USA Immigration from the Beginning Part 5: The Period 1921 – 1970

British immigrants on board the immigration ship Rangitata, 1940,

Several years later, the community park had become a full-scale amusement park. It now included a variety of roller coasters: bob sled, dual track wooden, stand up, suspended, and looping. Other rides now included bumper cars, river raft, double Ferris wheel, and water slide into the large pool. The entire allotment of donated land was now filled.

Also, there was now a full food court that offered a wide range of items such as turkey legs, tacos, hamburgers, pizza, and sandwiches. Soft drinks, lemonade, and bottled water were also available for purchase. Additional parking was created to handle the large number of visitors.

It was determined that the original community members would receive free arm bands which included unlimited admission upon the rides. As there were no fences necessary to protect outsiders from entering the park during operation, additional security measures were taken daily to discourage any trespassers from vandalizing the property during operation and after hours. After some discussion, the community urged the park president to allow those who operated the rides to also have a free arm band. Unfortunately, it was later learned that those who operated the rides were giving their free arm bands to their relatives.

The 1920s began with great celebrations world-wide. The Great War was won and the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. Immigration into the U.S. was recorded as 4,107,209, according to the Department of Homeland Security. However, more changes were occurring on the European Continent that would affect immigration in the near future. Italy halted the issue of passports to those emigrating to the U.S. as the Fascist Party began to take form in 1921 and Josef Stalin became the undisputed ruler of the Soviet Union as Leon Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party in 1927. In 1928, Japanese Emperor Hirohito was enthroned, almost two years after his ascension.

As the number of immigrants continued to flow into the United States, Congress made the decision to curb immigration by passing the Emergency Quota Act in 1921. The Act limited the number of admissions to 3 per cent of the existing number of residents of the same nationality already residing in the U.S. with specific noted exceptions, thus establishing a quota.

On May 26, 1924, the Immigration Restriction Act was passed. This Act enabled the creation of the visa which specified the nationality of the immigrant, whether the immigrant was a quota or non-quota immigrant, the date that the visa expired, and any additional requirements as deemed necessary. The visa would expire no more than beyond four months. The term “immigrant” was defined as “any alien departing from any place outside of the United States destined for the United States.” Other terms defined in this Act include quota immigrants and non-quota immigrants. The process of how to obtain a visa and who may obtain it was included in this Act. This Act went into effect on July 1, 1929.

On June 2, 1924, Congress granted U.S. citizenship to its Native American Indians with the Snyder Act.

And then, it happened. The Stock Market Crash of 1929. The Dow Jones peaked at 381.17 in September. By late October, the Dow Jones dropped to 260.64! By 1932, the Dow Jones was as low as 41.63. The Great Depression gripped the entire world.

While Franklin Roosevelt took his oath of office as President of the United States in 1933, Adolf Hitler was granted dictatorial legislative powers under the Enabling Act. Within a week, Hitler began to ban Jews from everything from owning a business to attending schools and a plan was set in motion for the extermination of the entire Jewish population. By 1935, German Jewish citizenship was even deprived by the German Nuremburg Laws. Anti-Semitism was so bad that many Jews were leaving Germany and immigrating to the United States, including Albert Einstein. Meanwhile, Benito Mussolini had declared fascism across Italy.

By the end of the 1930s, Japan and China had declared war on each other, Germany invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia, and Italy had invaded Albania. As a result of this turmoil, a meager 528,431 immigrants landed on American soil during this decade. European immigration was only 17% of the previous decade.

In 1938, President Roosevelt sign the Fair Labor Standards Act and set the minimum wage for American workers at $0.25 per hour. Government had now asserted itself into determination American wages. The following year, the first Food Stamp Program was created and operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under Henry Wallace and Milo Perkins. Presented in bright orange stamps, recipients could use food stamps to purchase groceries. Its initial goal was to assist those who were under-nourished during the Great Depression. For every $1 of orange stamps used, the recipient would receive fifty cents worth of blue stamps which could be used to purchase only surplus food as determined by the Department of Agriculture.

The 1940s ushered in a period of dictatorship across Eurasia. While it was true that Adolf Hitler was an evil man while attempting to execute the world’s Jewish population by shipping them by overcrowded trains to concentration camps like Auschwitz, Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, and Hideki Tojo (under Emperor Hirohito) were not exactly peacemakers. In fact, any one of the four dictators during this period would have conquered the super continent if left unchecked by any of the other three. Fortunately, the millions of valiant, brave soldiers from the United States of America, England, Australia, China, and many more were able to overcome the Germans, Italians, and Japanese. Unfortunately, they were unable to push the Russians out of western Europe.

Due to the sabotage of war preparations by German supporters on U.S. soil and the potential threat of the same by Japanese supporters, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which gave the military the authority to relocate Japanese-Americans living in California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona to camps throughout the U.S. interior. Over 10,000 Japanese-Americans were held in camps until January 1945.

