Immigration and Welfare: What’s a Civilized Nation To Do?


The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act

August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law a welfare reform plan that not only changed things for the nation’s citizens, but also for the nation’s immigrants. Title IV of the bill contained the details on the provisions that affected “aliens”.

Title IV opens with the explanation that the basic principle of United States immigration law is self-sufficiency. With that in mind, it declares that aliens living in the U.S are to depend on their own capabilities, sponsors and private organizations to provide the resources for the needs of their families rather than depend on public resources. Despite these premises, the Act acknowledges the fact that aliens have been receiving public benefits at increasing rates. The legislation explains that this is due to inadequate eligibility standards that do not prevent aliens from enrollment in the public benefits system. One of the purposes of this legislation was to reform eligibility rules so that aliens comply with national immigration policy.

For their first five years in America “aliens” are prohibited from receiving any federal benefit. Exceptions to this are immigrants who: need emergency medical care; need short-term disaster relief; qualify for school lunch programs; qualify for Head Start programs; who need immunizations or treatment of a communicable disease; are granted asylum and refugee status; are permanent residents who have worked 40 qualifying quarters contributing to Social Security; are military veterans discharged honorably or are active duty military. Aliens who were receiving federal housing assistance up to the date the new law was enacted are exempt and can maintain their housing benefit.

So, what about immigrants who were currently receiving benefits and now were in a “disqualified” class? Is the government going to suddenly turn off the spigot and immigrant families scramble to adjust their lifestyle to accommodate a sudden loss of income support? Legislators laid out a plan for a transition period for these people. They would have a year to determine what benefit denial they qualified for and prepare for what this would mean for their home budget. Many of these programs required recipients to reapply for benefits on a yearly basis. At such time, disqualified “aliens” would simply be denied their benefit based on the parameters of this welfare reform bill.

Just what were the primary welfare programs this bill was concerned with? They were food stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security temporary assistance for the needy (SSI). The exempt programs, such as school lunch programs, were considered benefits that were “means” based. In order to qualify, not only was the immigrant’s income to be considered, but also the income of the immigrant’s sponsor. This was also required for an immigrant who attempted to qualify for State funded, rather than federally funded, benefits. If it was found that an immigrant had received a Federal or State benefit they would have actually been disqualified from receiving because of a sponsor’s financial means, the Federal and State government can now demand reimbursement from the sponsor.

The overall goal of this welfare reform was to move recipients from a welfare lifestyle to a working lifestyle over a five year period and permanently keep them self-sufficient. It also sought to remove from recipient status those who were on the dole and shouldn’t be, one such category being the immigrant. Was this goal achieved? Was this goal good for America? In 1994 the U.S. welfare system logged 14.4 million caseloads. Five years later, these caseloads had dropped to 5.3 million. The gringa thinks it’s safe to say, “Mission accomplished! Way to go President Bill Clinton! Umm, maybe.”

Why maybe? You see, many of these families were not actually completely self-sufficient. They simply moved from government generated income to the status of low-income. Single mothers especially were affected by this, becoming even poorer than when they were receiving benefits. As these families lost their Medicaid benefit by entering the workforce, they were often faced with employers who did not offer affordable health benefits. A worker supporting three people would not qualify for Medicaid if they earned more than $11,920 (for a family of three) annually. Now, the gringa would like to know who in their right minds thinks a family can afford health insurance and medical bills for three people if they make less than, say, about $70,000? Washington D.C. was way off base deciding this number was the qualifying poverty line.

Families that were accustomed to a housing benefit that kept their rent very low, were suddenly faced with paying full market rate for the roof over their head. That could mean, for a family that was earning $11,920.01, a penny above the qualifying poverty line, their rent could go from $200 to $700. You tell the gringa if you honestly think these poor, working class people could afford such a thing? Many could not. Remember, they also still had to pay their electricity bill. Sheesh. What was Congress thinking? The problem was not in the legislation itself. The problem was with what Congress thought the economic threshold of “poverty” should be. This presented the nation with a demographic that still was in dire need of public assistance.

So, although welfare was definitely reformed and got a lot of people off the government dole, a whole other problem was created. More families and disabled people simply became impoverished. Many of these people worked but did not earn a living wage. So, for the many anti-immigrant xenophobes out there who thought it was the immigrants who poured across the border and stole American jobs, the gringa will tell you to look at the numbers. From 1996 until 2001 it was not the immigrants filling these low paying positions. It was former welfare recipients, about 9 million to be exact.

So, if you want to measure success by the caseload numbers, yeah, Clinton achieved his goal. However, if you want to measure success by comparing quality of life before and after, it’s a different story altogether. Consider that most of these transitioned welfare recipients could not work full-time or year round, especially single moms. Many earned minimum wage or just a bit more. Either way, it was not enough to provide a decent standard of living for their families. Once you consider achieving a decent standard of living to be the measure for success, you can see the Clinton administration failed miserably. Although welfare enrollment declined, the numbers of the poverty class increased dramatically.

Consider that the poverty line as established by the government was $11,920 for a family of three. Consider the working single mom that may be making about $8 per hour and working only when her kids are in school because she can’t afford child care. Working eight hours daily, five days weekly, ten months annually (two months off for her kids school summer break), with no days off, she then brings home, on average, $12,000 annually. So, she makes too much to be considered in “poverty” in order to qualify for government benefits, but, you tell me, does she make anywhere near the $30,000 needed to afford the basic necessities for an adult and two children in 1996?

Out of 126 New York City “welfare to work” cases, the average person was earning $7.50 hourly and 58% were supporting their families with their work income. The gringa asks, “How in the hell did they manage?” Nationwide studies reported that most welfare recipients that entered the workplace earned well below poverty level. This was actually good news because they would qualify for means- based Federal and State benefit programs. However, there were plenty more that earned over the poverty level but nowhere near the $30,000 threshold that was the bare minimum for a small family’s basic necessities. Thus, this legislation created a large poverty class in America.

When you check the specific budget cuts, it is easy to see that most of the people affected were immigrants, elderly, disabled and single mothers. These are the nation’s most vulnerable classes of people. What this legislation meant is that poor people who were dependent on government programs to feed and house them and provide medical care actually became poorer, and possibly un-housed, underfed and without health care (unless they showed up at a hospital emergency room; which is exactly what happened, starting a new trend of packed ER’s, but that is fodder for another gringa story).

Social workers who are the ground zero, in the trenches workers and see the direct effect of these programs, criticized this reform. They claimed that by replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, even if a family met all eligibility requirements, there was no assurance that children or parents would receive assistance. This was because oversight of the block grants was performed by individual states. States had their own requirements for eligibility. This meant that some states could deny aid to families with teenage parents or to families where both parents were present in the home, even if they met every Federal qualifier and regardless of their income level, if they had any income at all. Also, once the grant money ran out, states would place applicants on a waiting list for the next Federal funding period.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights had its own criticisms of the reform. They considered that within the welfare system was institutional racism and discrimination. They felt the legislation did not take into consideration the gender gap in wages. Rather than help women on welfare gain meaningful employment, the nation simply cracked down on eligibility requirements.  The government focus was on “work first” without doing anything to level the workforce playing field.

Many welfare recipients whose job and below poverty line wages qualified them for benefits would tolerate discriminatory practices in the workplace out of fear of dismissal and loss of benefits if they filed a complaint. Many immigrants were discriminated against with regard to case management and receiving benefits they qualified for because of language barriers.

To remedy these discriminatory practices, the USCCR recommended that Federal funds should be allocated for enforcement of civil rights among recipients, investigations of allegations of violations and to train caseworkers in how to better adhere to civil rights statutes. They further recommended better data collection on the people registering to qualify for benefits as well as the recipients and that all welfare agencies be subjected to audits with regard to civil rights grievances and compliance. The gringa understands this need but can’t help but think, “Dear God. It cost money to save money simply because some people can’t treat other people right.”

Specifically where immigrants were concerned, the USCCR was concerned with the law prohibiting immigrants from receiving any aid until they had been in the country for at least five years. The living conditions of many of these poor families continued to just get worse. Although, among some groups of people, the immigrant was a favorite target to accuse of entering the country just to live off the backs of taxpayers, this was actually a myth. Prior to 1996, statistics show that immigrant families were greatly outnumbered by citizen families in receiving benefits. This is because most immigrants come to the United States looking for jobs and opportunity, not handouts. As for immigrants that did qualify for aid, many would not accept it for fear of retribution.

The USCCR’s final recommendation regarding immigrants and the 1996 welfare reform was to immediately restore full benefits to immigrants regardless of when they entered the country and regardless of the financial resources of their sponsors. They further recommended that undocumented immigrants, for humanitarian reasons, should at least have access to health care, education and food stamps. To protect their civil rights, it was recommended that language assistance be provided for them throughout every step of the public assistance process.

Although these families may still struggle to feed, house and clothe their families, all is not doom and gloom. As mothers moved into the workforce, many children left in-home care and entered organized formal care. Studies resulted in surprising findings. Many of these children benefited from these environments with increased cognitive development, learning gains, and school readiness. These studies further suggested that the adolescents of these families were more likely to become employed later on when compared to adolescents in welfare dependent homes.

Now that the nuts and bolts of the legislation as well as its aftermath has been covered, the gringa asks, “Who REALLY benefited from this legislation?” The answer? Well, number one, the politician who was pandering to: a. voters with money and influence; and, b. corporations who contributed lots of money to campaigns. How so? Well, think about it. When the labor market is flooded with people looking for jobs, guess what, wages stay low! And that’s EXACTLY what happened, So, this piece of “social” reform was really a cheap labor package for the benefit of big corporations. Remember the economy boom during the Clinton years? Yeah, well, those growing businesses needed workers, and they wanted them as cheap as they could get ’em.

