Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Anti-Immigration Policies

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Anti-Immigration Policies

Up until the late 19th century, America was a nation that welcomed immigrants. As the country grew and rates of immigration increased, however, nativism took hold, and by the early 20th century, a national origins quota system was underway.

nativism

a policy of protecting native-born American interests at the expense of immigrants

History of Anti-Immigrant Policies in America

In the mid-18th century, there was a steady flow of European immigrants from Northern and Western Europe, namely England, Germany, and Ireland. Anti-immigrant sentiment developed against Germans and Irish, whose customs differed more dramatically than the British. The Irish faced particular xenophobia because of their Catholic faith.

xenophobia

the fear and hatred of immigrants

Playing off the fears that German and Irish immigrants were taking the opportunities of Protestant, native-born Americans, The Know Nothing Party, a nativist political party, gained ground during the 1850s. While the party fell apart leading up to the Civil War, immigration became a point of contention again after the war. States started to enact immigration laws before the Supreme Court ruled it a federal issue through several decisions.

During the 1880s, the federal government started to roll out anti-immigrant policies and legislation. Among the first was the Immigration Act of 1882, which instituted a head tax of 50 cents per person. It also barred the entry of convicts, the mentally ill, and anyone likely to become a ward of the state. However, this act was meant to apply solely to European immigrants.

A host of Chinese immigrants had come to the West Coast during the California Gold Rush, and nativists wanted to prevent further immigration. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 stopped the flow of Chinese immigrants for 10 years, but the government continuously renewed it, leaving the ban in effect until 1943.

But who was going to enforce this legislation? The Immigration Act of 1891 created the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration (later the Bureau of Immigration), complete with a new corps of United States Immigrant Inspectors. These inspectors were located at key ports of entry and were responsible for inspecting and processing immigrants. They could deny immigrants who they believed were polygamists or carrying disease. During this time, the infamous immigrant processing center, Ellis Island, began operating in New York.

Anti Immigration Policies History Ellis Island StudySmarterEllis Island, Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Examples of Anti-Immigration Policies in the Early 20th Century

Towards the end of the 19th century, a change occurred in the composition of European immigrants to America. These so-called “new immigrants” were from Eastern and Southern Europe and even less familiar to Protestant, native-born Americans. By the turn of the 20th century, nativist sentiment was at an all-time high-even the Progressives, who prided themselves on helping the less fortunate, generally favored anti-immigration policies.

In 1911, Congress funded the Dillingham Commission to investigate the causes and impact of immigration. With only one member supporting immigration, the Dillingham Commission found what it wanted to find. Members reported that Southern and Eastern Europeans were not assimilating well into American society and that, instead, they were hurting society.

In response to the Dillingham Commission, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917, which following the Commission’s recommendation, instituted literacy tests to prevent immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe where literacy levels were behind that of the rest of Europe. It also barred any immigration from Asia, except for the Philippines, which was then an American territory.

Although immigration from Europe had decreased during World War I, Congress wanted to ensure that levels remained low. The Immigration Act of 1921 first introduced the national origins quota system. Through this system, only 3% of the given nationality’s population in the 1910 census would be allowed into the country.

If a certain nationality had 100 individuals living in America in 1910, the federal government’s quota would be three immigrants.

The Immigration Act of 1924 restricted immigration even further by reducing the quota to 2% of the given nationality’s population in America. It also used the 1880 census to determine the quota, rather than the more recent 1910 census. This meant that the system allowed for more of the so-called “old immigrants” than immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe.

During this time, there was no restriction on immigration from Canada or Latin America.

Effects of Anti-Immigrant Policies

The immediate effect of the government’s anti-immigrant policies led to a steep decline in immigration. But, without options for legal immigration, illegal immigration became a problem. The government responded by creating the U.S. Border Patrol and devoting more staff and resources to deportation.

Ultimately, the federal government’s anti-immigrant policies and legislation normalized xenophobia in America. Immigrants not only faced discrimination but were paid less for longer hours, leaving many families stuck living in the slums. The legislation in place was also extremely racist. As we noted earlier, the government restricted European immigration but outright banned immigration from Asian countries.

Anti-Immigration Policies Today

It was not until the Immigration Act of 1965 that Congress did away with the national origins quota system. In its place, they put a worldwide limit on immigration, with a preference system that favored immigrants with special skills or already had family in the country. This worldwide limit, while amended over the years, exists to this day. In recent years, the focus of anti-immigration policy has shifted toward immigration from Latin American countries.

Anti-Immigration policies - Key takeaways

  • America allowed unrestricted immigration until the late 19th century when nativist sentiment took hold in America, and the federal government took control of the regulation of immigration.
  • Important anti-immigration legislation included:
    • The Immigration Act of 1882: introduced head tax
    • The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882: barred Chinese immigrants
    • The Immigration Act of 1891: created the Bureau of Immigration
    • The Immigration Act of 1917: introduced literacy tests, barred immigrants from Asia
    • The Immigration Act of 1921: introduced national origins quota system
    • The Immigration Act of 1924: amended the national origins quota system to specifically reduce immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe
    • The Immigration Act of 1965: introduced the worldwide limit and preference system
  • Generally, anti-immigration policy in the early 20th century favored immigrants from Northern and Western Europe rather than those from Southern and Eastern Europe. The Dillingham Commission backed this policy.
  • There was no restriction on immigration from Canada and Latin America until the later 20th century.

Frequently Asked Questions about Anti-Immigration Policies

Anti-immigration refers to anything opposing immigration.

Anti-immigration legislation is legislation that restricts immigration. 

The United States started restricting immigration in the late 19th century. 

Final Anti-Immigration Policies Quiz

Question

When did the United States start restricting immigration?

Show answer

Answer

the late 19th century

Show question

Question

Which group was not part of the "old immigrants"?

Show answer

Answer

Italians

Show question

Question

Which Immigration Act instituted the literacy test?

Show answer

Answer

The Immigration Act of 1917

Show question

Question

Which Immigration Act instituted the national quota system?

Show answer

Answer

The Immigration Act of 1921

Show question

Question

When did the Congress enact the Chinese Exclusion Act?

Show answer

Answer

1882

Show question

Question

Early 20th century immigration policies favored:

Show answer

Answer

Northern and Western Europeans

Show question

Question

In the early 20th century, there was no restriction on immigration from Latin America and Canada.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

When did the national origins quota system end?

Show answer

Answer

1965

Show question

Question

What was the name of the congressional commission that investigated the impact of immigration in 1911?

Show answer

Answer

The Dillingham Commission

Show question

Question

Which census did the Immigration Act of 1924 use?

Show answer

Answer

the 1880 census 

Show question

More about Anti-Immigration Policies
60%

of the users don't pass the Anti-Immigration Policies quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.