The 1924 Immigration Restriction Law redux

Kevin MacDonald


The Jewish Telegraph Agency puts out an archive edition every Sunday, featuring historical articles from the Jewish media. This week marks the 89th anniversary of Congressional debate on the 1924 Immigration Restriction Law. JTA introduces the article, from February 11, 1924, as follows:

State of Immigration: President Obama’s State of the Union address emphasized immigration reform as one of his major platforms. In the early years of JTA’s State of the Union coverage, presidents Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding advocated for restrictive immigration policy in front of Congress. 

Yes, times have changed—from presidents advocating restriction to presidents advocating amnesty for millions of illegals and continued displacement-levels of legal immigration. The 1924 article presents a reasonably fair coverage of the basics of the debate.

The Majority Report states that despite the unfavorable condition of international exchange and prevailing high steamship rates, between 1,500,000 and 2,000,000 immigrants would have entered the country during the past two years had there been no restriction immigration measure such as the 3% law which is now in effect.

The report pictures an alleged alarming condition which requires an even greater restriction than at present. It especially warns of the necessity of passing a new law to replace the present law if the 3% measure is allowed to lapse.

The report predicts the largest movement of immigration in the history of the world, beginning July 1st, 1924, if the 3% law is allowed to expire and if no other legislature is enacted, stating that the exclusion clause of the act of February 5,1917, will be powerless to stay the tide.

“Such a situation should not be permitted to arise”, the report reads. “The country demands the restriction of immigration. The public demand is not only for restriction but for more rigid and more effective restriction than that imposed at present.

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Note that the Majority Report emphasizes that immigration restriction is in response to widespread public concern. Congress was under intense pressure to restrict immigration.

This contrasts markedly with the passage of the 1965 immigration law which was not at all in response to public outcry but to prolonged pressure that was organized, funded and led by the organized Jewish community; it also occurred in the context of the dominance of Jewish-dominated intellectual movements that undercut the intellectual basis for immigration restriction rooted in the legitimate ethnic interests of the traditional people of America (see here, passim).

In the nearly 50 years since the passage of the 1965 law, massive non-White immigration has never been the result of popular demand; it has always been a minority opinion among White Americans. Indeed, elite control of immigration policy in opposition to popular attitudes has been a theme of immigration policy throughout the West in recent decades. Immigration policy is a prime example of the anti-democratic, anti-populist sympathies of the Jewish intellectual movements discussed The Culture of Critique, perhaps most notably, the New York Intellectuals.

The JTA article continues:

The decision to base the 2% quota on the census of 1890 was reached after a long and careful consideration of every element of the immigration problem, “the Committee reports. The change in the census basis is made to slow the stream of those types of immigrants not easily assimilated which crowd in the larger cities with a slight knowledge of America and American institutions. There has grown to be a great indigestive mass of aliens with alien sympathies and alien purposes. It is a menace to the social, political and economic life of the country. It creates alarm and apprehension and breeds a racial hatred which should not exist and will not exist when the balance is restored.”

Note the explicit concern about lack of assimilability. Although the bias toward Northern Europeans did indeed discriminate against Southern and Eastern Europeans, it was obvious from the debates that the main concern was Eastern European Jewish immigrants, large percentages of whom were radicals(see here, p. 271 ff) and none of whom identified with the people or culture of Christian, Northern European America. Support for immigration restriction was centered in rural America, particularly in the South and West; as John Higham noted, “Jews, as a result of their intellectual energy and economic resources, constituted an advance guard of the new peoples who had no feeling for the traditions of rural America” (Send These to Me: Immigrants in Urban America, rev. ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984, 168–169). Lack of rapport with the traditional people and culture of America was apparent among the New York Intellectuals and among Jewish radicals, supporters of immigration generally. In the immigration debates of 1924 Representative Knud Wefald of Minnesota emphasized lack of sympathy with traditional American culture:

I for one am not afraid of the radical ideas that some might bring with them. Ideas you cannot keep out anyway, but the leadership of our intellectual life in many of its phases has come into the hands of these clever newcomers who have no sympathy with our old-time American ideals nor with those of northern Europe, who detect our weaknesses and pander to them and get wealthy through the disservices they render us.

Our whole system of amusements has been taken over by men who came here on the crest of the south and east European immigration. They produce our horrible film stories, they compose and dish out to us our jazz music, they write many of the books we read, and edit our magazines and newspapers. (Cong. Rec., April 12, 1924, 6272)  

Without mentioning them specifically, Cong. Wefald was clearly referring to Jewich influence on the media, and on culture generally—themes also apparent in Henry Ford’s The International Jew (reviewed here):