The reality is, if the government wants people to be self-sufficient, they must simply accept the fact that now, as in 1996, wages are too low for many families to escape poverty whether they work forty hours a week or even 60 hours a week. The gringa believes so much more could have been accomplished by simply raising minimum wage standards across the board to a living income level. Anyone who works forty hours weekly should make enough money to keep a roof over their head, feed and clothe themselves and afford healthcare.

For critics who argue that minimum wage jobs are simply entry level jobs for people to use temporarily and then move on to a better paying career level job, the gringa has got news for you. Welcome to the “New America” where 61% of young Americans have a college education, 44% of those college educated people are stuck in low income level jobs earning less than $25,000 annually and half of those have student debt of around $30,000 a year. Raising the minimum wage to a living standard level will not make these people rich, it will make them self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency was, after all, the true goal of this legislation. So, critics, the gringa says, “Quit pointing the finger and start lifting a hand to help these hard working Americans become self-sufficient. Join the cause to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.”

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2015/05/11/the-5-4-unemployment-rate-means-nothing-for-millennials/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/millennials_report.pdf

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-104hr3734enr/pdf/BILLS-104hr3734enr.pdf

http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Personal_Responsibility_and_Work_Opportunity_Reconciliation_Act_of_1996.aspx

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/1996_Personal_Responsibility_and_Work_Opportunity_Reconciliation_Act

http://www.epi.org/publication/webfeatures_viewpoints_tanf_testimony/

https://www.socialworkers.org/advocacy/welfare/legislation/summary.pdf

http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/prwora/welfare.htm

https://www.facebook.com/Fightfor15?fref=photo

Photo credit: www.slideshare.net

1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, a.k.a. the Simpson-Mazzoli Act


And what was going on in the United States in 1986 besides big hair, parachute pants, the Iran-Contra debacle of the Reagan administration, and Falco, the one hit wonder with “Rock Me Amadeus”? Well, Congress was getting together with President Reagan for his signature on the new immigration reform bill called the “Simpson-Mazzoli Act”. Considering this mammoth piece of legislative effort contains over 41,000 words, the gringa will stick to the facts that resulted in significant change for the immigrant and American society.

It is interesting to note that today’s “undocumented worker” was yesterday’s “illegal alien” and also was the “unauthorized alien” of the 80’s. These immigrants who were already present in the country in 1986 could apply and gain legal status according to certain guidelines:

  • Immigrants had to provide proof of residency and employment since January 1, 1982
  • Immigrants had to have a clean criminal record (a felony and/or 3+ misdemeanors got you the reject notice)
  • Immigrants had to provide proof of registering with Selective Service
  • Immigrants had to meet a minimal level of understanding of U.S. history, government and the English language or be enrolled in these courses of study (if you were 65 years old or older they let you slide on this requirement).
  • Immigrants must apply within 18 months of the passage of the bill

The bill also contained provisions of temporary resident travel so these new temporary resident aliens could legally return to their countries of origin and visit family and return to the United States. The gringa is proud of this particular provision and the humanitarian recognition by the United States of maintaining healthy family bonds and connections. The Attorney General also had the freedom to waive certain requirements if it was in the interest of family unity. The gringa is certain that the United States is on the right track here.

Once an immigrant became a lawful temporary U.S. resident, they were disqualified from federally funded public welfare for five years. The gringa is sure this provision was included to satisfy the xenophobes who just KNEW these folks only wanted to come to America in order to freeload! However, individual State programs that had National School Lunch programs, vocational education programs, Headstart programs, and their own health services, as well as Social Security benefits individuals may qualify for, were not prohibited.

Because this immigration reform legalized many workers, the bill outlawed the practice of any employer hiring an unauthorized alien. However, enforcement of this provision was to be deferred during agricultural seasonal services. Hey, when the country’s gotta eat, we should all just look away, right? The gringa then must ask, “What’s an immigrant hopeful to think?” I mean really, come on, think this one through with some common sense. If it was common knowledge within the immigrant community the U.S. law meant that you could enter undocumented and law enforcement would simply ignore you if you happened to arrive at the right time of the year, what would you do? If you are an opportunity deprived and economically oppressed individual, you choose the cheapest, shortest and quickest way to get into the land of opportunity. You enter during the agricultural harvest season when the nation puts out the welcome mat and simply stay. You keep your head down part of the year and walk around boldly the rest of the year. The United States is in no position to criticize immigrants for taking advantage of the law of the land! The nation can’t be willing to turn a blind eye when it’s convenient for their belly then turn around and point the finger and blame the immigrant and ask them, “What the hell are you doing here?!”

Migrant agricultural workers who entered the nation seasonally were considered separate from the unauthorized aliens who met the above conditions. The migrant workers had a different visa with different qualifying guidelines. For the xenophobes who complain that immigrants come to this country and steal American jobs, consider this requirement of migrant worker guidelines: “Requires an employer H-2A visa petition to certify that: (1) there are not enough local U.S. workers for the job; and (2) similarly employed U.S. workers’ wages and working conditions will not be adversely affected.” It seems that plenty of jobs are available in the agricultural industry but Americans refuse the opportunity. So, don’t be pointing the “Stealing American Jobs” finger at the immigrant. This provision put the American first only allowing immigrants to fill the position when Americans refused. Also, fearful xenophobes, consider President Reagan’s 1977 radio broadcast statement, ““It makes one wonder about the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won’t do?” Way back then even the Gipper got it! Anti-immigration folks are recycling the same old arguments and, time after time, they are proven wrong.

One interesting stipulation regarding discrimination has the gringa scratching her head and tsk-tsking. The bill says it would be considered “unfair” for an employer to discriminate against an individual in hiring practices based on origin or citizenship. However, it would be considered NOT “unfair” if an employer preferred to hire a U.S. citizen or national rather than an equally qualified resident alien. The gringa asks, “Does not one of these statements negate the other?” Geniuses and Washington, the two do not go hand in hand. The gringa says, “Just one more law in favor of American laborers and protecting their right to work over the immigrant to use in an argument to shut up and shut down the anti-immigrant xenophobe crowd.” Mmph, take that!

For migrant workers, though, there was still an option to obtain residency status. During the 18 month registration period established by this bill, if they worked 90 days within one year in the agricultural industry they qualified for temporary residency and could travel between the U.S. and their country of origin. During the first five years of their new status, migrant workers are considered “eligible legalized aliens” and do have access to Federal assistance as well as state assistance for the first five years of their new status. Migrant workers were also entitled to legal assistance.

Cuban and Haitian entrants were granted permanent resident status if they arrived before January 1, 1982. This was because many of these immigrants were political refugees.

Considering the disaster of American children whose native mother was not married to an American G.I. and was left behind in Indochina in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and Cambodia conflict, the gringa is pleased to find that the U.S. was more socially evolved in 1986. Children qualified for status, benefits and privileges if even one parent obtains resident status, regardless of the marital position of the child’s parents.

All in all, close to 3 million immigrants were legalized. This is a significant chapter in American immigration history. However, according to the numbers, about 2 million unauthorized aliens were left running around America without proper “authorization”. Some of these didn’t qualify, so, everyone just assumed they would eventually get deported. Others would have qualified but didn’t know a thing about the program. No one really had a back up plan for this eventuality. The gringa is not surprised. I’m sure Reagan and Congress thought, “We’ve done enough. That headache can be for the next administration.” Yes, U.S. government, how the wheels turn.

Critics of this legislation called it “amnesty”.  The real definition of amnesty is “an official pardon for people who have been convicted of political offenses”. The gringa’s not sure that the term “amnesty” applies. Perhaps a better term for a path to citizenship would be “the right thing” or, maybe, “the smart thing” or, “humanity at its best”. Regardless of what you call it, there were plenty of critics then and now who considered it a big, fat failure because illegal immigrants poured into the country after its passage. The fantasy was, the gringa supposes, that politicians thought after the passage of this bill, somehow, by some miracle, there would never be another unauthorized alien that would enter the country. The gringa can only guess that perhaps they thought the immigrants that were here were the only ones that would ever want to be here and no other immigrants would arrive in the future. What a bunch of dummies.

The gringa thinks they should have expected immigrant hopefuls around the world to jump up and take notice and point their finger toward America, wide-eyed as they exclaimed, “DID YOU SEE THAT! THAT COULD BE ME!” And off they go, running as fast as their little foreign feet can carry them to the Home of the Free and the Land of the Brave. With a path to citizenship laid out and easy to qualify for, of course hopefuls would hotfoot it across the border if given the chance.

The gringa thinks the problem was not with the legislation. The gringa thinks the problem was with the lack of preparedness. It should have been, sign the bill then yell, “Katie, bar the door!” They should have seen it coming! Big sillies! They needed to have a stronger presence on the border. Why didn’t they? Money, of course. Even though there was a provision to beef up border security by 50%, it seems they still didn’t spend enough money! Or, quite possibly, as often happens in bureaucracies, the money was mismanaged. All you xenophobes who are crying about border security, well, its gonna cost you. Are you willing to pay? That means taxes to fund it. Take a look at your paycheck stub. Are you still willing to pay?

Another reason illegals continued to flood into the country is because the framers just weren’t good planners. The bill was not a failure as critics claim when they point to the fact that illegal immigration was never eradicated, but actually increased. It’s because the bill didn’t go far enough. It never occurred to the framers of the legislation that the country might just continue to grow and need more laborers. Just like any good capitalist free market system ruled by supply and demand, the U.S. labor market demanded laborers and the nation’s southern neighbors were only too happy to supply them. And that is the very reason we need immigration reform now. Most of these people are here to work and raise their families and educate themselves and their children. They need to be able to come out of the shadows and live with security as proud American citizens.

