The Ambivalent Welcome: Print Media, Public Opinion, and Immigration

The Ambivalent Welcome: Print Media, Public Opinion, and Immigration

The Ambivalent Welcome: Print Media, Public Opinion, and Immigration

The Ambivalent Welcome: Print Media, Public Opinion, and Immigration

Synopsis

Simon and Alexander describe how leading magazines and the New York Times covered and interpreted United States immigration policy, and public attitudes about the impact of immigrants on the American economy and social fabric. The authors examine print media coverage of immigration issues from 1880, the onset of the "new immigration," to the present, and find that most magazines, like most Americans, have vehemently opposed new immigrants.

Excerpt

An earlier version of this book described how the leading magazines in the United States and the New York Times covered and interpreted U.S. Policy vis-á-vis immigration from 1880 to 1980. the 100-year time span was chosen because it coincided with the advent of the "new immigrants," when the movement to restrict immigration gained ascendancy and when the first major restrictive pieces of immigration legislation were enacted.

In the period immediately preceding the Civil War, the Know Nothing movement had opposition to further immigration as one of its major planks. the large number of Catholic Irish immigrants did much to stimulate the movement's anti-immigrant position. Following the Civil War, the Know Nothing movement all but disappeared and the number of immigrants arriving in the United States kept increasing. By the 1870s, "new immigrants" was widely used to refer to persons arriving from southern and eastern Europe. "New immigrants" referred not only to their countries of origin, which differed from those of the earlier cohorts, but also to the types of people they were. For example, they were more likely to be Catholics than Protestants; they were not English speaking; they were, in the majority, not skilled craftsmen or farm owners. Physically, they had characteristics that set them apart from the natives more than the earlier cohorts of immigrants, and, also more than the earlier cohorts, they were city dwellers. They crowded together in the cities closest to the ports through which they entered.

While the Know Nothing movement receded into the background, other groups, movements, and political parties expressed consternation, anxiety, fear, and other negative reactions at the seemingly endless stream of new immigrants who kept arriving at the United States' doorstep. the major fears were that these "new types" would alter the quality of life in the United States; would lower the wage levels and standard of living of the U.S. worker; would increase the crime, illiteracy, and pauperism rates; and would lower the level of . . .

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