Due to the large number of American men that left their employment and profession to fight in World War II, women were required to pick up the slack in the manufacturing field. In addition, contracts were worked out with Mexico that allowed some of the Mexican labor force to work for those in need of assistance in the United States. Under this 1942 Bracero Agreement, it was understood that these workers would not displace other existing workers for the purpose of reducing rates of pay previously established. In 1943, the Appropriations for Farm Labor Law provided $26.1 million of aid to states in need of labor assistance. The money was to be spent specifically on recruitment, transportation, shelter, burial, and other applicable expenses.

In the aftermath of World War II, several acts and laws were enacted. On January 2, 1944, to show good faith toward China after their support in World War II, President Roosevelt signed the Repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Acts. In December of 1944, the Supreme Court ruled on Korematsu v. United States and upheld the wartime relocation of Japanese-Americans yet those loyal to America could not be detained indefinitely. Two years later, a US Congress Rescission Act revoked the promise of citizenship to Filipinos who had been drafted to fight under General MacArthur in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. However, later that year, the Luce-Celler Act provided a quota of 100 Filipinos and 100 Indians to immigrate into the United States each year. In 1945, the War Brides Act enabled alien spouses and alien minor children of citizen members of the U.S. armed forces to become citizens of the United States. In 1946, the Chinese War Brides Act followed.

On March 21, 1947, President Truman signed Executive Order 9835 which required all federal employees to swear their allegiance to the United States. As the decade neared its end, additional laws were signed to assist in further immigration due to the extent of World War II: the Displaced Persons Bill (1948) and the Act of Alien Spouses and Children (1950). The minimum wage was raised twice during the 1950s to $0.40 (1945) and again to $0.75 (1948). Immigration began to increase only slightly to 1,035,039 during this war-time decade.

A quota was added to the current immigration system with the McCarren-Walter Act of 1952. Enacted on June 27, this Immigration and Nationality Act included many provisions that were necessary to maintain order and stability within the United States borders. It reaffirmed the national origins quota system, limited immigration from the Eastern Hemisphere while leaving the Western Hemisphere unrestricted, established preferences for skilled workers and relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens, and tightened security and screening standards and procedures. In 1953, the Refugee Relief Act authorized the granting of 205,000 special non-quota visas to those who could not return to their country of origin “because of persecution, fear of persecution, natural calamity or military operations”.

Upon completion of the Bracero Agreement in the mid-1960s, migrants continued to be drawn by American growers into the United States without following immigration laws. In an effort to combat this illegal flow of immigration, Mexico closed its borders to the United States and implemented Operation Wetback in 1954. On November 12, 1954, Ellis Island closed its doors to the immigration process permanently. Since 1892, over 20 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island.

During the 1950s, Alaska (1959) and Hawaii (1959) completed the United States and the minimum wage was raised to $1.00 per hour (1955). Immigration rose to 2,515,479 with those immigrating from Mexico increasing to 273,847, up 488% from the 1940s. With the 1950s came the demand of civil rights. These rights were first legislated with Public Law 85-315 and signed by President Eisenhower in 1957. Its main purpose was to ensure the right to vote by all legal Americans regardless of their race. It also laid the groundwork to study other instances where unequal protection under the law may exist. in 1960, the Civil Rights Act further established federal inspection of local voter registration polls and added penalties to anyone who obstructed another’s right to vote, particularly in the South.

After repeated failed attempts to overthrow the government, the island nation of Cuba was taken over by Fidel Castro in 1959. Within a short period, he nationalized the oil, sugar, banking, and all other American industries and businesses. In retaliation, President Eisenhower imposed an embargo on all exports to Cuba except for medical supplies and specific food products. Cuban residents began to defect to the United States in 1958 when an airplane that was set to leave from Havana and land in Santa Clara instead was diverted to Miami, Florida. Hijacking airplanes became a regular occurrence as a means to escape Cuba. To further encourage escape from Cuba, in 1966 the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act granted any Cuban who reached American soil the right to stay.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act survived an 83-day filibuster in the U.S. Democrat-held Senate, led by Democrat Senator Robert C. Byrd, that guaranteed the right to vote for everyone and prohibited segregation in public places.

The hourly minimum wage established by the federal government increased to $1.25 (1961), to $1.30 (1965), to $1.40 (1967), and finally to $1.60 (1968). Additional rights granted to U.S. citizens now included the right of poor defendants to an attorney per the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Gideon v. Wainright in March of 1963. In June of that year, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act which required equal pay for men and women regardless of educational background or inapplicable experience. The pay required to perform a job must be equal. And, finally, the Food Stamp Act became a permanent program to assist the individuals in need of food. According to the Act, the federal government provided the funding for the benefits while the states were required to pay for the costs of determining eligibility for the stamps and distributing the stamps. Food stamps could only be used for food items and for plants and seeds used to grow food. Food stamps were not allowed to be used to purchase non-food items such as pet food, vitamins, and medicine.

At this time in history, the government now established the minimum wage, required equal pay for equal work, required free legal counsel for the poor, required free food benefits to the poor, and established that Cuban refugees that land on American soil may become U.S. citizens. In addition, Mexican citizens were enticed to cross the border to work for businesses who continued to hire illegal aliens. The need to protect the U.S. borders from illegal immigrants was increasing.

To be continued in part 6

Article by John Coder

Posted August 11, 2014


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