Not only the ‘legitimate’ stage, so-called, but the motion picture industry—the fifth greatest of all the great industries—is also Jew-controlled, not in spots only, not 50 per cent merely, but entirely; with the natural consequence that the world is in arms against the trivializing and demoralizing influences of that form of entertainment as at present managed. As soon as the Jew got control of American Liquor, we had a liquor problem with drastic consequences. As soon as the Jew gained control of the ‘movies,’ we had a movie problem, the consequences of which are not yet visible. It is the genius of the race to create problems in whatever business they achieve a majority. . . . Millions of Americans every day place themselves voluntarily within range of Jewish ideas of life, love and labor; within range of Jewish propaganda, sometimes cleverly, sometimes cunningly concealed” (1/01/1921). “Frivolity, sensuality, indecency, appalling illiteracy and endless platitude are the marks of the American State as it approaches its degeneracy under Jewish control. (1/01/1920)

Thus, by1924 there was concern that the intellectual high ground and the media had been profoundly influenced by the newcomers who were out of touch with traditional American culture. 

The JTA article continues:

The report quotes President Coolidge’s last message to Congress when he said that a continued policy of restrictive immigration is necessary. It also quotes the late President Harding’s message to the previous Congress, recommending legislation for the registration of aliens in order to show Mr. Harding’s recognition of the danger of non-assimilation.

The report states that the original quota law was passed in 1921 to meet an emergency and that this emergency is as great now as it was then. The report states that 39,730 Jews were admitted to the country during the period from July to November, 1923. Provisions of the Johnson Bill were summed up in the report as follows: Preserves the basic immigration law of 1917; retains the principle of numerical limitation as inaugurated in the act of May 19, 1921; changes the quota base from the census of 1910 to the census of 1890; reduces the percentage from 3 to 2, plus a small base quota for each country; counts certificates, not persons; provides for preliminary examination overseas; exempts wives, children under 18 and parents over 55 of American citizens; reduces classes of exempted aliens; places burden of proof on alien rather than on the United States; Meets the situation with reference to admission of persons ineligible to citizenship; carries numerous sections to lessen hardships of immigrants.

Changing the quota basis to 1890 resulted in increasing the bias in favor of Northwestern Europe even more than the 1910 law because the great surge of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe occurred after 1890.

The two Jewish Congressmen on the committee, Adolph J. Sabath and Samuel Dickstein were the only committee members who did not sign the Majority Report. (Speaking of Jewish radicalism, Dickstein was on the payroll of the USSR while a member of Congress.) The JTA article:

“The bill”, said Mr. Dickstein, who declined to sign the committee report, “puts a premium upon one type of immigrant and a discount on every other type. It creates among the Hungarians, the Czecho-Slovaks, Serbians and Jews of Eastern Europe the sense of inferiority which is instinctively felt when a man is proscribed against as if he will not be helpful and serviceable to America.

“Our country’s policy should be, and has been since its origin, to open its gate without fear or favor to all men who may become good Americans, good citizens, and men calculated to enhance the wealth and the moral and spiritual resources of the United States.”

 But Nordic superiority played no part in the Congressional debates. Indeed,

one is struck in reading the 1924 congressional debates by the rarity with which the issue of Nordic racial superiority is raised by those in favor of the legislation, whereas virtually all the anti-restrictionists raised this issue.

After a particularly colorful comment in opposition to the theory of Nordic racial superiority, restrictionist leader Albert Johnson remarked, “I would like very much to say on behalf of the committee that through the strenuous times of the hearings this committee undertook not to discuss the Nordic proposition or racial matters” (Cong. Rec., April 8, 1924, 5911).  [see here, p. 267] 

Framing the debate in terms of Nordic superiority was thus a strategy of the anti-restricionist forces. In fact, the debate was couched in terms of the legitimate ethnic interests of the people already in the U.S. in retaining their political power and their ability to control the the culture of America. They also had legitimate concerns about the radicalism and unassimilability of so many of the immigrants, particularly the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. My favorite expression of the legitimate ethnic interests comes from Representative William N. Vaile of Colorado, one of the most prominent restrictionists:

Let me emphasize here that the restrictionists of Congress do not claim that the “Nordic” race, or even the Anglo-Saxon race, is the best race in the world. … What we do claim is that the northern European, and particularly Anglo-Saxons made this country. Oh, yes; the others helped. But that is the full statement of the case. They came to this country because it was already made as an Anglo-Saxon commonwealth. They added to it, they often enriched it, but they did not make it, and they have not yet greatly changed it. We are determined that they shall not. It is a good country. It suits us. And what we assert is that we are not going to surrender it to somebody else or allow other people, no matter what their merits, to make it something different. If there is any changing to be done, we will do it ourselves. (Cong. Rec., April 8, 1924, 5922)  

Nevertheless, Dickstein’s statement reflects the continuing attitudes of American Jews that the 1924 law represents the apex of evil in the United States—often blamed for the deaths of European Jews in the Holocaust.  And we still see echos of the arguments made by Sabath and Dickstein in contemporary rhetoric that labels any assertion of the legitimate interests of White Americans as “White supremacist” and based on theories of “White superiority.” It’s a fallacious argument. All propaganda, all the time.

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