Immigration and Discrimination: 1920s and 1930s
Views on Immigration change with time. It seems that when people enjoy social and economic stability, they turn a blind eye towards immigration. When these factors change for the worse, however, people tend to change their views. Americans become racist and prejudice against immigrants and blame them for problems like economic downturns, increased crime, and unemployment. Americans living in the 1920s and 1930s struggled with attitudes of racism and discrimination towards immigrants whom people blamed for many social and economic problems.
Until the 1920s, the United States welcomed immigrants into the country to help develop its growing potential; however, this policy changed when the immigrant population dramatically increased in the 1920s and 30s. By 1921, the United States began introducing immigration quotas due to the influx of immigrants that arrived in 1920. 800,000 men, women, and children arrived from overseas. The United States preferred immigrants from northwestern Europe, so by 1924, the number of immigrants entering fell down to 164,000 (Fragile 24). Congressed passed the Immigration Restriction Act on May 19, 1921. ?The act limited the annual number of immigrants to 3% of the number of foreign-born persons of most nationalities living in the U.S. in 1910.? The Immigration League eventually made stricter rules and pushed for passage of the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act. This act based the percentage of immigrants allowed to enter on the number of immigrants counted in the 1890 census. The Immigration League chose to base the act on the census of 1890 because there were fewer immigrants in 1890 than in 1910 when Congress passed the Immigration Restriction Act. The Johnson-Reed Act allowed 150,000 immigrants from Northern and Western Europe to enter each year. It allowed 20,000 immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe and only 4,000 non-Europeans to enter. No oriental immigrants could enter. The Johnson-Reed Act suggested that America viewed different nationalities differently and in effect, sanctioned racial discrimination (Attard).
The influx of immigrants in the 1920s and 30s contributed to rising unemployment rates, as well as many other social problems. The rise in immigration in the United States during the 1920s played a large role in prolonging the Great Depression and the devastating unemployment rates (Policy 1). Immigrants began to settle in large cities in the Northeast, such as New York (American... 45). Many immigrants lived in crowded tenements throughout the cities. These grim apartments consisted of small rooms, with narrow windows and doors. (American... 45-46). Another way to judge the racial discrimination towards immigrants in the 20s and 30s includes the view of job opportunities open to them. Immigrants often took jobs at the bottom of the wage scale, doing meaningless work. Employers often hired them last and fired them first. Many immigrants could find no jobs; therefore, they worked for themselves. Americans saw these newcomers as a threat to their livelihood because they normally took the jobs that Americans did not want to do (?Racial...? 1). Many self-employed immigrants worked as tailors, bankers, butchers, and housekeepers. In many cities, especially New York, immigrants took jobs in cigar and garment factories where they soon dominated those industries (American... 45). By 1933, the United States unemployment rate reached 24.9 (Policy 1). By 1929, immigration rates had dropped due to the quota acts as well as the unemployment rates caused by the influx of immigrants and the Great Depression.
Hostility towards immigrants worsened after the 1921 Quota Act (Barbour 13). Americans began to single out Jewish immigrants as targets (American... 75). Organizations and campaigns began around the country against immigrants like ?Keep California White.? Many of these campaigns led to atrocious riots as well as lynchings in the South (Policy 1). Shortly after World War I, the Red Scare began in the United States (Burnett 1). People around the United States feared that Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, and other dissidents would take over the country after a series of anarchist bombings. Americans labeled strikers and radicals as ?reds? (Burnett 2). Many local and state legislatures eventually passed ordinances and laws agains radical activity and radicals themselves. By the summer of 1920, shortly after its beginning, the Red Scare ended (Burnett 3). Conclusion sentence
The suspicion of Communists, Socialists, and Anarchists had more than vague impersonal implications. Sometimes specific individuals received the hatred and suspicion. The Sacco and Vanzetti murder trial demonstrated American prejudice against immigrants with socialist-anarchist political views. Sacco and Vanzetti