Immigration and Naturalization

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Immigration and Naturalization

Magazine article excerpt

By: H. Sidney Everett

Date: March 1895

Source: Everett, H. Sidney. "Immigration and Natura-lization." Atlantic Monthly. (March 1895): 75, 351-354.

About the Author: The Atlantic Monthly began publication in 1857 in Boston as a monthly literary and cultural magazine. By 1895, it also included articles on political science and foreign affairs. It remained in publication as of 2006.


The United States has accepted more immigrants than any other country in the world and has accommodated more ethnic groups than any other nation. Its strength rests upon its transplanted population of mixed ethnic ancestry. Yet Americans in every generation have warned of the dangers of unrestricted immigration.

A century of mass migration brought 38 million people to American shores from 1820 to 1920. These immigrants came chiefly from Germany, Italy, Ireland, Russia, England, and Hungary. Smaller fractions of the influx came from Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Latin America. By contrast, other English-speaking immigration countries, such as Australia and Canada, drew their settlers almost wholly from other English-speaking nations. Latin American countries also showed a narrow spectrum of national diversity limited chiefly to Iberian and Italian origins.

Legislation enacted by Congress both shaped and reflected the changing demographic pattern of U.S. immigration. Immigration policy was in a constant state of evolution. National policy depended on the shifting characteristics of immigrants as well as a changing vision of the agenda for national development.


… In 1893, 440,783 immigrants arrived, a decrease of 141,044 as compared with the year 1892, during which 581,827 arrived; and the decrease in the following year was 152,763 as compared with 1893; or a total decrease in the two years of 293,807 immigrants, which is more than the total number of arrivals for the year ending June 30, 1894.

The decrease in 1893 was largely caused by quarantine regulations against cholera, and in 1894 was largely attributable to business depression and diminished demand for labor; but with all this allowance, the decrease must be greatly due to strict inspection, prompt deportation of the prohibited classes, and the conviction on the part of both immigrants and transportation agencies that our immigration laws have been, and will continue to be, faithfully and rigorously executed. The double system of inspection before sailing and after arrival will doubtless become more effective with practice and experience, and may be aided further by some changes in the law. The number of undesirable immigrants will continue to decrease, and those who are allowed to remain will prove to be a more desirable class of citizens for amalgamation with our population. As regards the competition with foreign labor, we find also that in 1892 out of 581,827 immigrants only 932 alien contract laborers were returned; in 1893, out of 440,783 immigrants 516 were returned; and in 1894, out of 288,020 immigrants 2369 were returned; thus providing the increasing benefit of the law to the working classes of the United States….

Each of the States and Territories should also be urged to conform its laws of local citizenship to the requirements of the national law; and at any rate, no alien who is not fully naturalized should be allowed to sit on a jury, or to vote for President of the United States, for a member of Congress, or for any judicial official. As long as aliens are allowed to live among us with all the rights and privileges of native citizens, and States and Territories are allowed to decide who are citizens, and when and how they can vote, the provision of the Constitution that Congress has power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization would seem to be a farce, and our country will continue to be subjected to all the present abuses of the franchise, and to the dishonest and wasteful mismanagement of our municipal affairs which makes us a by-word among nations, and a mortification to the better elements of our population….

H. Sidney Everett


By 1920, the United States no longer sought immigrants to fill its factories and work its farms. Many Americans argued that too many of the wrong kinds of immigrants were entering the country. They wanted immigration restrictions. In 1921 and 1924, Congress passed immigration acts that imposed quotas. This legislation not only deliberately reduced immigration but also intentionally discriminated against immigrants from eastern and southern Europe.

American immigration policy began to become more tolerant during World War II. In 1943, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed and Chinese were made eligible for naturalization. Removal of the restrictions on the Filipinos and Indians soon followed. In 1948, the quota system for Europeans was temporarily broken as a Displaced Persons Act was passed to admit victims of the war. The Immigration Act of 1952 eliminated all racial and ethnic bars to naturalization but kept most of the quota system. Not until 1965 did the United States welcome all immigrants from all places. The Immigration Act of 1965 ended the quota system and made immigration truly global in its reach. Most legislation passed since then has focused on problems related to illegal immigration, without changing either the composition or the volume of immigration.



Daniels, Roger. Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants since 1882. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Dinnerstein, Leonard, Roger, L. Nichols, and David M. Reimers. Natives and Strangers: A Multicultural History of Americans. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Friedland, Klaus, ed. Maritime Aspects of Migration. Cologne, Germany: Bohlau, 1989.

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