For today’s critics of amnesty who treat it like it’s a dirty word, listen to the words of a wise humanitarian: “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally,” Ronald Reagan, in a 1984 televised debate with Walter Mondale. Former Wyoming Sen. Alan K. Simpson’s opinion on amnesty? “Anybody who’s here illegally is going to be abused in some way, either financially [or] physically. They have no rights.” How do today’s Republicans feel about Obama’s efforts to bring about meaningful immigration reform? Well, just listen to what Mitch McConnell had to say: “…take amnesty off the table…”

So, then, what really happens with the issue of immigration reform? Politicians stick to their tried-and-true methods of old. When their voter base is raising hell, but the politician is too afraid to tackle the realities of legislation that affects the lives of millions of people, they worry more about getting re-elected. They don’t really care about the plight of an oppressed, unrepresented class of people who are not registered to vote. It is safer for the politician to stir up constituents with anger toward the immigrant so the voters won’t ask for immigration reform, but, rather, just scream for mass deportation. But, the politician doesn’t want to do that either. I mean, think about it. If cowardly politicians actually started deporting people, deportees may have loved ones in the community that DO vote. Politicians don’t want to risk losing that potential vote. If the politician treads the murky waters of immigration reform with legalization in mind, he alienates xenophobes, racists and labor unions from his voter base. If he goes hard line on immigration reform, he risks alienating the voters of ethnic groups who see members of their own national origin being rounded up and oppressed. What’s a vote-hungry, cowardly politician to do? He continues to stir up fear, because fear mongering directs everyone to the subject of border control. It’s much safer for the politician to support funding of border security than deal with millions of human beings. So, basically, the United States never sees meaningful immigration reform because the politicians are cowards.

The gringa remains hopeful that in Obama’s lame duck years he will deliver on immigration reform because he doesn’t give a hoot about pandering for a vote. He is in the strongest position to do the right thing. He has managed to deliver on some other controversial, hot button issues. The gringa still has faith and sits on the edge of her seat to see what happens. In closing, the gringa defers to the wise words of President Reagan who remained a friend to the immigrant to the very day he left office in 1989 when he said this: “I’ve spoken of a shining city all my political life but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here.”

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1986_immigration_reform_and_control_act.html

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d099:SN01200:@@@L&summ2=m&% 7CTOM:/bss/d099query.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/30/in-1986-congress-tried-to-solve-immigration-why-didnt-it-work/

http://asu.news21.com/archive/2009/the_first_immigration_amnesty/

http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/1986-amnesty/story?id=18971179

http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/35th/thelaw/irca.html

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128303672

Photo credit:  www.fusion.net

1982 Amerasian Immigration Act-The Baby Citizens Left Behind


Many soldiers fathered children in Indochina during the Vietnam War. Although immigration reform in 1975 addressed the refugee crisis of this region, these children were left out of specific consideration. The 1982 Amerasian Immigration Act sought to remedy this situation and provide preference in immigration admission policies for these children of United States citizens, whose mothers were not married to the U.S. G.I.’s. This legislation did not provide for the mother’s entry. She was required to release parental rights in order for the child to immigrate.

Eventually, the diversity of America’s population would be further enriched with the arrival of Amerasian children from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea. This humanitarian inspired legislation, although thoughtfully inspired, was also woefully deficient. Although the United States would definitely be a better place for these children to grow up in, the fact remains that they were separated from one parent in order to be reunited with another parent, simply because the parents were not married. Many of these parents desired to get married. For military personnel such as sailors, at that time in history, they could only marry with the consent of their captain. Often, consent was denied. Many of these children were born to Asian women and American servicemen who were in committed relationships yet could also be abruptly torn apart without a moment’s notice if a serviceman’s duty demanded redeployment. In these cases, the gringa believes the nation was terribly remiss in separating these families.

Many veterans of this conflict that were separated from loved ones by refusal of commanding officers to give consent to marry, or sudden redeployment, still have children and the mothers of their children in Asia with no contact with the American father in the States. Even today there are veterans and Asian women and Amerasian children who are searching for one another, searching for their families. Unfortunately, even if they find one another today, they would not be able to reunite under the conditions of this legislation. Although birthright to an American parent, regardless of geographical location of birth, guarantees a child the right to American citizenship, paternity certification documents must be filed before the child reaches the age of eighteen. The children left behind that were borne of this era of conflict and have survived, are now adults.

The gringa believes the U.S. failed to live up to its ideals in refusing these families to remain united. The gringa believes the U.S. failed to extend proper respect and appreciation for the servicemen who risked their lives for the nation and were then denied a marriage to a woman who was loved, and denied the serviceman the right to preserve his own family. Were these not rights the serviceman was defending and preserving in his very duty and service to country? What the hell, Congress of 1970’s and 1980’s? Where were your “pro-family, American freedom and American dream” minds? To the gringa this is so simple. You keep the family together. Period.

And as for the argument that some of these children were conceived by prostitutes, the gringa says, “So what?” It is estimated that over fifty thousand children in the Philippines alone were fathered by American servicemen in such a way. Does this mean a father would no want to be reunited with his own flesh and blood? Do these children deserve to be denied their rightful U.S. citizenship simply because their mother is a prostitute? Does the United States feel such a situation makes it okay to create a second-class citizen in these children? Does being the son or daughter of a prostitute disqualify a person from U.S. citizenship even if the father is a U.S. citizen? Show the gringa the law which says that is so. These children, by law, are United States citizens. Why the hell were they left behind? Why, with American blood coursing through their veins, are there any obstacles to them entering their own country and reuniting with their fathers?

As the conditions of post-war Indochina worsened when American troops left, many of these children suffered not only the loss of their American father, but many were also abandoned by their mothers. This is a tragedy that the United States had the power and, therefore, the moral obligation, to remedy, yet did not. Many of these orphans were further disadvantaged because of the stigma they suffered as the children of prostitutes. The gringa asks, “Why in the hell should any child bear any culpability for a parent’s career choice? Why should this be any factor at all in determining whether or not a child is socially acceptable? Why should this even be an issue to consider in allowing this child of a U.S. citizen to gain entry to the nation and reunite with a parent?” Even if a war veteran who fathered a child does not wish to reunite, why should any of this prevent a child who is legally a U.S. citizen from coming to their own, damn country? They are not even “immigrants”. They are CITIZENS! These children were U.S. citizens, helpless in their plight, and their country failed them.

The gringa is very disappointed how far this bill missed the mark considering that the prior two decades had shown such great promise in the humanitarian nature of immigration reform. Although the gringa is stirred to the point of anger because these innocent U.S. children were left behind, I must admit that the shortcoming of the nation was indicative of the social perspective at that time. Children born to parents that were not married were still stigmatized even on American soil. I suppose it is then only natural that the country did not regard children born to servicemen and women they were not married to as children who were legitimate citizens. That would account for why the amendment did not include specific wording for their inclusion. Not only were these children victims of war, they were victims of time.

After making such great strides in social progress, it seems the nation began to regress. Who in their right mind in this nation does not see that immigration reform is the most important humanitarian issue that affects so many people in the United States today? Why does Congress get together, year after year, and do nothing? Immigration reform is about human beings who not only want to come here and have a better life, immigration reform is often about coming here to find a long, lost loved one unwillingly ripped away from a person. Such inhumanity is a nasty stain on America. America is in need of redeeming itself. This can only be done with humanitarian inspired immigration reform that is long, long, overdue.

 

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1982_amerasian_immigration_act.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/opinion/the-forgotten-amerasians.html?_r=0

http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/03/world/asia/philippines-forgotten-children/

Photo credit:  www.blueskygallery.org

 

1952 Immigration and Nationality Act – The Big Red Flush


June 27, 1952 United States immigration policies changed, and not for the better. Commonly called the McCarran-Walter Act, the bill sought to exclude immigrants that were criminals, immoral,diseased, or political radicals, particularly communists. Anyone who had any association with communism could just forget about entry. The ban on all Asians was lifted, except for the Japanese.  Because of World War II, the Japanese were “out”, and the Chinese, the “good Asians”, were “in”. This was their reward for being such great allies in the war with Japan. Quotas would still exist, rigidly controlling entry according to ethnicity by nation of origin. However, if you were a good candidate for assimilation into the nation’s economy, society and political system, and, more importantly, white, odds were you’d get in. This was all done in the name of national security.

Because of the Soviet Union’s success at spreading the practice of Communism throughout China and Korea during the war, Senator Pat McCarran of Nevada, co-author of the bill, and his congressional cronies considered communism to be the biggest threat to post-war America. Now, instead of being discriminated against because of race, a new form of discrimination based on ideology emerged. Anti-communism was the underlying tone throughout the legislation.

Prior to this bill, McCarran had been the driving force behind the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950. This law required persons who were members of the American Communist Party to register with the Attorney General. The gringa is pretty certain this was not so they could be on the Attorney General’s Christmas card list. No, Big Brother was watching. Eventually, many of these folks would be rounded up as subversives and incarcerated under the authorization of Title II of that bill and its “loyalty clearance programs.” Under the umbrella of this bill’s authority, McCarran investigated Roosevelt and Truman’s administrations in efforts to flush out any communist infiltrators. The gringa thinks it’s safe to say that McCarren was most likely a passionate, commie hater.

It would also seem that McCarran did not harbor many warm sentiments toward Asians either. Journalist Phil Tajitsu Nash would look back at this legislation and conclude that it was “explicit racial discrimination against Asian immigration…” I mean, after all, annually it only allowed into the country 2,000 Asians indigenous to the area known as the “Asia-Pacific Triangle”. Countries within the “triangle” were allowed only 100 immigrants toward the quota. Also, even if a Chinese person was born in Europe, that person still counted toward the Asian quota.

Some immigrants enjoyed privileges where entry into the nation was concerned. If an immigrant already had a family member in the country, that person experienced preferential treatment in gaining entry to the nation. Such immigrants also did not count toward that ethnicity’s quota. And, if someone was from the Western Hemisphere it was practically guaranteed that person could enter the United States.

