The main problems and challenges facing America

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Why did immigration become such a major issure in American society?

Why people wished to emigate to America

  • to help colonise the country the US government had followed an open door policy which was designed to make entry to America as easy as possible
  • the fact that anybody could enter was a key attraction
  • a combination of push and pull factors caused this mass migration

Push factors:

  • to escape the devastation of war-torn Europe
  • to avoid further economic hardship and poverty
  • to escape from religious and /or political persecution

Pull factors:

  • for a sense of adventure- a fresh start and a better life
  • to copy/meet up with friends/family who had already emigrated to America and started a new life
  • to live the dream of owning land and property

The growing demand to restrict immigration

  • the trauma and devastation caused in Europe by WW1 meant that there was a sharp rise in the number of immigrants entering America to escape poverty and persecution
  • there was a large increase in the number of immigrants arriving from Eastern Europe
  • Americans felt swamped by the rising number of immigrants
  • immigrants were seen to offer little- they were often poor, illiterate and could speak English
  • the growth of xenophobia and the perception of an ideal citizen being a WASP led Americans to look down on the immigrants from Eastern Europe and Italy
  • the cultural and religious backgrounds of immigrants from Eastern Europe were different from those of many Americans and this led to fear and hatred
  • the rise of communism in Russia led to a fear of immigrants bringing communist ideas with them to America

Legislation introduced by the US government

  • 1917- Literacy Test- all immigrants had to pass a literacy test in English
  • 1921- Emergency Quota Act- this introduced a 3% quota based on upon the total population of each ethnic group in 1910; it allowed 357,000 immigrants to enter each year
  • 1924- National Origins Act- this cut the quota to 2% based upon the 1890 census, it allowed more people from northern Europe to enter
  • 1929- Immigration Act- This restricted immigration to 150,000 per year, no asians were allowed, northern and western Eureopeans were allocated 85% of the places

The Red Scare

  • many Americans became alarmed over events in Europe
  • many feared immigrants would spread communist and anarchist ideas
  • there were 3600 strikes during 1919 whcih added to the fear that communist revolution was pending
  • during 1919 a bomb planted by an anarchist group badly damaged the house of the Attorney-General, Mitchell Palmer
  • in April 1919 a bomb planted in a church in Milwaukee killed 10 people
  • in September 1920 an anarchist bomb exploded on Wall Street killing 38 people
  • such actions gave rise to the Red Scare, the fear that anarchists and communists threatened America

The Palmer Raids

  • organised by the Attorney-General, Mitchell Palmer, Head of the US Departement of Justice
  • response to the Red Scare
  • involved the arrest of over 6000 suspected communists in 36 cities across America
  • trade unionists, Jews…


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