The United States of America has been the country of immigrants from the early days of its existence, and it`s not surprising that the governments through the different historical periods have been paying attention to the process of immigration, its positive and negative effects upon economical and cultural development of the country. Due to these circumstances, there was a need to provide certain restrictions and regulations in the process of immigration.
A group of professors, lawyers, and philanthropists from Boston adopted the Immigration Restriction League, who were worrying about the increased number of immigrants entering America from different parts of the world annually, adopted the Immigration Restriction League in 1894. The League had also branches and headquarters in New-York, San Francisco and Chicago. The foundation of the League was an alarm of the scholars, who opposed a great number of immigration and demanded the limitation of people coming from poor countries. They considered those, coming from the poorer countries, as a threat to the American standards of life and economy. Immigrants could bring crime, poverty, illiteracy, low culture values during the hard times of unemployment.
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The activists of the Immigration Restriction League organized public meetings, issued pamphlets, books, magazines and newspapers articles to attract Americans` attention to the problem of immigration, especially from the Eastern and Southern Europe. Immigrants from these parts of Europe were undesirable elements to American citizenship (Harvard University Library: Constitution of the Immigration Restriction League, accessed Jan. 3, 2010). Americans considered people of Slavic, Latin and Asiatic origin to be historically stagnant, atavistic and downtrodden, unlike people from Germany, Great Britain and Scandinavia, who were progressive, active and free.
The politicians had power in the U.S. Congress and tried receive support for their intentions there. The members of the Immigration Restriction League considered that the wealth of the country depends on the people and institutions. To their opinion, the human factor was much more important for the well being of the USA than natural resources. The immigration brings with it the cheap labor, which can injure the national economy and native working people, who don`t have to compete with the immigrants. Therefore, native citizens often lose their jobs and lower their standards of living (Grose 129).
Charles Warren, one of the founders of the Immigration Restriction League, proposed to restrict immigration through a literacy test and Congress adopted it in 1917. That was the most radical solution of the immigrant problem, as it demanded all male adults to pass the literacy test in their native language, and those, who were illiterate had no admittance to enter the United States. At the beginning the literacy test didn`t have a wide support among American citizens, but later, when immigrants brought a cholera I an immigrant ship in 1892, led to greater support (Tichenor 29).
Another step of the members of the Immigration Restriction League was a bill on numerical limitations, introduced into Congress on April 8, 1918. The main idea of this bill was to restrict immigration from the Eastern and Southern Europe, as well as increasing the number of immigrants coming from the countries with more sophisticated values, such as Germany, Great Britain and Scandinavian countries (Tichenor 56). The Immigration Restriction League members considered those undesirable immigrants from the Eastern and Southern Europe to be unable to adopt the American values and participate in a social life. Many League spokesmen supported the eugenics movement, which had the basis of ethnical and racial classification and ranking.
The bill consisted of the demand to increase the duty on alien passengers who entered the United States. They did that to support and protect inspection and deportation of immigrants. Those limitations had to be reached through the enlargement of the number of immigration inspection, office facilities, perfecting of immigration service and enlargement of immigrant stations.
Additions to the excluded classes, adopted by the National Conference on Immigration, took place in New York. The main idea of those restrictions was to prohibit the entrance of immigrants with poor physique who might have various diseases such as epileptics, feeble-minded, insane people, because of their poor living conditions like unsanitary places (Grose 120).
Hence, most immigrants from Europe and Asia were intended to come to the United States on ship, mainly illegally, the bill ordered transportation companies and their authorities to prevent illegal aliens on board their ships. That was the law for the transportation companies to maintain the demands of the government according to the immigrant restrictions. The companies and transportation owners had to pay half of the price of the tickets to remove illegal aliens back to their countries (Ward 39). That`s was really hard for illegal immigrants to find official work with good seleries.
The Immigration Restriction League had influenced the further development of the immigration system of the United States of America. It has its positive and negative aspects. Immigration is everlasting problem, facing Congress and American Administrations for more than one hundred years. That`s why, it`s rather complicated to identify, who is right and who is wrong. The immigrant policy served to protect American citizens, their living standards and values from undesirable immigrants from poor countries. The United States began its existence as a country of immigrants and was opened for immigration during first hundred years. So-called “old immigration,” from the United Kingdom, Scandinavian countries and Germany, was desirable influx to the U.S. and its economy. Later on, when immigrants from much poorer countries like Southern and Eastern Europe became to invade the country, scholars, politicians, lawyers, etc. started to make an alarm to restrict the influx of poverty and disorder to the American society. It was obvious that poor nations couldn`t enrich American economy, thus, leading it to unemployment, crime, diseases and so on. The Immigration Restriction League influenced the immigration process very actively for about twenty years, but later on, when Prescott F. Hall died, it declined and lost its popularity among American citizens. The outstanding members of the League were Robert DeCourcy Ward, Madison Grant, Joseph Lee, George F. Edmunds, Prescott Farnsworth Hall and others.
The Immigration Restriction League was as a turning point in American immigrant legislation. But the negative aspect was that, it leaded to restrictions, like numerical limitations, and not regulation. It`s much efficient to have a quota system on immigration, as we have it today, which gives the opportunity to people from different countries to enter the United States legally. To my opinion, the system to enter the U.S. through the Green Card lottery, which takes place every year, gives a chance for many nations in the world to live and work legally in America.
A system that governed American immigration policy was mainly effective, to my mind. Exception could make the one, which supported eugenics movement, based on the ethnical and racial classification and ranking. It was a dangerous studying that led the world to the WWII. All people are born to be free and none of them don`t want to be restricted on the racial or classification ranking. The regulation of immigration should be based on peace and political and social safety of American citizens. The present situation with the threat of terrorism all over the world, especially in the United States of America, demands U.S. government and Administration to be extremely careful, while allowing people of different nations to enter the country and have the same rights and opportunities as American citizens. The strong desire and faithful intentions and thoughts make it possible to achieve that goal and be useful for the society they live in.
To the conclusion, the importance of the Immigration Restriction League is obvious, though it had as positive as well as negative aspects. In the process of historical development of the American society, many scholars have argued about its consequences and it is a matter of discussion, because immigration never stops. Restrictions of immigration exist today and will remain in the future, because people all over the world have strong intentions to enter the United States of America, searching better life standards and values. To my opinion, every U.S. citizen has to remember his/her roots and meet immigrants with understanding and patience.