McCarran was not ashamed at all about his racist ideology. He introduced a quota system that practiced flagrant, open, ethnic bias. If you were British, Irish, or German, in other words, white, you got the preferred slot in the 70% of the immigrant quota set aside for these races. Now, if you were a skilled laborer, no matter what color your skin was, you had a pretty good chance of getting into the country. McCarran still liked the idea of importing labor that could be oppressed with no political representation as a non-citizen.

McCarran also seemed to have a great appreciation for the term “subversive”. That was a very present theme throughout the 1952 bill he co-authored. The immigration law of the land now could incarcerate a person, bar them from entry or deport them solely on ideological grounds. A person didn’t even have to do anything. They simply had to think about it or talk about it or write about. That means a person could be considered a criminal even if they were exercising their First Amendment right and talking in glowing terms about communism. Hell, the gringa would probably be considered a “subversive” and thrown in the slammer for writing something like this. My Caveman thinks it could still happen and tells me not to expect him on visiting day for getting myself in trouble with my big mouth.

The first time around, President Truman stamped the bill with a big fat veto. Remember, he viewed immigration policy from a more humanitarian point of view. He did not feel threatened by ethnic diversity. He recognized the discriminatory nature of the bill. At the time of Truman’s veto, he said, “The basic error of this bill is that it moves in the direction of suppressing opinion and belief… that would make a mockery of the Bill of Rights and of our claims to stand for freedom in the world.”

Truman rejected the bill on the grounds that it created a second-class status among citizens based on whether an American was born here or was naturalized.  Truman was so dissatisfied with the spirit of the legislation, he commissioned an investigation of the political implications of these immigration policy changes. The Presidential Commission on Immigration and Naturalization (PCIN) advised relaxing the policies of the Act. McCarran reacted to this by accusing the commission members of, wait for it, wait for it…. Yes, he accused them of being Communist sympathizers. Mmm Hmmm. Anger somebody and get an accusing finger pointed your way, labeling you a “subversive” or a “communist”. Your enemies would get their revenge by accusing you of being a Red. McCarran’s paranoia about Communism is reflected in his statement that if immigration controls were relaxed “in the course of a generation or so, [it would] tend to change the ethnic and cultural composition of this nation.” In other words, he was afraid the nation would become less white.

Despite Truman’s strong objections and veto, Congress had enough votes to support it anyway and it became the new immigration law of the land. Thus the era was ushered in of Communist hysteria which will always be remembered by rejection of immigrant hopefuls such as Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Other Nobel laureates that were barred were British author Doris Lessing and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. They were considered “undesirable aliens” because their ideology was unacceptable. In other words, they didn’t think they way Congress wanted them to think.

This Communist hysteria would culminate in the infamous trials and 1953 executions of the Rosenbergs. So, in 1952, not only was racism alive and well in the United States, but open, state-sanctioned intolerance of a specific ideology becomes the new social trend.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1952_immigration_and_nationality_act.html

http://icirr.org/sites/default/files/IPC%20McCarran-Walter.pdf

http://immigrationinamerica.org/593-immigration-and-nationality-act-of-1952.html

Photo credit: www.foundsf.org

1945 War Brides Act – Love and War


Out of respect for the brave soldiers returning from World War II, the United States passed legislation allowing foreign spouses and children admission into the country outside the quota system that was still in effect. Even fiancées qualified if the couple had been engaged for at least three months. However, marriage bans to German women were in effect under this Act. If you were  one of those physical or mental “defectives”, well, tough luck, you were still banned from entering the country as well. At the time the War Brides Act was passed Asian spouses were not included in the measure, but amendments would change this policy in 1947. This legislation would also have a time limit but the Act would be revived as a result of later conflicts, such as the Korean and Vietnam wars. By 1950 the population of the United States grew as over 125,000 spouses, 25,00 children, and over 17,000 fiancées arrived, although numbers as high as 400,000 are reported by some. Who really knows. The gringa doesn’t really care about the numbers because the real story is about the women!

During the war, the U.S. military did not encourage these relationships. They wanted the soldiers to be focused on their mission. By imposing many restriction the military hoped to prevent such romantic entanglements. However, lonely soldiers risking their lives in a foreign land are gonna do what every red-blooded man is gonna do. He’s gonna get ‘im a girlfriend. Back home, this didn’t go over too well, especially with the single gals who were waiting for their Yanks to come home. But for the British and European girls, left and right they were falling in love with their American heroes. Although many Europeans approved of these romances, the bittersweet of it was the fear that if it led to marriage, their baby girls would run off to America and they would never see them again. But, after suffering through the horrors of such a war, many parents found comfort in the fact that their daughters would be in a place of peace and safety.

One group of newlyweds and sweethearts that had much to overcome were the interracial couples of American servicemen and their Japanese wives. Racial prejudice on both sides of the fence made for a very delicate situation indeed. Japanese women quickly adopted Western fashion, tossing aside more traditional garments. Soldiers faced restrictive policies designed to prevent contact with the women of the enemy. However, it was unrealistic to think that these men would live without a gal on their arm throughout a seven year occupation of Japan.

Although the soldiers and young women may not have had any prejudicial barriers to overcome between themselves, Japanese parents often considered the Americans to be murderers. So, not only did a Japanese bride have to overcome the bias of her family’s reaction, she later found herself arriving to her new country and experiencing discrimination and intolerance. However, the shock of American society seeing a beautiful, young Japanese bride on the arm of her American husband was nothing compared to the shock of American culture in the 1940’s seeing African American soldiers returning home with white European brides.

As the war brides began to arrive, most were welcomed warmly. Often they were treated like a novelty in their new communities. However, once the new wore off, they adjusted like all humans do and eventually assimilated into typical American life. After all, America is a nation of immigrants. They would never be alone in that status.

After the gringa complained and criticized her way through almost two centuries of U.S. immigration policies that were terribly flawed, this piece of work has restored my faith that the country can get it right from time to time. I mean, hey, who doesn’t bend over backwards to facilitate a good love story? Satan, maybe, but not the American people. Hopefully U.S. legislators will come away from this enlightened that immigration policies put in place for humanitarian reasons are the only ones that work out for both the nation and the immigrant because the motive is the right one. In all you do, intent matters.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1945_war_brides_act.html

http://northamericanimmigration.org/312-war-brides-act-act-of-december-28-1945-1945.html

http://uswarbrides.com/WW2warbrides/1945act.html

http://www.americainwwii.com/articles/war-brides/

http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/WARBRIDES/2012-12/1355634603

http://histclo.com/essay/war/ww2/cou/us/live/w2usl-bride.html

Photo credit: www.vintag.es

1943 Bracero Appropriations – Immigrant Exploitation, Again, And Again, And Again…


How many times had the United States implemented immigration policies for the purpose of importing cheap labor and things turned out badly because capitalist utopian ideology did not consider the human and civil rights factor?

  • 1798, new residency guidelines create a system where typical natural life span expires before citizenship requirements can be fulfilled; a dirty trick to continue to entice loads of hopeful immigrants to arrive only to be exploited as a working class with no political representation for the rest of their lives
  • 1882 the U.S. evicted Chinese laborers who had been exploited immigrants for decades as a cheap labor class during the California Gold Rush and railroad construction days
  • 1882, hot on the heels of kicking out the Chinese, the U.S. wanted to bar the door to prevent entry to those damn Irish Catholics and troublesome Germans, among other ethnic groups, who were coming over here and stealing all the jobs as well as creating Socialist rabble-rousers out of the working class. The masses of citizens were screaming for higher wages so it was politically expedient to blame the immigrant, wasn’t it?
  • 1888, the Scott Act once again has the U.S. snubbing its nose at the Chinese, kicking out even the diplomats, travelers who were just passing through, and wealthy elites who had previously been acceptable; once again legislators needed to manage the masses for the stability and economic growth of the nation
  • 1907, The Gentlemen’s Agreement, for the purpose of importing cheap Japanese labor, would also eventually go south, just like the same idea ended disastrously every single time the United States made immigration policies based on greed rather than moral racial equality
  • 1924, and here comes the final slap in the face for the Japanese, labor exploitation with no hope of representation due to the naturalization ban. Does anyone wonder, then, about the reasons behind Pearl Harbor? A national grudge was nursed for almost twenty-years before they slapped the U.S. right back.
  • 1943, after getting slapped back by the Japanese, the US goes crawling to the Chinese out of fear they would become allies with Japan. I can hear it now, “Um, please Chinese people, I know the U.S. treated you worse than a pack of ol’ junkyard dogs. We probably even fed our dogs better than we were willing to pay you guys, but, hey, we’re real sorry. We could really use your help over here and, we’ll make it worth your while. Whaddya say?” And, China returned to the fold like a junkyard dog that gets kicked and smacked but still faithfully sits at the feet of its abuser, or like the battered who bail their abusers out of jail and welcome them home. I say to the government of China in 1943, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” If a country exploited and oppressed this gringa then insulted me and kicked me out I WOULD NEVER GO BACK, FOR NO AMOUNT OF MONEY IN THE WORLD! But, I digress. My real question is, if Japan nursed a grudge for twenty years and then delivered a major smack-down such as the United States had not known up until that time, could China still be nursing a grudge and gauging conditions for the perfect moment to eventually give America the come-uppance it deserves for national insults dished out for decades? The gringa says, “Watch your back! It’s happened before. And that’s why treating people with loyalty and respect is a wise policy. You tend to get it in return.”

And that brings us to April 26, 1943 when the nation formalized an agreement that had developed between Mexico and the U.S. through a series of notes between Joseph F. McGurk, Counsel of the American Embassy in Mexico, and Ernesto Hidalgo, of Mexico’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs. With the assistance of Mexico’s Ministry of Labor, the United States’ Farm Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and War Farming Operations within the USDA, the Bracero Agreement opened the gates not only for immigrants from Mexico, but also for all of Central and South America.

