Contact the GG Archives

Anderson, SC USA

Important Facts Regarding Recent Immigration


Under the new immigration law, which went into effect on June 3, 1921, only 77,106 immigrants will be allowed to enter the United States in the next year. The law limits the number to percent of the total of each foreign nationality in the United States in 1910.

From the day it went into force, the immigration authorities at American ports have been confronted with the problem of what to do with the thousands who arrive in excess of the quota allowed to each country.

The necessity of deporting these disappointed pilgrims has raised anew the whole question of whet is the wisest course to follow regarding immigration. Mr. Brewer's article is a constructive contribution to that subject.

ALTHOUGH the new Administration has defined its immigration policy for the coming year, the major problems in this connection remain for the people to solve.

To do this intelligently, they must have the facts. What have been the constituent elements of the nation in the past? What are they today, and how rapidly do they change?

These are vital questions, the correct understanding and answering of which will lead to wise conclusions, give a basis for action and visualize for the inquirer the American people of 1931.

Up to the year 1820 or thereabouts, when the Government at Washington began to keep data regarding newcomers, the Republic was homogeneous.

Certain of the original Thirteen Colonies had been settled by individuals from the Continent of Europe. Various races sprinkled along the Atlantic seaboard had a part in the winning of independence, but the young nation as a whole, although it had broken loose from English suzerainty, spoke English and was more familiar with English customs and political standards than with those of other countries.

In the year 1860, or less than three-quarters of a century ago, in spite of a large Irish and German immigration, the conditions remained unchanged.

The foreign-born were far outnumbered by the negroes of the South, and, if they did not speak English, were more or less familiar with American institutions. They were therefore readily assimilated.

The resurgence of business activity and enterprise that came with the years immediately succeeding the Civil War wrought no great alteration, although immigration commenced to make its mark in industrial sections, and New York City took on a cosmopolitan complexion.

The great West was offering homes, and people came to the United States to settle and throw in their lot with the young democracy. Statistics of these years show as many native persons of foreign parentage as foreign-born, but the larger part of this population was markedly American because of a fortunate environment.

In 1880, therefore, we were still homogeneous. That was only forty-odd years ago. Outside of the German stock, which had borne its part in the Civil War, only a few immigrants had reached the United States from the Continent of Europe. Naturalization went on rapidly and safely, because of an expressed love for democratic institutions.

The year 1880 marked an era in the history of the United States, and sharply defined the line between an immigration made up almost wholly of persons who came to stay and an influx of hosts of men responding to the calls of the great industries. Some of the latter class also expected to remain, but a large portion of them were and still are " job-seekers."

For more than thirty years, viz., from 1880 to 1914, this tide continued to sweep through our ports, appearing sometimes to be at its turn, because of the thousands going back to the land of their birth, and then swelling as these uncertain ones were drawn again by the magnet-call of the West.

This ever-surging tide long since made us a heterogeneous people; and there are those who think that it may be causing other reactions, which are not to be discussed here.

The beginnings of the great change in the nation were, as has been stated, in or about the year 1880. At that time British and German immigration commenced to fall off; Scandinavian immigration, which followed the close of the Civil War, reached its height, and peoples in Eastern and Southern Europe, followed by recruits from Asia and Northern Africa, set their faces toward the New World.

The new currents seemed to be feeling their way at first. Italy, which up to
1877 had not contributed more than three or four thousand in any previous year, sent over 12,000 in 1880, and 30,000 in 1882. This was the vanguard of a racial group which in 1900 was shipping 100,000 a year.

Thirteen individuals entered the country in 1861 from Austria-Hungary. They were the first recorded visitors from the populous provinces of the Dual Empire.

Each year thereafter brought consignments ranging from a few hundreds to a few thousands, until 1881, when nearly 28,000 Austro-Hungarians pioneered the real movement from that country to the United States.

The year 1900 brought 114,000, and in 1904 over 200,000 Austro-Hungarians entered the United States.

Russian immigration moved along similar lines to that from Austria-Hungary. In 1880, some 7,191 subjects of the Czar are reported as entering our ports. That was the largest number coming in any one season up to that date.

