Immigration Policy in the 1920s

Abogado Aly Immigration 1920Immigration policy rose in national importance in the 1920s for a couple of reasons. “Economic concerns, nationalism brought about by World War I, and a tilt toward a smaller percentage of new immigrants with English as their native language contributed to moving public sentiment towards restricting immigration”. The emergence of “Eugenics” as a public policy tool in policy circles and Western philosophy also played a role. “Eugenics is the belief in improving the qualities of the human race by preventing the reproduction of people deemed to have genetic defects or undesirable characteristics and/or encouraging increased reproduction by those with supposed desirable inheritable characteristics.” According to Anderson, this widespread belief in eugenics was a decisive factor in creating the restrictive immigration laws in the 1920s. Natives in Canada and the United States were in favor of the status quo of their countries, so they did not want a large amount of immigrants they deemed as “undesirable” tainting their countries national structure.

This word “undesirables” is funny in this context because the factors in which made a person undesirable were two different types of people: criminals and people of different races. Racism, therefore, was a major aspect in creating the immigration policy of the 1920s. The Ku Klux Klan started in 1915 to “control minority groups which it identified with moral and political nonconformity”. There was strong support for anti-Jewish sentiments. A quote from U.S. consuls abroad said that “by barring legislative action the United States would face an onslaught of Jews who were “abnormally twisted,” “inassimilable,” “Filthy, un-American, and often dangerous in their habits”.  These were times of tense national identity, or, as we like to call it in the progressive era, racism, so of course the immigration policies of the 1920s for both Canada and the United States were to keep their national identity and therefore their morals, values, traditions, and most importantly there so called “intellectual level”.