The Bracero Agreement outlined what was mandated or what was prohibited in order for these immigrants to enter the nation temporarily and serve as migrant farm labor. These immigrants could not be engaged in military service. They would be entitled to round trip transportation and housing paid for, and provided by, the USDA and participating farms. Braceros were entitled to equal pay. If Braceros were accompanied by children under the age of fourteen, these children were entitled to equal education opportunities just like the children of U.S. citizens. The Mexican government, Mexican Labor Inspectors, and Mexican Consuls had the right to inspect the working conditions of Braseros. Burial service was also included in the act, provided and paid for by the USDA. The gringa wonders if this was indicative of the thought that, just perhaps, these immigrants may be exploited and worked to death. Hmmm, just sayin’, it is curious, isn’t it?

You see, because Mexico was much too docile in this round of negotiation, this program ended up being no better than America’s previous episodes of importing cheap labor. For one thing, farmers didn’t like the government intruding in order to monitor working conditions and wages. The farmers preferred to do things their own way, which usually meant hiring undocumented workers and paying them drastically lower wages. But, with most of the American population diverted to war industry jobs, and all the Japanese detained in internment camps, a labor shortage was created in the lower paying agricultural field. Despite the dissatisfaction of farmers, Roosevelt went ahead with the plan because it was critical to stabilize food sources for the nation, especially during wartime. The nation needed to fill the gap, so the nation decided it would exploit the Mexicans and their southern neighbors.

Roosevelt even whipped out Executive Order No. 8802, written June 25, 1941, to assure civil rights protection of the Braceros. The dear reader jumps for joy and says, “Aha! Aha! Civil rights! Well, well, well, social progress!” The gringa is sorry to disappoint. Don’t get all hopeful that this was proof of Roosevelt having a racial equality agenda in mind. This was more about the success of wartime defense production than civil rights. It was the President wagging his finger at any American who might get some high-and-mighty white supremacist attitude toward the Braceros, or any other people of color, during the critical time of war efforts and production. It was as if Roosevelt was telling these Americans, “Look, behave yourselves! We need this imported cheap labor to win the war!” The Executive Order states “…as a prerequisite to the successful conduct of our national defense production effort, I do hereby reaffirm the policy of the United States that there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin…” Now, in case you didn’t notice, the gringa will point something out to you. It specified “no discrimination” in defense industry and government sector jobs. If you owned the local café and wanted to discriminate, well, by all means please do. Get it? Yes, you must have a very critical eye as you peruse these tricky documents. So, as for Roosevelt, a non-racist he was not, a cunning leader to war time victory, he was.

Now, the term “bracero” is from the Spanish root, “brazo”, which, in English, means “arm”. Yes, I suppose there will be lots of Spanish-speaking immigrant “arms” being employed as a result of this international agreement. I suppose this concession to try to appear more open-minded by using Spanish terminology was supposed to put at ease the nation’s southern neighbors, distracting them from memories of the prior decades of exploitation. I tell ya, the gringa just wants to pull her hair out! How many times will people from other countries fall for this dirty trick America plays? It’s like breaking up with a terrible boyfriend, then, six months later he comes slinking back and the gal thinks, “Oh, I miss him, “ and gets all wobbly in the knees. The next thing ya know they both have black eyes and the girl is saying to herself, “What the hell was I thinking?” When the U.S. starts squirming with the need to import cheap labor, other countries, listen up! The gringa’s gonna give you some advice! Let ‘em squirm til they wet their pants and THEN you’ll be in a position of power to negotiate the best terms possible. Quit selling out your populace for a quick infusion of cash into your anemic economy! Just stop it!

Despite the provisions to prevent discrimination, such things were enforced half-heartedly, if at all. U.S. federal government oversight was minimal and Mexican government oversight was practically non-existent. People wonder, “Why?” The gringa wonders, “Why do you ask?” I mean, hasn’t it become clear that U.S. immigration policies are always motivated by capitalism or national security? It was in the interest of neither motivator to invest time and money to see that these non-citizens were treated right. America’s only interest was how quickly they could fill a bushel basket. Earning an average of about a buck a day, it is easy to see that the Bracero average income was about one sixth the national average that annually ranged between $1800-$2000. Equal wages? Are you kidding me?

And if low wages weren’t bad enough, their own country robbed them of their future retirement because Mexico had its own interests to serve off the backs of these hapless laborers. The act had a provision that 10% of wages would be deposited into a fund managed by Mexico. It was a plan similar to American wage withholding for Social Security. This compensation was never paid back out to Braseros who found themselves poverty ridden and abandoned by both governments when they reached old age. Is it just the gringa, or do my dear readers also have a problem with the United States exploiting a class of people necessary to help the nation win a war, and, in the end, the nation has no sense of loyalty and gratitude for such efforts and let’s these old folks waste away, disrespected and forgotten. America, these people you robbed and turned your back on played a critical role in keeping your people and military fed during the Second World War. Without them the U.S. would have starved and probably be speaking German by now. Good God, how do you say “betrayal” in German? Shame on the United States. Shame on Mexico.

Because of cultural differences, particularly the language barrier, these migrant workers experienced discrimination on the same scale as former slaves. Braseros often saw signs at businesses that read “no Mexicans” right alongside “no Blacks”. Restaurants would serve them in the kitchen, right alongside the nation’s other second-class citizens. The children of Braceros suffered discriminatory practices as their right to education was exercised and they entered U.S. public schools challenged by a language barrier. Los Angeles County responded to this challenge by forming language workshops for teachers to assist Spanish speaking students in their adjustment to English speaking classrooms. Despite good intentions, however, it fell far short of providing the bi-lingual education these students needed. This resulted in generations of Brasero children receiving little, or no education at all despite the fact it was their legal right, and, the gringa believes, the moral duty of a host nation who was exploiting the student’s parent(s) for wartime production in the name of national security. Shame on the United States and shame on Mexico for allowing sub-standard education conditions to continue and never compensate or correct this injustice to innocent children.

At this time in America’s history, lip service was the only attention civil rights issues received. The façade of America as a humanitarian nation protecting civil rights and promoting a culture of equality among all ethnicities was a sham. Supply and demand was what really mattered in a wartime nation that was rationing food and gasoline. Although I’m sure the Mexican Government was aware of this, I don’t believe that this was the bill of goods that was sold to the Braceros, bless their little hearts.

Sources:

http://www.farmworkers.org/bpaccord.html

http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=72&page=transcript

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1943_bracero_appropriations.html

http://www.ccrh.org/comm/moses/primary/bracero.html

http://www1.american.edu/ted/bracero.htm

http://www.ushistory.org/us/51e.asp

http://www.theseamericans.com/civil-rights/california-collection-civil-rights-speeches-social-conditions-of-mexican-american-youth-1943/

Photo credit:  www.oregonhistoryproject.org

1943 Magnuson Act: Blueprint For Equality


December 17, the 1943 Magnusun Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt. The Chinese could once again immigrate into the United States and, even more amazing, be eligible for citizenship. Could it be that the United States was beginning to evolve socially and become less racist? Could it be that the United States had learned its lesson about insulting other nations after the disastrous and deadly outcome of spurning Japan for years?

It seems that key people banded together and put pressure on legislators, specifically, the “Citizens Committee to Repeal Chinese Exclusion and Place Immigration On a Quota Basis”. Quite a mouthful. Although these people may have been socially enlightened for their time, the gringa thinks they may have lacked the creative minds necessary to come up with a snazzier title for their think tank. This group of public figures formally organized May 25, 1943 with the purpose to reverse the racist legislation of 1882 that had sought to remove from white America an ethnicity that was singled out because of its racial, linguistic, religious and cultural differences.

During the 1930’s, author Pearl S. Buck’s book “The Good Earth”, a Pulitzer Prize winner, began to change public sentiment toward the Chinese as it depicted the privations suffered by the people of rural China. Where social evolution could not reach the hearts of the American people, it seems sympathy could. After suffering through the years of the Great Depression, the American people had obviously been humbled and could now overcome racial differences as they were able to relate to the sufferings of other human beings.

Time magazine also featured articles exposing Japan’s invasion of China. With American’s despising all things Japanese after Pearl Harbor, this was a prime example of just one more thing in common between the American and Chinese people that resulted in sympathetic feelings.

Politically speaking, Roosevelt’s motives most likely did not originate from the heart and soul of a man who wanted to right a racist wrong. His concern was what was in the nation’s best interest. As President, that was his job. If Roosevelt didn’t want to lose China to America’s enemy, Japan, the best thing he could do would be to perform a significant act that would pacify any doubt in the mind of China that the U.S. was their friend.

You see, at that time Japan was using United States history to make inroads with the Chinese. Japan’s cunning propaganda plan was to play up ethnic similarities between themselves and the Chinese and also remind China of the racist exploitation they experienced with the Americans and the insult of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Roosevelt’s motives were not because he was an apologetic non-racist, it was because he was a capitalist opportunist. In other words, Roosevelt was a typical American. The State Department even issued a public statement regarding the political necessity of this act: “The repeal of this act was a decision almost wholly grounded in the exigencies of World War II, as Japanese propaganda made repeated reference to Chinese exclusion from the United States in order to weaken the ties between the United States and its ally, the Republic of China”. In other words, the United States needed this critical wartime alliance with China. So, Roosevelt formed a committee to rally everyone in the nation to get on the pro-Chinese bandwagon.

Roosevelt’s committee was headed up by none other than Pearl S. Buck’s husband, James Walsh. I guess that seems fitting since she’s the one that got this party started. The committee consisted of over two hundred people who put pressure on groups larger and more powerful than themselves. These groups in turn would lobby Congress to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Social and professional elites of the country used their connections to advance the cause of the Chinese immigrant. When the moral argument of racial equality failed, the argument of patriotism and winning the war persuaded the hesitant.