The year 1900 brought 90,787 Russians; in 1906, the Slavic influx leaped to 258,943. Anaylsis of the returns from Russia, as well as from Austria-Hungary, explains the presence in our industrial sections of great numbers of Jews, Poles, Bohemians and other racial groups.


The above figures fairly illustrate the rapid increase in the numbers of newcomers from the three great countries referred to. Immigration from each was at its height when the war opened in 1914. In that year, 283,738 Italians, 278,152 Austro-Hungarians and 25'5,660 Russians entered this country.

Born under autocracies, knowing nothing of self-government, differing essentially in manners and customs, using tongues essentially different from the English, these people have strongly modified our American life by introducing problems for which the nation was totally unprepared.

No sooner had this exodus from European centres gotten well under way than its very momentum commenced to affect other nations and continents, so that, commencing with 1890, it became necessary for our immigration authorities to list outside of general and unassigned immigration the citizens of eight major countries, using languages totally different from each other—namely: China, Japan, Turkey, Greece, Belglum, Portugal, Rumania and Mexico. Some of these nations are now represented in this Republic by more than 300,000 persons each.

The foregoing figures have been collated to illustrate the manner in which the population of the United States shifted from a status of homogeneity to one of heterogeneity. They should be informing, as they indicate the special strains of blood that are now found in our country.


The result of this recent immigration, taken together with the natural increase of the resident foreign white stock, becomes apparent from a glance at the following data:

In 1900 the whole population of the United States, excluding outlying possessions, was 76,994,575. Of this number 25,859,834 are recorded by the twelfth census as foreign stock, that is, foreign-born or of foreign parentage.

In 1910 the whole popu- lation of the United States, excluding outlying possessions, was 91,972,266. Of this number 32,243,382 are recorded by the thirteenth census as foreign stock. This shows an increase of 24 7-10 per cent. in the so-called foreign population.

Returns for the fourteenth census are as yet unavailable to show the existing relation of the foreign stock to the whole population, but we know that immigration up to 1914 continued to be heavy, and we also know that though the war and subsequent conditions have sharply checked the present flow of humanity from east to west, it is a lack of shipping, not a lack of desire to emigrate, which has kept down the number of arrivals since the Fall of 1918.

It is interesting to note that although few persons are now reaching our ports from territories recently under Russian, German and Austrian control, immigration from Spanish-speaking countries, formerly nil, is becoming a decided factor in recent reports, and Mexicans have been pouring over the Rio Grande.

This latter fact, taken in connection with the incoming of Orientals and persons arriving via Canada, must lead us shortly to think of immigration as something more than a tidal wave from Europe.

In reality it resembles the inflow that comes over the. edge of a bowl which is pressed below the surface of the water.

The fact should not be overlooked that a certain portion of our immigration is transient. Statisticians and publicists who deal with data affecting our population have been too often satisfied to refer to the last official Federal census.

This has led these chroniclers, as well as those who rely upon their figures, to draw erroneous conclusions. It probably explains a failure to provide such regulatory laws as would save the nation from a thousand embarrassments.

If such inquirers want all the facts, they cannot overlook the returns of the immigration authorities, and especially those which have to do with emigration, or the outgoing of aliens.

The census expert learns something of the number of foreign-born in the country at recurring ten-year periods, but he takes no account of the unregulated armies of aliens who have swarmed into our ports, taken up temporary residence among us (perhaps participating in industrial wars) and drifted out again when it suited their convenience.

Those who care to investigate this matter further will find that the reports of the Commissioner General of Immigration classify aliens under the following terms: (1) immigrant and emigrant; (2) nonimmigrant and non-emigrant. " Immigrant" and " emigrant " relate to permanent arrivals and departures. " Non-immigrant " and " non-emigrant " relate to temporary arrivals and departures.

Non-emigrant aliens were in excess of non-immigrant aliens from 1908 to 1917, but since 1918 there have been more temporary arrivals than temporary departures of aliens.

