Changing attitudes towards immigration during the 1920s

The number of immigrants increased during World War One.

Many old immigrants were concerned that foreign culture and religion would threaten the American way of life.

The government began to limit immigration in many ways.

An Act of Congress brought in the first immigration controls in 1892 They stated that convicts, polygamists (men with more than one wife), prostitutes, people suffering from serious diseases and those who could not financially support themselves would not be granted entry to the USA.

Literacy tests and an almost complete ban on Asian immigration were also introduced.

Despite this it continued to cause concern for many reasons.

Many new immigrants were poorly educated. They were blamed for:

  • spreading disease
  • slum housing
  • rising crime rates
  • alcoholism
  • gambling

Many Americans feared that as immigration increased, jobs and housing would become harder to obtain.

They also thought American cities were more of a ‘salad bowl’ as immigrants retained their own languages and customs.

Neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Little Italy and Irishtown became commonplace.

The language barrier increased tension, especially between old immigrants, who spoke English, and the new immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and Asia, who often did not.

Differences in religious beliefs were also a cause of tension. Old immigrants were mostly Protestant, while many new immigrants were Catholic or Jewish.

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