THE IMMIGRATION ACT OF 1924
The following passage features the reasoning of Senator Reed (R-Pa), one of the authors of the Immigration Act of 1924. The current law restricted the flow of immigrants to 3% of the number of immigrants of any particular country that had been living in the United States in 1910. Reed wanted to stem the flow to only 2% and was successful in persuading Congress to pass this restriction under the new legislation. Excerpted from "Our New Nordic Immigration Policy," Literary Digest 10 May 1924: 12-13.
The purposes of the new law, we read in a New York Times article by Senator Reed (Rep., Pa.), author of The Senate Bill, are:
"1. America realizes that she is no longer a desert country in need of reinforcements to her population. She realizes that her present numbers and their descendants are amply sufficient to bring out her natural resources at a reasonable rate of progress. She knows that her prosperity at this moment far exceeds that of any other land in the world. She realizes that unless immigration is numerically restrained she will be overwhelmed by a vast migration of peoples from the war-stricken countries of Europe. Such a migration could not fail to have a baleful effect upon American wages and standards of living, and it would increase mightily our problem of assimilating the foreign-born who are already here. Out of these thoughts have risen the general demands for limitation of the number of immigrants who may enter this country.
"2. There has come about a general realization of the fact that the races of men who have been coming to us in recent years are wholly dissimilar to the native-born Americans; that they are untrained in self-government-- a faculty that it has taken the Northwestern Europeans many centuries to acquire. America was beginning also to smart under the irritation of her 'foreign colonies'-- those groups of aliens, either in city slums or in country districts, who speak a foreign language and live a foreign life, and who want neither to learn our common speech nor to share our common life. From all this has grown the conviction that it was best for America that our incoming immigrants should hereafter be of the same races as those of us who are already here, so that each year's immigration should so far as possible be a miniature America, resembling in national origins the persons who are already settled in our country. . . ."
"It is true that 75 per cent of our immigration will hereafter come from Northwestern Europe; but it is fair that it should do so, because 75 per cent of us who are now here owe our origin to immigrants from those same countries. . . ."
The following two maps illustrate how change from a 3% immigration restriction law to a 2% immigration restriction law would affect the flow of immigration to America from each European nation.