The largest number of non-emigrant aliens in the years last referred to was recorded in 1914, when 330,467 left the country. The largest number of non-immigrant aliens for the same years was in 1913, when 229,335 such persons entered our ports.

In the thirteen years referred to, 1,967,012 aliens were .at different times temporarily in the country, and 2,513,490 aliens; domiciled here, were traveling abroad.

These facts disclose currents of influence moving through the alien population of the United States and the racial groups overseas. They are worthy of attention.

Let us now turn to the groups which have been characterized as "immigrant" and " emigrant." Between the years 1908 and 1920 we received 8,312,037 aliens whose allegations indicated that they were coming here to stay, and bade farewell to 2,970,305 aliens who said they would not return.

These figures indicate that one-third of all immigrants, who assert that they have come to stay, are never in the way of becoming absorbed, but are permitted to drift about. among the partially assimilated racial groups without regulation or supervision.


Regarding immigrant distribution: Where have all the peoples gone who have entered our ports in the last fifty years, and how are they absorbed? For convenience, immigrants of the past may be divided into four classes:

  1. The north and west of Europe group.
  2. Farmers. traders and mechanics belonging to other white groups from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe.
  3. Unskilled white labor.
  4. Orientals.

The north and west of Europe group includes the English, Scotch and Irish, the Germans, the French-Canadians and the Scandinavians and neighboring peoples. Of these the English-speaking stock is widely distributed, has been readily amalgamated, and both in city and country is an important factor in American life. It is difficult to localize it. The Germans are in New York, Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri.

The French-Canadians are in the industrial centres of New England, and here and there along the border. The Scandinavians are in Minnesota and similar States of the Central Northwest, which are interested in farming and flour milling.

While certain of these peoples cling to their own tongues, the whole group, which belongs to the earlier immigration, forms an important element of the fixed population, and gives no occasion for concern.

The second class designated, viz., farmers, traders and mechanics, will be found to come mostly from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. It is made up of the Jews from Germany, Russia and pre-war Austria-Hungary; Greek and Italian fruit dealers, and small ware merchants of different nations; skilled laborers, whose talents are quickly utilized in the industries, and who not infrequently make rapid progress; gardeners and farmers, like the Poles, who raise tobacco in the Connecticut Valley, the Portuguese of Cape Cod, and small agriculturists of other nations, who are found along the coast and near the great towns.

Varying in tastes, talents and accomplishments, these people are at one in seeking the cities or metropolitan neighborhoods. This limits them naturally to the New England, the Middle Atlantic and the East North-Central States. Many bring a little money with them into the country; others accumulate money by the thrift and industry required to make any headway in their callings.

Such funds as they have or acquire are invested for profit, and, with the habit of independent planning, become an agency in hastening their assimilation. This group, therefore, like the one already treated, is readily absorbed.


The third division, made up of unskilled white labor, exceeds in number the classes already treated. It is apt to be illiterate and deficient in qualities which fit it to compete with the forces of American life.

Although the incoming masses which make up this element appear to drift hither and thither, there is a trend of individuals toward centres which have been colonized by similar stock, and into industries which employ persons speaking the same tongue.

As a result of such influences we find: Italians, Poles, French-Canadians, Lithuanians, Greeks, in New England, which is a centre for textiles, boots and shoes, machinery and metal working; Rattans—Austrians, Russians, in New York and New Jersey, which have diversified industries, including silk manufacture, clothing, copper products, foundry work, canning; Russians, Austro-Hungarians, in Pennsylvania and Illinois, which States, outside of , their manufacturing interests, operate coal mines and make pig iron and steel; Bohemians, Hungarians, Slays, in Ohio. Illinois. Michigan and adjacent States, which are engaged in manufacture g, copper mining, automobile building; Mexicans, Italians, Russians, Austrians, in Texas and California.

Although a reasonable percentage of the individuals belonging to this class of unskilled labor develop unsuspected powers, sometimes surprising their friends by the marked manner in which they grasp and utilize American ideas, the very great majority segregate themselves into colonies speaking their own language, and remain an undigested and dangerous element in the democracy.