The passage of the Magnusun Act of 1943 repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, allowed for Asians to become naturalized citizens, and established quotas to allow Chinese immigrants entry into the United States. The citizenship gate that had historically swung open only for free, white, men and remained closed to other ethnicities, had now become unhinged. This, however, did not mean that domestic racism had ceased. Although many in the nation may have been softening, the labor unions could only see the Chinese as potential competition among laborers and a threat to wages. Once the work had been completed to change the laws, the work began anew to change the hearts and minds of the people. This work was necessary to reverse racist opinions toward the Chinese that had been about one hundred years in the making. Until that happened, equality, although the law of the land, was, in reality, a myth.

The United States has always been designed to be a capitalist utopia with power vested in the hands of the wealthy. Historically, powerful, white men managed the masses for their own benefit as well as to strengthen the nation. Racism is a tool. If it is profitable to be racist, racist practices take place. If it is not profitable to be racist, the leaders reverse course. Racism seems to be fused with capitalist political agendas. But that doesn’t mean every American, and every American politician, thinks this way. The writer of the bill, Senator Warren G. Magnusun, spent the rest of his congressional career working to improve relations between Americans and the Chinese. Men and women like Magnusun are just the kind of socially evolved legislators the United States needs to grow into a nation that practices true equality.

In 1943 it only took seven months for the power of just one small group of wealthy, socially influential people to sway public opinion and effect significant legislative change. Why, then, have the social elites of today not succeeded in the same for the many non-white groups in the United States who experience racism on an oppressive level? I guess ethnic groups need to find a way for their cause to be either profitable or in the best interest of national security. That’s how it worked for the Chinese.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1943_magnuson_act.html

http://immigration.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000766

http://immigrationinamerica.org/431-citizens-committee-to-repeal-chinese-exclusion.html

http://immigrationinamerica.org/591-immigration-act-of-1943.html

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=8993

Photo credit:  http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/

Wartime Measure of 1941 – Entry Into The U.S. By Businessmen’s Approval


By 1941, World War II was raging across Europe and the mood of the good people of the United States was pretty surly. The Defense Department was in need of a study supply of goods and services to supply the nation’s military that was engaged in a conflict of unprecedented scale in modern history. Every person in America was barely getting by after the lean years of the Great Depression. Big industry was raking in war profits hand over fist and the little guy wanted his share. President Roosevelt just wanted everyone to behave themselves, report to work and churn out the mechanical parts, machines, steel, coal, transportation and ships the country needed to keep our soldiers moving and the nation bankrolled. This created the conditions which resulted in legislation creating yet another change to the country’s immigration policies.

In 1941, labor unions were seriously flexing their muscles. Beginning in January and lasting until April, laborers at the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee dug in for a long strike over whether the company would be a “closed shop” or if workers could opt out of union membership. Bethlehem Steel Corporation of Pennsylvania, which had a long history of profiting from government defense contracts as well as a long history of organized workers, held a five day strike in March over the election of new collective bargaining representatives. In the following month of April, over four hundred thousand Appalachian coal miners organized a strike over a wage dispute. After a month of such shenanigans President Roosevelt got involved to assist in negotiating an agreement.

American citizens were quickly developing anti-labor sentiments. Strikes throughout the nation continued to keep the population embroiled in controversy no matter which side of the fence someone sat. Most Americans were simply happy to be employed after the jobless years of the Great Depression. The nation looked to its elected leaders to resolve these conflicts once and for all so everyone could focus on the American way of life, earning a paycheck then cashing and spending it. The U.S. government’s solution to all this industry mayhem was to pass the Smith-Connally Act on June 25, 1943 (also called War Labor Disputes Act) which gave the president authority to seize and operate private industries critical to manufacturing war products. This power was exercised by President Roosevelt twice within two months of its passage, and later, in October, when there was a strike at Air Associates, Inc.

In June President Roosevelt exercised emergency powers to commandeer North American Aviation in California as a result of a labor strike. August 20th, motor coach and street car operators affiliated with the AFL went on strike forcing over 400,000 Detroit workers who depended on public transportation to walk, hitch-hike or car pool. Also happening in August, workers at New Jersey’s Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company rejected an agreement put forth by the National Defense Mediation Board panel and a seventeen day strike commenced. Later that month President Roosevelt seized control of the plant.

Many Americans were not supportive of the disruptions created by organized labor and strikes. Typical cultural sentiment was to just get to work and not cause trouble. Do your part as an American and keep the country moving forward. Not only did the majority of the population support legislation that kept unions in check, they were also desiring policies that would prevent foreign rabble-rousers from importing their Socialist ideas and throwing a monkey wrench in all this progress. Although the economic tide was turning, people were still suffering privations because of how disastrous the Great Depression had been. Overall, at this time, the United States was seeing economic improvement but full-fledge prosperity was still some time away.

As a result of these concerns, the United States thought new immigration legislation was necessary for national security. The 1941 Wartime Measure of June 20th provided for refusal of entry for any immigrant if an American diplomat or consular thought their purpose was to cause trouble. It was rather vague in interpretation and application. It would eventually be exercised to its fullest extent after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Two months after the attack, by the power of  Executive Order 9066, approximately 120,000 Japanese were forced into internment camps on American soil. Of those prisoners, sixty-two percent were U.S. citizens. This injustice, yet, only ten people were ever convicted of spying for Japan and they were Caucasian.

Two months after the passage of this Act, President Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Newfoundland to create their war effort plan known as the Atlantic Charter. Considering the amount of time and planning for two heads of state to meet at a neutral location, it is safe to assume that at the time legislators were working on this new immigration policy, they did so with full knowledge it was in preparation for the country moving toward entering the war. To get into America now, you had to pass muster of the personal opinion of an American diplomat or consular. Who were these diplomats? Were they even qualified to make such a determination of a person?

One American diplomat at this time was W. Averell Harriman. He was a U.S. diplomat who carried on dialogue with the Soviet Union during the conflict of World War II. During 1932-1946 he was chairman of the board with Union Pacific Railroad Company. An enviable position probably secured for him by his daddy, railroad bigwig E.H. Harriman. Hey, the gringa understands all about nepotism. It is regularly practiced here in the barrio with Junior heading out to work right beside Big Daddy on a regular basis. But, does working as a railroad wheeler-dealer qualify a person to decide if another person will make a good U.S. citizen?

Harriman also served as an officer of the National Recovery Administration from 1940-1941, which assisted in developing Roosevelt’s New Deal scheme. Specifically, he advised on the provisions that eliminated what would be considered “cut throat” competition and establishing “fair practices” in industry and trade. He also sat on the National Defense Advisory Commission as well as the Office of Production Management.

He made a career as an effective negotiator between the United States and Great Britain as well as the United States and the Soviet Union. Harriman’s profile was the typical resume for American diplomats. Boardroom negotiators have what it takes to navigate treaty talks with other nations.

American diplomats sound like great guys in stiff suits. The gringa’s just not so sure they would really be the go-to guys that would understand the heart of an immigrant, who probably didn’t even own a suit. In a nutshell, as a capitalist utopia run by the rich white guys, the gringa thinks the immigration changes of 1941 were appropriate for the times, but enacted and enforced by the wrong folks. But, that’s no surprise. War has always resulted in reactionary legislation that, in hindsight, causes the people to say, “What the hell were we thinking?”, from the Wartime Measure of 1941 to the Patriot Act of 2001. Say it ain’t so.

Addendum:  I would like to thank Samir Chopra for his encouragement and his own contribution to the story of American immigration. For an interesting read, please visit his blog and read the following article “The Cruelest Cut Of All: Punjabis Are Not White“. This link will take you directly to it…   http://samirchopra.com/2015/04/09/the-cruelest-cut-of-all-punjabis-are-not-white

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1941_wartime_measure_1.html

http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/library/primary-sources/1941-wartime-measure

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=138

https://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/war-time-conferences

http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2149&context=lcp

http://newdeal.feri.org/survey/sg41578.htm

http://www.britannica.com/topic/Smith-Connally-Anti-Strike-Act

http://www.historyonthenet.com/ww2/japan_internment_camps.htm

http://www.britannica.com/biography/W-Averell-Harriman

Photo credit:  wikipedia

1940 Nationality Act – Hypocrisy and Double Standards


In the late 1930’s the United States was once again scratching away at the parchment writing out the legal parameters of the Nationality Act of 1940. The problematic parts of the legislation are certiain conditions that, if not met, a person’s citizenship “automatically expires”, with no due process.

What was going on in the country that had lawmakers going to such efforts as to write new laws? With the country in the throes of the Great Depression, its economic effects rippled throughout the world. People from other countries did not have the means to emigrate. Also, because of the restrictive immigrant laws of 1924, many immigrants had been deported. As the threat of a second World War intensified throughout Europe, refugees began to challenge America’s restrictive immigration policies, although rarely successful. The gringa wants to know the facts. Digging a little deeper is required.

By the 1930’s, the religious landscape of the nation had changed. America has been historically viewed as a nation founded by, created by and governed by Christians. By the year 1930, however, the population of Jews outnumbered the ranks of the Episcopalians and Presbyterians combined. Eastern European Judaism was the predominant Jewish culture in the U.S. They assimilated into American culture but designed community programs in order to maintain their distinctly Jewish heritage. Despite their “Americanism”, many schools and colleges blatantly discriminated against Jews. With public figures like Henry Ford openly criticizing the patriotism and character of America’s Jewish population, it’s no surprise that violence was commonly visited upon Jews during this period of U.S. history.

America was becoming infatuated with it’s own national identity. Folk culture became popularized with the Library of Congress even beginning to collect American folk songs. American intellectuals churned out thoughtful manifestos such as “I’ll Take My Stand”, by the Southern Agrarians who desired a return to the simple way of life of agriculture. In direct contrast was Lewis Mumford’s “Technics and Civilization” which was more forward focused on developing technology to advance U.S. capitalism through a new age of modernism.

