeans werent wanted or allowed into the country.
The reason for this was because of the popular belief, even the belief of popular sociologists at the time, that the Mediterranean Europeans were morally inferior compared to the northern Europeans. The end of World War I was a period when racism was on a rise because of the patriotism and loyalty that native Americans felt at the time. At this time immigrants were not popular because of the fact that they were driving out the white labor. The idea of eugenics was a popular one in the early 1900s, which eventually lead to the Immigration Act of 1924.
Eugenics is an idea that may sound absurd, but it was a popular belief among nativists and is and idea expressed by some popele in todays society. There are different types of eugenics, but the type that was used to classify immigrants was based mostly on physical characteristics that were thought to be subordinate. It was actually a popular belief that many of the southern and eastern Europeans were physically distorted in some ways, such as crania distortion and asymmetrical faces, which automatically made them inferior.
The growing popularity of the notion of eugenics is evident in some of the legislation that was passed at the time. The target of eugenics was on all immigrants coming into the country, but the Gjerde readings discuss a lot about the dissent towards southern Europeans and describes how their inferior characteristics meant that they would somehow pollute the American bloodstream or something to that nature. With the passing of the Immigration Act of 1924 the supporters of the idea of eugenics received the support they wanted from federal legislation.
The general attitude of the nativist American people towards immigrants was a racist attitude. I discussed how eugenics dealt with southern and eastern Europeans, but there was another group that was effected by the changes and events leading up to the act. Asian immigration was not looked upon very highly by the nativists. The Immigration Act of 1917 was the beginning of the crack down on Asian immigration into the United States since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The provisions of this act were the literacy tests and the designated Asiatic Barred Zone, which blocked off immigration for much of eastern Asia.
After World War I the popularity of loyalty and patriotism rose to a new high. Along with burst in loyalty and patriotism came prejudice and racism. As a result, immigrants were looked upon as a threat. A change that the Congress made as a result of this was putting quotas on immigrants depending on where there home land was. The general implications of the National Origins Act will be discussed later. A key court case to look at leading up to the act was the Thind vs. the United States case. Thind was an Asian Indian.
The decision of this case sums up the general attitude if nativists towards Asian immigrants in particular and shows how white supremacy was in full effect. In the Gjerde readings about this case it tells us that Caucasian was the same thing a white person before the Thind case. Thind claimed he was Caucasian, which meant he was eligible for citizenship. Many Americans rejoiced when he wasnt given his citizenship and many others had theres taken away because of the ruling. This defining of white and racial injustice is a key event leading up to the Immigration Act of 1924.
Congress establishment of quotas happened before the National Origins Act was actually passed, but the quotas after the act were more appeasing to certain immigrants. The immigrants from northern and western Europe were given better quotas largely because of the notion of eugenics. E. A Ross in the Gjerde reading states, They [southern Europeans] simply look out of place in black clothes and stiff collar, since clearly they belong in skins, in wattled huts at the close of the Great Ice Age.
This racism and resentment towards southeastern Europeans was a popular opinion. The quotas helped out the northwestern Europeans as they were looked upon as desirable because of such reasons as E. A Ross says: discipline, sense of duty, and consideration for the weak Although the National Origins Act wasnt bad for immigrants coming from Britain, Germany, and Ireland the quotas for countries such as Russia and Italy were cut back. This was all because of the thought that the Northerners were more desirable because of the stereotyping towards the Southerners in Europe.
These implications of the Immigration Act of 1924 hit Asians the hardest. This act shut off virtually all Asian immigration into the country because of all of the other acts that restricted Asian immigration. It was very obvious that Chinese were not wanted into the country and especially into California. The statement by James G. Blaine sums up the popular opinion of Chinese at the time, You cannot work a man who must have beef and bread, alongside a man who can live on rice.
Another, and possibly the biggest, reason that nativists wanted Chinese to stop migrating to their country was the fact that they were taking the jobs and driving out the white labor. Its almost as if there was a fear that the Asians were going to get a firm hold on the country. The passing of the Immigration Act and all that in entails shows that the nativists were not willing to lose the contest for race supremacy in the United States. There were several changes and events in American society that led eventually to the 1924 Immigration Act.
Some of these changes were the rising of the idea of eugenics. Eugenics basically means that a certain ethnicity is inferior to another mostly because of physical characteristics and genetic makeup. Some events in American society that took place were World War I, Immigration Act of 1917, and the Thind case. World War I caused many nativist Americans to have more patriotism and loyalty to their country. This made much of them feel threatened by immigrants. The Immigration Act of 1917 increased the classes of foreigners in the United States.
The key implications of this were the fact that there were literacy tests and the creation of the Asiatic Barred Zone. The importance of the Thind case at this period in time is that it changed the notion that Caucasian and white are the same thing. One must be white to get citizenship according to this case. This brought havoc to many immigrants who already had citizenship. All of this and more eventually led to the National Origins Act in 1924. There were implications for both Europeans and non-Europeans.
The quota was definitely against the southern Europeans because of the notion of their inferiority placed upon them by the idea of eugenics. Asians immigration to the United States was in essence completely stopped with the passage of this act. The main reason for this was because of the labor they were taking away from the white nativist. During this time period it was rough going if you were an immigrant because of all the restrictions, stereotypes, and abuse that you would go through just to have decent place in American society.