Reasons Behind the Passing of Immigration Laws in America 1917-1927

Outlines and briefly evaluates the reasons behind the passing of the immigration laws in America in the 1920s.

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  • Reasons Behind the Passing of Immigration Laws in America 1917-1927
    • 1) World War One
      • Members of several immigrant communities, such as the Italian-Americans, refused to fight and were deemed unpatriotic.
      • Led to fears of immigrants from Germany and Austria, who were banned.
      • Americans craved a 'return to normalcy' and immigration threatened this.
    • 2) The Red Scare
      • Bolsheviks promised a 'worldwide revolution', which scared the public after 16 bombs were found in a NY post office addressed to 'enemies of the revolution'.
      • Radical ideas were associated with immigrants, particularly after 4 million workers went on strike in Boston.
      • The Palmer Raids arrested 6000 people and deported 500 on the basis that they held subversive politically views.
      • Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested for a violent robbery in Boston and were made to sit an unfair trial at the end of which they were executed
        • The judge was biased
        • The evidence was circumstantial
      • The Red Scare was mostly over by the summer of 1920
        • Sacco and Vanzetti were not executed until 1927, showing that there was some residual Red Scare
    • 3) The KKK and the WASPs
      • KKK reformed in 1915 and had support in Maine, Indiana, Louisiana, Colorado, Denver, Dallas and Detroit.
      • At one point, both Senators for Georgia were Klansmen.
      • They claimed responsibility for the passing of several of the 1920s immigration laws and their membership declined once they had been passed.
    • 4) Workers and wages
      • Most immigrants were unskilled, and American workers feared that their wages would be undercut.
      • The Quota Act restricted unskilled labourers, so it is possible that one reason for the laws was to protect workers and their wages.


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