As has been seen, a considerable portion is in this country transiently. The remainder is absorbed slowly, and frequently presents aggregations of thousands of souls who, after ten years of residence, knew little English, and continue to follow customs and habits which are alien to the standards of the Republic.

There remains the fourth class, made up of Orientals. These are for the present segregated in the Pacific States, and, because of color and Asiatic origin, present a special problem, which will not be considered here. They are not among those who are readily assimilated.


In considering the focus of immigrant groups some attention has been given to the matter of absorption. It is to be regretted that the next question in importance, that which relates to the criminal record of these peoples, can only be superficially handled because of the inability of many thousands of non-English-speaking foreigners, who become the prey of criminals, to make convincing reports. Such facts as are collated by statisticians from police records are therefore incomplete, and cannot be made the basis for final and accurate conclusions in regard to the degree of criminality which should be assigned to different races.

The careful student must therefore await the opening of communications between the non-English-speaking populace and the mass of our people—a thing which is by no means impracticable of accomplishment.

In the meantime we have statistics to indicate that the foreign-born and foreign-parentage population make a bad criminal return, compared to that made by native-born of native stock.

We know that the Italian people, perhaps because of temperament, show a high percentage of criminality; that the Irish and Russians have an unenviable record; and that the Germans are law-abiding.

Professor Commons has made an important contribution to our knowledge by pointing out that the percentage of criminals among native-born persons of foreign parentage is far above that prevailing among the foreign born or persons of all-native stock; and we have the tabulations of Raymond Fosdick's valuable book on " American Police Systems " (recently published) to verify the current impression that the " American crime rate is greatly augmented by the presence of unassimilated or poorly-assimilated races."

What our people need now to consider is, that however. bad an exhibit the foreign population makes in police records, it does not begin to reflect the real condition.

The average alien lives in an Old World environment, in which he is open to impudent robbery, criminal intrigue, and exploitation. If he escapes these, it is only by good fortune.

If he becomes a victim, there is no redress, because he is unacquainted with his rights, and, not knowing the English language, is unable to complain.


It has been the purpose of this article to show the sources of immigration to the United States, the accelerated movement of the ever-increasing tide, and the distribution of the newcomers.

The whole matter can hardly be dismissed without calling attention to the fact that the great mass of immigrants is drawn to thirteen States of the Union.

This directly interests the inhabitants of these Commonwealths, and, because of their political importance, indirectly affects the whole citizenry of the United States.

State Area 1920 Whole
Foreign born,
Massachusetts 8,039 3,852,356 2,676,131
Rhode Island 1.067 604,397 435,786
Connecticut 4,820 1,380,631 841,638
New York 47,654 10,384,829 7,182,721
New Jersey 7,514 3.155,900 1.633,702
Pennsylvania 44,332 8,720,017 3,864.454
Ohio 40,740 5,759,394 1,839,362
Indiana 36,045 2,930,390 543,925
Illinois 56,043 6,485,280 3,322,423
Michigan 57,480 3,668,412 1,781,633
Wisconsin 55,256 2,632,067 1,638,666
Minnesota 80,858 2.387,125 1,581,362
Iowa 55,586 2,404,021 948,376
  495,934 54,364,819 28,340,239

Figures showing distribution among these thirteen States are given in the table at the foot of the opposite page. They are intended to show areas and populations, as given by the official 1920 census, and the estimated foreign-born and foreign-parentage population. This latter has been secured by collating data from the Thirteenth Census and Immigration Reports.

A glance at the table shows that the foreign population of thirteen States, which comprise somewhat less than one-sixth of the total area of the United States (excluding Alaska), is more than one-quarter of the whole population of the country.

The record also indicates that more than one-half of the population of the aforesaid thirteen States, which are the centres of the nation's industry, is foreign born or of foreign parentage.

Brewer, Daniel Chanuncey, Part II Conquest by Invasion, Chapter I: Important Facts Regarding Recent Immigration, in The Peril of the Republic: Are We Facing Revolution in the United States?, New York: G. P. Putnum's Sons, 1922, p. 97-109

Return to Top of Page