Outrage concerning immigrants in the United States began after independence, and probably well before 1802, the year of this collection's first article. The argument laid out in an anonymous letter to the Lancaster Intelligencer was economic: immigrants would compete for jobs and threaten the livelihoods of the citizens, whose families should enjoy the privileges that came with stepping ashore at an earlier date. It seems a self-evident argument and hard to refute, until one considers the problem of settling a continent-sized nation without immigrants to do most of the settling.
By the 1840s, the debate took on new dimensions on ethnic, social and religious grounds. Catholic Irish fleeing starvation were considered of lesser benefit to the nation than good Protestant stock from northern Europe and England. The arrival of city-dwellers also raised an issue. Immigration opponents became concerned critics of the overcrowded, unhealthy conditions that resulted when immigrants remained in the ports of their arrival, rather than taking to the land.
Gambling and opium brought by San Francisco's Chinese immigrants gave rise to Chinese exclusion, written into federal law in 1882. The corruption of public bureaucrats and railroad officials profiting from trade in immigrant transport and labor also made for good reads in the San Francisco Call and other papers.
Various strains of anti-immigrant ideology can be further traced through newspapers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dark and ominous headlines brooded over many stories of murder and gang warfare among the clannish Italians. "Is the Famous Italian 'Black Hand' Organization a Myth?" from the 1909 Los Angeles Herald treats the burning debate over the existence of a criminal underworld imported by Sicilian arrivals.
The sensational revelations in the press goaded lawmakers to act: immigration laws of the 1890s and 1920s restricted new arrivals as a percentage of those already arrived from the same country. These laws were inspired by the compulsion to reset the country's social makeup to an imagined better past, well before steamship travel made the voyage to New York and other ports easy, even for the poor, for Asians, for southern Europeans.
Excluding immigrants on the basis of limited wealth arrived later. The problem, as laid out in "The Problem of Immigration" from the Wilmington Morning News, and other articles of the 1920s, was simply one of cost and benefit. The poor, in this view, were naturally less desirable than the rich, on the basis that they were more likely to become a "public charge." This ignored the fact that the rich also posed their costs to the public finances--and the poor were required to pay taxes that supported them, like anybody else.
The menace of undesirable political views was another major theme of immigration stories in the years after World War I. Russians in this era were associated with anarchists and Communists, and socialism provided grounds for deportation, no matter the raised lamp before the land of liberty and the promise of breathing free. The newspapers were, by and large, glad to see them go, and had little argument with the government's often-violent enforcement of patriotism and political correctness.
The familiar arguments are startlingly revealed in these columns, letters and stories. Reporting: Immigration includes 36 articles, reprinted complete and unedited, as well as a timeline of US immigration laws and history, and a thorough bibliography of scholarly and popular books on the subject
Table of Contents
Lancaster Intelligencer and Journal/March 24, 1802
Immigration from Ireland
New York Daily Herald/July 6, 1844
Our Country and the Future
Athens Post (Athens, TN)/October 4, 1850
The Chinese in California
Louisville Daily Courier/June 12, 1852
Chinese Immigration–What Will Be Its Effect?
Meigs County Telegraph/August 30, 1859
Chinese Immigration and the Cause of Free Labor
The National Era/March 24, 1859
The Chinese In America
The Guardian (London)/August 19, 1868
The Philosophy of Migration
Western Home Journal (Lawrence, KS)/September 8, 1881
Hartford Courant/May 22, 1882
The Germans In America
New York Times/October 9, 1883
Western Home Journal (Ottawa, KS)/January 9, 1886
Labor Bureau Report
Weekly Commonwealth (Topeka, KS)/January 14, 1886
The Slaughter Continues
San Francisco Examiner/November 11, 1891
Crime Among The Chinese
San Francisco Examiner/March 13, 1893
How Whites Smoke Opium in Chinatown
San Francisco Call/August 4, 1895
Huntington and Schwerin Employ Washington Lobbyists to Protect the Dishonest Chinese Passenger Traffic of the Pacific Mail
San Francisco Call/April 29, 1899
Pacific Commercial Advertiser/August 22, 1899
Grave but Uncorroborated Accusations are Made Against
Chief Sullivan and Captain Wittman
San Francisco Call/February 10, 1901
Strong Speeches to the Delegates
San Francisco Call/November 23, 1901
Memorial of the Exclusion Convention
Addressed to the President and Congress
San Francisco Call/November 23, 1901
Some of the Peculiarities, Both Picturesque and Otherwise,
Of Our Italian Fellow Citizens
New York Tribune/July 12, 1903
The South to Get Them
The Irish Standard (Minneapolis)/May 5, 1906
What Are Our Immigrants Worth in Dollars and Cents?
San Francisco Call/August 25, 1907
Honolulu’s Highways and Byways–
Among the Opium Dens of Chinatown
Pacific Commercial Advertiser/March 16, 1908
Is the Famous Italian “Black Hand” Organization a Myth?
Los Angeles Herald/January 17, 1909
Detective Pelosino Black Hand Victim
New York Tribune/March 14, 1909
Chinese Slayer Eludes Officers
Los Angeles Herald/June 22, 1909
The Black Hand Scourge
The Daily Democrat (Anadarko, OK)/September 27, 1909
Reds Rush Here from Mexico
New York Sun/November 24, 1919
3 Hundred Reds Sail for Russia
The Brainerd Daily Dispatch (Brainerd, MN)/December 21, 1919
How Shall the Alien Be Made Into a Good American?
New York Tribune/April 4, 1920
The Problem of Immigration
Wilmington Morning News/December 28, 1920
How the International Rogues Greet the Immigrants
New York Herald/April 30, 1922
Hardships Third Class Immigrants Have to Bear At Ellis Island
The New York Times/December 17, 1922
Immigration Law Defended, Also Scored
Evening Journal (Wilmington, DE)/January 24, 1929
Farrington Attacks Stand of McClatchy
Honolulu Star-Bulletin/October 3, 1931
For Further Reading