Immigration: Then and Now?

“This country has taken a step in the right direction to preserve the strain of the pioneer stock that founded this nation and has brought it to its present standard of Americanism.”

That sentence is from an editorial that appeared in the San Diego Union on May 24, 1921. The editorial, entitled “Saving the Race,” praised the passage a few days previously of a bill restricting immigration to “three percent of the existing alien population.” This was the beginning of a quota system of immigration restriction that would be U. S. government policy for the next four decades, but at that point in time it was considered “experimental,” in the words of the editorial. And it was an experiment that the editorial writer obviously approved of.

Citing the research of one Prescott F. Hall, who was described as “a high authority on the subject of the sterilizing effect of incoming low-grade aliens,” the Union bemoaned alleged higher birthrates of “foreign” over “native-born” mothers. But it also claimed that “native-born people who migrate to regions in which the pioneer stock is still dominant show little or no lessening of their former fruitfulness. The real American strain is still paramount west of the Mississippi. It is, therefore, the policy of the West to keep its stock as free as possible from alloy of the American ‘melting pot’ now seething in the great cities along the Atlantic seaboard.”

Does any of this sound familiar? I present it in an attempt to put the question of immigration in some historical perspective. If you are curious about more of that perspective, I invite you to attend the OASIS talk I’m giving on the History of Immigration in the United States on Wednesday, June 17 at 10 a.m. at the Escondido Senior Center. To sign up or find out more visit http://www.oasisnet.org/San-Diego-CA/Classes and type “Immigration” in the “Search” box.

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