Table of Contents
The establishment of the Immigration Act of 1924, also known as The National Origins Act, marked the beginning of restricted immigration into the United States. Particularly, the Congress sought to limit the number of immigrants gaining entry into the United States. The Act relied on a quota system that sought to limit the number of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. Notably, there had been an increasing number of immigrants since the 1890s. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the number of immigrants increased significantly. It became evident that the immigrants were interested in the opportunities that the United States presented. For this reason, it was difficult to control the number of immigrants before the establishment of the Act. The Act played a critical role in reducing the number of immigrants who found their way into the United States. This paper will discuss the impact of the Immigration Act of 1924 and the factors that contributed to its establishment.
The purpose of the Immigration Act was to place a limit on the number of foreigners gaining entry into the United States. The Gold Rush had contributed to an increased interest of immigrants to move into the United States. Since the 1850s, the number of people seeking to move into the United States increased significantly. However, the highest immigration rates took place between 1891 and 1910. For this reason, many Americans felt threatened that there was an increasing number of people from the Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe as well as Asia who were migrating into the United States. White nativists expressed their fear that the increasing number of immigrants would threaten the Anglo-American superior race. As a result, there was a need to establish measures that would put immigration under control. The passage of the Immigration Act served as the starting point for limiting the number of Asians, as well as other immigrants from Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe.
Specifically, the Immigration Act highlighted the need for visas that would allow immigrants to settle in the United States. The Act set up new conditions for obtaining the immigration visas. The Act also defined the quota system that would govern the immigration rates from different countries. Only 2% of a nation’s population would be allowed entry into the United States. The quota system was specifically in agreement with the 1890 census. However, there were non-quota immigrants that included children below the age of 18 as well as the wives of American citizens. Individuals who had previously gained entry into the United States were also free to return from temporary visits abroad. Students, missionaries, and religious leaders were also part of the non-quota immigrants. Students had to prove that their only intentions of moving into the United States were to study. All other individuals who did not qualify as non-quota immigrants were subject to the requirements of the quota system.
The Immigration Act of 1924 targeted specific countries with the core objective of limiting immigrants of certain origins. There were no limitations to immigrants from Britain, Ireland, and Northern Europe. The white nativists viewed Asians negatively explaining why they used the law to prohibit their entry into the United States. Many Asian countries reacted to the move to limit their immigration into the United States. Despite their protests, the United States was determined to bar them from gaining entry into the land of opportunities. The First World War had contributed significantly to the biased perspective towards certain countries. Particularly, the war prompted the United States to view some nations differently. For this reason, there was a need to modify the existing immigration laws and establish a stringent control over immigration. In the 1920s, a third of the American population comprised immigrants. Due to the increased number of immigrants, the white nativists were afraid that Catholic and Jewish immigrants would trigger overpopulation in certain areas of residence. The United States was only open to the Anglo-Saxon protestant immigrants. The Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe had a large population of Catholics who were not welcome in the United States.
There was a common perception that the Anglo-Saxon Protestants had a measure of superiority over the other Europeans. There were arguments that they possessed superior attributes that surpassed the characteristics of Europeans from the Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe. Such views served to worsen the perspective towards immigration. Many of the white nativists did not want any more immigrants from the Southern Central, and Eastern regions of Europe. Before the 1920s, an increasing number of immigrants from these regions had gained free entry into the United States. The 1924 Act served an important role in limiting their entry. Moreover, the Act did not allow Asians as well as their descendants from gaining entry into the United States. The reinforcement of the Immigration Act reduced the number of immigrants from the regions mentioned previously. Moreover, the Act served as a motivation to the Anglo-Saxon Protestants to move into the United States without any limitations.
The immediate effects of the 1924 Act that limited immigration reduced the number of immigrants from countries targeted by the Act. Moreover, there were fewer Jews gaining entry into the United States. As mentioned above, Anglo-Saxon Protestants increased significantly in the United States. There were evident long-term effects of the Immigration Act. Since Jews could not move into the United States, they were victims of Nazi Germany in Europe. As a result, close to six million Jews ended up dead under the persecution of Nazi Germany. Women were adversely affected by the Act since the law did not give them an equal status. There were a higher number of men moving into the United States, while women were denied opportunities in a clear case of gender bias. Only the wives of citizens of the United States gained entry into the United States. Other women had no chance of settling down in the United States because the Immigration quota did not favor them.
Notably, the Congress had passed a less restrictive Immigration Act in 1921. Particularly, the 1921 Act had initiated measures to reduce immigrants from the Southern, Eastern, and Central Europe. Public opinion had revealed that white nativists did not need a higher number of immigrants from the specified regions. In 1924, there was a need to introduce stringent measures after realizing that the 1921 Act did not register the expected outcomes. The White nativists agreed on the need for the more stringent quota system that would lock out undesired immigrants. Apparently, the Act proved tighter than the previous measures taken. Between 1924 and 1929, the Act was in place as an important regulation limiting the number of immigrants from the less desirable countries. A critical analysis of the Act reveals important aspects of immigration in the American history. Unlike the common perception, there has always been an underlying controversy surrounding immigration into the United States.
The Immigration Act served to introduce the kind of restrictions that the United States needed in its bid to limit the number of immigrants. The First World War had changed the perception of the United States towards Europeans from the Southern, Central, and Eastern regions. There was a preference for immigrants from Britain, Ireland, and Northern Europe because they were Protestants. After the implementation of the 1924 Act, Asians and their descendants were locked out of the United States because they could not gain access to visas of moving into the land where they could identify better opportunities. The Act limited the number of Jews moving into the United States. Only 2% of the country’s population gained entry into the United States. There were non-quota immigrants exempted from the quota system. The Act remained in place until 1929 when it was subjected to further modifications.