Such modernist ideas were reflected in the architecture and art of the 1930’s. The 1939 World’s Fair in New York made it clear to the world that America wanted to leave behind the anorexic economy of the Great Depression and this would happen through the development of “the world of tomorrow”. This “world of tomorrow” was pictorialized in America cinema and television shows of the era. This was the birth of the superhero, like Superman and the Lone Ranger. Hollywood also played a critical role in producing forms of entertainment that also served as propaganda to lift American spirits out of the defeatist spirit of the Great Depression. This was when the world was introduced to an American original comedy genre, slapstick and screwball. The financial disaster of the Great Depression gave way to fantasy and longings for a modern, futuristic world.

The nation’s economic solution for the people’s relief from the suffering of the Great Depression was the New Deal. This was not specifically a cure, but more of a stabilizing plan. This would enable people to get their feet back under them so they could focus on what Americans do best, make money. Because social and economic salvation came through the government, American perspective toward the government began to change. Americans who previously were suspicious of too much government control and power were now more inclined to believe that the intentions of Big Brother had the citizens’ best interest at heart.

As people in the United States are looking forward, the Japanese are looking back. After years of chafing at the political insults America meted out to Japan through immigration policies, on December 29, 1934, Japan renounced the Washington Naval Treaty it had entered into with America in 1922.

Five years later, 1939, Germany invades Poland. After a year of appeasement fails, aggression by Nazi Germany begins the Second World War. September 5th of that same year, the United States declares its neutrality. The U.S. had complete confidence in its isolationist position because by that time we already had the A-bomb thanks to refugee Albert Einstein that America welcomed to its shores in 1933 as he fled from the Nazis. And thus begins a flood of European immigrants seeking to escape the horrors of war which inspired the nation, known as the great hope of the hopeless, to once again reveal its true capitalist colors and reform the nation’s immigration and citizenship policies with the 1940 Nationality Act.

Section 201 of this act declares citizenship at birth for any child born outside the U.S. of at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen. This parent must have lived within the U.S. or any of its territories for a minimum of ten years, with at least five of those years being after the age of sixteen years. In order for the child to maintain U.S. citizenship status the child must live within the U.S. or any of its territories for five years between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one years. These, of course, being the formative years of primary education and higher education. The nation wanted assurance that during those critical years the child was in the U.S. being indoctrinated with educational propaganda in the public schools in order to shape the mind of the child into a good patriot. If these residential conditions are not met, the child’s U.S. citizenship automatically expires without due process.

Section 401 contains wording that provides for the revocation of U.S. citizenship if a person votes in a political election of another country. This particular requirement created legal challenges that resulted in inconsistent action by the U.S.

In 1958, U.S. district courts ruled in Perez v. Brownell. Clement Martinez Perez was a U.S. citizen born in El Paso, Texas who traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico, residing in either country for extended periods of time. At some point he voted in a Mexican election. Perez lost his U.S. citizenship based on the court’s finding that Congress can revoke citizenship regardless if the action qualifying for the loss of citizenship is intentional or unintentional. The Supreme Court upheld the decision based on the Necessary and Proper Clause of Art. 1, 8, clause 18 of the Federal Constitution which states that voting in a foreign political election means a withdrawal of U.S. citizenship. The purpose of this clause is so that the U.S. can avoid international embarrassment by Americans getting involved in foreign affairs.

Nine years later the United States reverses its position. Beys Afroyim, who arrived in the U.S. in 1912, a Polish immigrant, and was naturalized in 1926, also became an Israeli citizen in 1950. He voted in six separate Israeli elections. He applied with the U.S. Consulate in Israel for an American passport. At first he was refused based on the same legal position attached to Perez in 1958. Taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court, the judge determined that Afroyim had not shown intent to lose his citizenship when he participated in Israeli elections. However, this was a direct contradiction to the published court opinion of the Perez case.

Due to the country’s special relationship with the nation of Israel, Americans can hold dual citizenship here and in Israel. That is not the case with Mexico. The gringa suspects the reasoning behind the special relationship with Israel is founded in religion and guilt.

Proof of the nation’s guilty conscience resonates in the words of President Truman after the war, “I urge the Congress to turn its attention to this world problem in an effort to find ways whereby we can fulfill our responsibilities to these thousands of homeless and suffering refugees of all faiths.” Now, if guilt is the reason for the special relationship between Israel and America, the gringa is okay with that. After all the United States should have a guilty conscience for not opening the immigration gates for the lambs who were trying to escape the slaughter.

However, if religion is the basis for this international special relationship, the gringa says, “We gots us a problem.” According to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” If religion is the basis for a special relationship between the United States and Israel, resulting in laws being applied in a prejudicial fashion between Americans of different ethnicities, I believe that is some pretty clear evidence of racism as well as a violation of the spirit of the Constitution.

The gringa thinks the District Court of 1958 and the Supreme Court of 1967 has got some splainin’ to do because it seems America’s “world of tomorrow” was one of racial double standards.

Sources:

https://americansabroad.org/files/3013/3478/0295/18-04-2012_1318_971.pdf

http://www.prothink.org/2008/03/27/the-1940-nationality-act/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perez_v._Brownell

http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/immigration-timeline#1930

http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/twenty/tkeyinfo/jewishexp.htm

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=2&psid=3452

http://americasbesthistory.com/abhtimeline1930.html

Photo credit: www.designarchives.aiga.org

1924 Immigration Act: The New & Improved White America


Although eugenics was alive and well in American society in the early 1900’s, it wasn’t until 1924 that it could be called official policy of the United States. Immigration reform in 1924 was the permanent plan to shape the American population into a white capitalist utopia. For the next two decades, eugenics would be the law of the land.

May 26, 1924, immigration reform was enacted with the purpose of establishing a system of quotas to determine the number of immigrants that would be allowed entry into the United States. This new law was called “An act to limit the immigration of aliens into the United States, and for other purposes” (the gringa suspects they chose the wording “other purposes” rather than “weeding out the undesirables through the practice of eugenics”). The law was commonly known as The Johnson-Reed Act. The quota formula used census totals of each ethnicity and allowed two percent of each total to immigrate, except, of course, for the Asian immigrants who were still prohibited. Filipinos were granted immigration status because their land was U.S. territory. Japanese were allowed entry but their nation was cooperating with America in restrictive immigration policies. However, this new law would contain a statute to legally restrict Japanese immigration.

The political campaigns of California Senator James D. Phelan and California’s Attorney General, Ulysses S. Webb, were supported by the lobbying efforts of V.S. McClatchy, publisher of The Sacramento Bee. McClatchy claimed the Japanese did not assimilate to American culture and their “astronomical birth rate” was a cultural threat. As Japanese property ownership increased, the envy of the white majority caused them to consider the Japanese a menace. The gringa would have wagged her finger at these Americans who should have respected the work ethic of the Japanese which enabled them to prosper. The gringa has always been under the impression that was what “real” Americanism was all about. McClatchy stated that the Japanese “make more dangerous competitors in an economic way”. The gringa stands corrected. Racism inspired by greed was the “real” Americanism of 1924, keep the money and the power in the hands of the white majority.

In response to the American population’s racist attitudes toward the Japanese, a provision was then included within the Act to prevent entry into the country by any alien who was ineligible for citizenship. This meant a total ban for Japanese who, according to the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907, could immigrate for purposes of work but were prohibited from naturalization. Despite Japan’s protest that this violated the 1907 agreement, the stipulation remained. Promoting eugenics was more important than a good relationship with the country of Japan. Japan, viewing the legislation as an insult, commemorated the day of May 26, 1924 as a national day of humiliation. Japanese passions were so incensed, a Japanese man publicly committed suicide outside the American embassy in Tokyo. This resentment would eventually grow and create the tensions that ultimately resulted in Japan becoming an enemy to the U.S. and engaging in an act of war, the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Once again the gringa has a new perspective on an important event in U.S. history. The educational propaganda of my youth never taught me this lead up to the Pearl Harbor event. The propaganda I was taught in history class was always the drill that we were the good guys, they were the bad guys. To be a good little patriot, the textbooks at my school were full of examples proving that the good ol’ U.S.A. was founded by people persecuted for their religious beliefs and created a nation that would be open to all and where all could be equal. Where were all the other historical facts? You know, like the ones I found when researching this article? The gringa can only cock her head, squint her eyes and point her finger at D.C. and say, “Japan was demonized for this attack yet it could have been prevented if the U.S. hadn’t been greedy racists who befriended them for profit, then stabbed them in the back for racism and profit, thus making an enemy of them.”

In 1921 the Emergency Quota Act had determined the ratio of quotas to be three percent of ethnic group census totals. The 1924 legislation would further restrict immigration by lowering this ratio to two percent of ethnic group census totals. In 1924, the American people demanded even fewer immigrants. In order to further squeeze the numbers, the new act established the use of census totals from 1890 rather than 1910. Also, rather than just tally the totals for ethnicities of foreign born people, the entire population of the U.S. was used. This resulted in a large, ethnically British group. These new methods served two purposes: (a) to increase the immigration potential for the British, as well as Northern and Western Europe while (b.) diminishing the immigration potential for Southern and Eastern Europe. This is yet another deliberate attempt at eugenics through immigration controls.

Northern Europe is represented by the countries of Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, United Kingdom, and Wales. The countries of Western Europe are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, and Switzerland. Eastern Europe is comprised of Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia Federation, Slovakia, and Ukraine. The countries of Southern Europe are Albania, Andorra, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, Portugal, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey. It’s easy to see the line in the sand between white Europeans and Slavic/Mediterranean Europeans.

