Immigration in 1920s Daisy Ye

Immigrants were restricted from entering America during the 1920s. After WWI, the Red Scare of 1919, a fear of radical political movements, communism, and anarchism, along with the loss of large-scale immigrants during the war caused the declination of immigration. Nativism was another major factor that promoted the restrictions of immigrants. Sacco and Vanzetti was an incident that reinforced the fear of foreign radicals among the Americans, which led to the Emergency Immigration Act of 1921. Later the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed to further impede immigration into the United States. Just like 1880s, Americans, driven by nativism, rejected foreigners from entering their country and clung to the old policy of isolationism.

The video describes how nativism led to the restricted immigration, which led to the idea that "America is composed of immigrants" among the Americans (include immigrants).

Sacco and Vanzetti Case

In 1920, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, both Italian immigrants, stole $16,000 from a shoe factory payroll and killed the paymaster and a guard. They were known as radicals and later sentenced to death. This incident occurred at the height of Italian immigration and against the backdrop of many terror attacks by anarchists, some of which they participated. Sacco and Vanzetti Case made the Americans anxious about their country. According to Bisbee Daily, taken from the Library of Congress, Americans believed that the Europeans hope to "stir up a fire that might threaten the destruction of that nation they hate above all others––the United States of America."

The person on the right is Nicola Sacco and the person on the left is Bartolomeo Vanzetti. (Picture taken from https://libcom.org/history/1916-1927-the-execution-of-sacco-and-vanzetti.)
This painting is about the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti. (Picture taken by Peter A. Julie, and taken from https://learninglab.si.edu/resources/view/350904/search)

Emergency Immigration Act of 1921

Emergency Immigration Act of 1921 is also known as 1921 Emergency Quota Act. This act was made to temporarily limit the flow of immigrants from entering the U.S. by imposing quotas based on country of birth. Annual allowable quotas for each country of origin were calculated at 3 percent of the total number of foreign-born persons from that country. Exceptions to the quotas were government officials and their families, foreigners who were passing through the U.S. or visiting as tourists or temporary workers, immigrants from countries of the Western Hemisphere, minor children of U.S. citizens, countries that signed bilateral agreement with the U.S., and in the Asiatic Barred Zone. This rule was friendly to southern and eastern Europeans.

The actual text of the Emergency Immigration Act of 1921 can be found below.

This picture shows that the United States only accepted 3 percent of the total number of foreign-born persons from their original country, thus, inhibited many immigrants from entering the country. (Picture taken from http://www.american-historama.org/1913-1928-ww1-prohibition-era/1921-emergency-quota-act.htm)

Immigration Act of 1924

Immigration Act of 1924 is also known as the Johnson-Reed Act. Similar to the Immigration Act of 1921, this act also employed quotas in order to exclude immigrants from entering the country. However, the quotas was lowered to 2% of the total number of the people from that country who were already living in the U.S. Unlike the Immigration Act of 1921, this act hurt the southern and eastern Europeans or the "New Immigrants." Thus, this one is more effective than the previous act.

This is a picture of President Coolidge who signed the Immigration Act of 1924. (Picture taken from https://learninglab.si.edu/resources/view/177543/search)

The button below shows the obvious declination of immigrants from 1920-1930.

Gas and Breaks For Immigration in 1920s

Nativism was a concept that became more popular during the 1920s. For example, Ku Klux Klan increased its members drastically during this period of time. Also, for the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, they did not receive a fair trial because of the inconclusive evidence, which shows that the thrive of nativism caused people to care more about the safety of their country than justice.

Due to nativism, immigrants were rejected from entering the United States, which is the "break" in 1920s. The immigration in America during this period of time was going backwards. For example, in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed to prevent Chinese people from taking away jobs in the country. In the 1920s, the Americans were preventing immigrants to get rid of foreign radicals and protect the safety of the country.

Conclusion

Immigrants were restricted from entering the country during 1920s due to the growing nativism among the Americans. Sacco and Vanzetti case made Americans worried about foreign radicals. Thus, the Immigration Act of 1921, which allowed 3% of the total number of foreign-born persons from their original country, was passed to limit the number of immigrants. Later, the Immigration Act of 1924, which only allowed 2% of the total number of the people from that country who were already living in the U.S, was signed by President Coolidge to further restrict immigrants. The "gas" of the immigration in 1920s was the thrive of nativism, and the "break" was the number of immigrants allowed to come to America.

For a better understanding of the overall concept, please check the video below!

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Daisy Ye
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