U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Laws and Issues: A Documentary History

By Michael Lemay; Elliott Robert Barkan | Go to book overview

Part III
Restrictions, Refugees, and Reform--1920 to 1965

During the 1920s the restrictionist fervor rose to its highest point. A revived Ku Klux Klan grew in membership and influence. It advocated extensive restrictions on immigration [Document 77]. Both the Democratic and Republican party platforms also called for limits on immigration.

The fear that the nation would experience a renewed flood of immigration in response to the postwar economic turmoil in Europe fed a xenophobic demand for increased restrictions. When an economic recession hit in 1920, the House of Representatives voted to end all immigration. The Senate refused to go that far, but clearly Congress was ready to pass significantly more restrictionist immigration laws than before World War I. The restrictionist forces in Congress gained not only in their numbers but also in their influence. Senator William P. Dillingham, for example, who had chaired the Immigration Commission in 1907, was, by 1917, chair of the Immigration Committee in the Senate. Chairing the House Immigration Committee in that Republicandominated chamber was Albert Johnson of Washington, a leading voice for restrictionist policy.

In 1919, after the so-called Palmer raids, 500 immigrants suspected of being radical anarchists were deported on a ship going to Russia, nicknamed the "Soviet Ark." The Congress rejected joining the League of Nations, and a postwar isolationist mood was easily tapped by the forces advocating restrictions on immigration. The new nationalism was distrustful of Europe, disillusioned with the aftermath of the war and the failure of the Americanization program, committed to isolationism, and disdainful of all things foreign. It echoed through the de

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