If anyone doubt’s the racist agenda behind this act, pay attention to the words of Detroit’s Republican Congressman Robert H. Clancy who, when debating the Act in Congress, defended Jews, Italians and Polish as Americans and described the bill as racially discriminate. He said, “…today it is the Italians, Spanish, Poles, Jews, Greeks, Russians, Balkanians, and so forth, who are the racial lepers… In this bill we find racial discrimination at its worst… so that a blow may be aimed at peoples of eastern and southern Europe, particularly at our recent allies in the Great War – Poland and Italy… Much of the animus against Poland and Russia, old and new… is directed against the Jew… We have many American citizens of Jewish descent… active in every profession… particularly active in charities… One of our greatest judges, if not the greatest, is a Jew. Surely no fair-minded person with a knowledge of the facts can say the Jews… are a menace… Italian-Americans… are found in all walks… of life… and make themselves good citizens… They do the hard work that the native-born American dislikes. Rapidly they rise in life…” He went on to explain that despite the fact that Italians only made up about four percent of the U.S. population, they comprised ten percent of our fighting force in World War I. Yet our country, because of racism, demonstrated no pride or loyalty toward this patriotic ethnic group within our nation. Clancy added, “… tens of thousands of Polish-Americans living in my district… are essentially home builders,… They learn the English language as quickly as possible… they become assimilated and adopt our institutions… in the World War the proportion of… volunteers of Polish blood was greater than the proportion of Americans of any other racial descent… they are at least entitled to justice… My mother’s father fought in the Civil War… to fight against racial distinctions and protect his country… I cannot stultify myself by voting for the present bill and overwhelm my country with racial hatreds and racial lines…”

Unfortunately when it comes to racial superiority, America has no sense of loyalty to any darker skinned nation that may have stood by us, strongly, in a time of trouble. To comprehend the direct results of this legislation, take a look at the numbers: from 1900-1910, about 200,000 Italians immigrated to the U.S. annually. The quota determined by the 1924 law resulted in less than 4,000 Italians entering annually yet over 34,000 could emigrate from Great Britain, although actual numbers put the average number of British immigrants at about 50,000 annually. Germans increased to an average 45,000 immigrants annually. From 1880-1924 about two million Jews entered, which translates to an average of 143,000 annually. One year after the passage of this law, only 10,000 Jews entered the country. Because of this legislation millions of Jews from France, Poland and Germany were denied visas and died at the hands of the Nazis. The country’s restrictive policy allowed only a few thousand of the highest educated into the country. Despite U.S. propaganda depicting itself as the friend of the Jews, the nation actually left these people to their fate in their enemy’s hands. The Americanism of 1924 was one of white supremacy and the opinion that foreigners threatened jobs and wages.

The obvious goal of American legislators was to continue to strengthen the Caucasian population and limit other ethnic groups. This would be the country’s immigration policy until the 1960’s and it stank to high heaven of eugenics. If the dear reader doubt’s the eugenics angle, let us then explore the interest groups representing eugenics who used biological arguments to promote immigration reform that favored Caucasian ethnic groups and restricted other ethnicities.

As early as 1914 the Surgeon General’s office was staffed with officers who were active members of eugenic groups and were responsible for the medical inspections of immigrants entering the country. Harry Laughlin, director of the Eugenics Record office, conducted a research program to determine ethnic origins for “hereditary defectives” that populated America’s prisons, mental hospitals and charity homes. This research was performed at the request of a political interest group, the Immigration Restriction League. The findings of this research were used to create the legal definition used by Congress to categorize “idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, epileptics, insane persons… persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority… and mentally or physically defective…” people as those who were “likely to become a public charge” and therefore denied entry into America.

In 1920, Laughlin’s eugenics study was used by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Immigration and Naturalization to argue that the gene pool of America was being contaminated with immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe who were defective on intellectual and moral grounds. The restrictive immigration act of 1924 is a direct result of Laughlin’s eugenics research convincing Congress to reduce the number of “inadequate” ethnicities from entering the United States. Ultimately, eugenics wanted to halt altogether the immigration of Italians and Eastern European Jews. The motto coined by President Calvin Coolidge at the signing of the bill, that continued to be echoed throughout the white majority American population was, “America must remain American.” So, that meant, white.

The Jews were unacceptable because of their religion. The Italians were also unacceptable because of Catholicism. But what about those Eastern Europeans? Well, the gringa blames the Red Scare, which occurred during 1919 and 1920, for creating a nationwide fear and distrust aimed at these ethnicities. The civil liberties of these groups of people were abused as Americans feared something similar to the Bolshevik Revolution might occur on U.S. soil because of subversive activities of dissidents, communists and socialists. This resulted in an expression of passionate patriotism by the American people.

The U.S. propaganda machine, under the direction of George Creel, as head of the U.S. Committee on Public Information, used art, advertising and motion pictures to indoctrinate the masses and encourage Americans to report persons who spoke out against the war and in favor of peace. Americans were denied their liberty under the guise of patriotic protection of liberty. Sound familiar? The hypocrisy is obvious now, yet, caught up in the fervor, Americans were ignorant that the very liberty they thought they were protecting they were actually denying to others simply because they expressed a different opinion, philosophy or belief. Sounds a lot like what goes on today when peace proponents criticize the warmongers in D.C. and the “patriots” accuse them of being un-patriotic.

During World War I, the U.S. discovered that war was profitable for the nation. The country had no complaints about all those hard-working immigrants during the fat years. The wartime economy of America had almost nine million Americans employed in war related jobs and about another four million serving in the military. When the war ended, vast unemployment created economic trouble and worker unrest. And, guess who got blamed for all of that trouble? Yep, you guessed it, true to the pattern of the past, the immigrants who were “more different” than the eugenics ideal Caucasian American were to blame.

A socialist group in northwest America created a union which held a strike in 1919. Although no violence occurred, the workers were charged with attempting to incite a revolution. Seattle, where this occurred, became the rally point for nationalist propaganda. Subsequent worker strikes around the country were considered crimes and conspiracies against society and the government. Workers who involved themselves in union activities became more and more persecuted. Despite this, workers continued to unite across the country, demanding better pay and working conditions, such as Boston’s police force and the entire country’s steel industry. Many colleges were considered to be fertile ground for such communist and socialist radicals.

As a result of all of this unrest, in the spring of 1919 the American Legion was created. Their pamphlets declared their mission was to “to foster and perpetuate a one hundred per cent Americanism.” The question I ask is, “Who is defining what ‘one hundred per cent Americanism’ is?”  The Legion’s “patriotic” purpose in action was vigilante justice meted out to suspected “Red” radicals. Their notoriety was so great the phrase was coined, “Leave the Reds to the Legion”. Today’s American Legion posts holding their bingo nights and dances where they serve up gallons of beer to its members was headquarters to the very types of racist oppression we see modeled in KKK activities in the 50’s and 60’s, it was just a different ethnic group that was targeted.

The summer of 1919 delivered to America the General Intelligence Division of Bureau of Investigations with the Justice Department appointing J. Edgar Hoover as its leader. Hoover was to uncover Bolshevik plots and detain or deport all involved conspirators. Civil liberties was the price the nation paid as the nation ignored its own Constitution that guaranteed all equal liberty and protection to all. Freedom of speech, the legal right of all on American soil since December 15, 1791, was all but forgotten if your speech disagreed with what was defined as “American”.

So, what happened to finally soothe this nationalist fervor against people who just didn’t quite fit in and had strange political ideas? Newspapers started feeling the pain in the pocket book when anti-sedition policies interfered with their sensational, headlining stories that sold lots of newspapers. Big industry began feeling the pain in their wallets as well when they realized much of their cheap labor was either in jail or on a boat back home. Racist America began realizing they had shot themselves in their own foot with their bigoted behavior. They decided it was time to behave so the good times could continue to roll. The tables turned and the Americans who had gone after the “Commies” with a rabid vengeance now turned on the “Commie” hunters. Once again we see that true “Americanism” is about pure capitalism with loyalty to no idea or person. Loyalty is solely to the almighty dollar and how to earn another one.

Once patriotic passions had calmed, legislators created the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 as a temporary measure to stem the tide of the immigrants who were considered to be the instigators of all the social trouble of 1919 and 1920. The Immigration Act of 1924 was to be the permanent solution. Purposely left off of the quota list were the Latin ethnicities who were immigrating through Mexico and provided much of the nation’s cheap farm labor. These people would become the new class of cheap imported labor to replace the troublemakers from Southern and Eastern Europe. Specific wording of the legislation defined “non quota immigrants” as originating from Canada, Newfoundland, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, The Dominican Republic, peoples from the Panama Canal Zone, and Central and South America.

Inspired by the trend of eugenics, it is easy to see the philosophy of Madison Grant as instrumental in the expected goal of this legislation. In his book “The Passing of the Great Race”, penned in 1916, he teaches that eastern Europeans were physically and mentally substandard to Protestant society that descended from northern and western Europeans. He proposed that population controls must be put into place in order to protect the quality of life of current society. The legislation of 1924, specifically the immigration reform that was contained in that pile of paperwork, was the culmination of eugenics. For the next twenty years the population of America would be groomed to be populated by a majority of people of British, and Western and Northern European ancestry. That was the Americanism of 1924, the nation wanted a new and improved white America.

Sources:

https://history.state.gov/milestones/1921-1936/immigration-act

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/coolidge-signs-stringent-immigration-law

http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/europe.htm

http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/essay9text.html

http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5078/

http://immigrationinamerica.org/590-immigration-act-of-1924.html

http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/SaccoV/redscare.html

http://newsmine.org/content.php?ol=coldwar-imperialism/hoover-red-scare-1919/hoover-red-scare-1919-ch1.txt

http://www.upa.pdx.edu/IMS/currentprojects/TAHv3/Content/PDFs/Immigration_Act_1924.pdf

http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Immigration_Act_of_1924/

Photo credit: www.hsl.virginia.edu