My study blog

Why did the U.S.A become increasingly hostile towards immigrants

Posted by lednum on April 22, 2007

 In order to assess why the U.S.A became increasingly hostile towards immigrants in the late 1920’s, we need to critically examine the following factors.  Firstly, we must look at the fear of communism that may spread from Russia and Eastern Europe to the U.S.A.  We must also consider racism and the attitude of Americans towards immigrants and the fact that America became isolationalist.  Jobs and housing is another factor in that immigrants made jobs and houses more to difficult to find and the last issue we must consider is crime.  These are all important factors as to why immigrants treat immigrants with such hostile attitudes. However, before moving on we must place the issue in its historical context.  For example immigration was ‘part and parcel’ to the existence of America.  However, the population of America grew by 105 million between 1901 and 1902, 15 million of which were immigrants and 80% were from Eastern or Southern Europe.  During this time America became a multi ethnic nation, a ‘melting pot’ as described by Woodraw Wilson.  People immigrated to America in the hope of finding the ‘American dream’, which was the belief that everyone has equal chances of success in America.  America had adopted an ‘open door’ policy towards immigration for many years; this meant that almost anybody could enter the country.  The earliest people to enter the U.S.A were the White Anglo Saxon Protestants (W.A.S.P’s), who were mainly upper class people who were well educated.  In 1921 the ‘open door’ policy ended and quotas were introduced; only 3% of each nationality and by 1923 only 150,000 immigrants per year were allowed.  Historians out it to us that this system was favoured by the W.A.S.P’s, the Dillingham Commission was set up in 1907 that composed of literacy tests which made it difficult for ’inferior’ immigrants to get into the U.S.A. Some historians argue that the ‘red scare’ was a significant factor as to why the U.S.A became more hostile towards immigration.  For instance, they feared that the communist revolution would spread to the U.S.A especially after the Russian Revolution in 1917.  It can be argued that the Russian Revolution was the beginning of the spread of communism.  Historians maintain that the increasing numbers of immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe were communists, or ‘reds’ as they were also called.  Therefore, the fear of communism was known as the ‘red scare’, which was a reason that the U.S.A was hostile towards immigration of Eastern and Southern people. Other historians put it to us that racism was a key factor towards the hostility towards immigration.  It can be argued that many immigrants were disliked simply because simply because they were different and had a different culture.  Some historians contend that the people of America had an intolerant attitude towards immigrants and blamed them for the social ills of time.  Other historians put it forward that the W.A.S.P’s from Northern Europe dislike the immigrants from Southern Europe because they were poor and often illiterate. Historians argue that the isolationism of America increased the hostility towards immigrants.  For example the people of America were opposed to anything which that had the potential to drag America into another World War as they did not want a repeat of World War One.  Historians highlight that during the 1920’s America kept herself to herself and wanted nothing to do with the rest of the world, especially Europe, she also isolated herself in terms of trade to protect the American industry.  

 Furthermore, historians contend that the sacricyt of jobs and housing was a significant factor as to why immigrants faced increasingly hostility.  Historians put it to us that in 1919 there were many strikes across the U.S.A and high number sof unemployment after the Great War.  It can be argued that immigrants were employed to do the jobs of the strikers and would work for less money and longer hous than W.A.S.P’s, and they would earn more money in their own country.  Therefore, the immigarnts gained the name ’strike breakers’.  Also historians maintain that immigrants created pressure in the scarce housing in the poorer areas of cities.

The last factor to consider is the spread of crime that the immigrants were blamed for.  Historians argue that there was an increase in the amount of crime and many politicians therefore choose to blame the immigrants.  Astold by historians in the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, who were two anarchists from Southerrn Europe that were trailled for robbery and murder because of their ethnic origin.  Therefore, america was hostile towards immigrants because they were often linked to crime.


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