<div><div> <h2>CHAPTER 1</h2> <p>The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 and the Reconstruction of Race in Immigration Law</p> <p>Each upthrust of nativism left a mark on American thought and society.... [T]he anti-foreign wave that flowed without pause for two decades in the early twentieth century ... must stand alone in its persistence, in its complexity, and in the massiveness of its institutional deposit.... [T]he country would never be the same again, either in its social structure or in its habits of mind. —John Higham</p> <br> <p>Although Congress legislated the first numerical restrictions in 1921, it would be nearly a decade before permanent immigration quotas were implemented. The intervening years were filled with contention and difficulty as Congress debated the design of a new system. All were keenly aware of the stakes: the new order would codify certain values and judgments about the sources of immigration, the desired makeup of the nation, and the requirements of citizenship.</p> <p>The nativists who had led the drive for restriction believed there were serious flaws in the 3-percent quotas that were established in 1921. The law set the quotas according to the 1910 census because data from the 1920 census was not fully compiled at the time. Using 1910 as the base, the southern and eastern European countries received 45 percent of the quotas and the northern and western European countries received 55 percent. Although the quotas reduced southern and eastern European immigration by 20 percent from prewar levels, nativists believed it was still unacceptably high. They argued for a 2-percent quota based on the 1890 census. That was when, they argued, the sources of European immigration shifted, altering the racial homogeneity of the nation. The 1890 formula reduced the level of immigration to 155,000 per year and reduced the proportion of southern and eastern European immigration to a mere 15 percent of the total.</p> <p>But, the 1890 formula was crudely discriminatory and therefore vulnerable to criticism. Opponents of the bill pointed out that using the 1920 census figures, the most up-to-date, was conceptually more sound, but since that gave even greater weight to the newer immigrants, it defeated the whole purpose of the quotas as far as the nativists were concerned. Proponents of restriction thus labored to devise a plan that would discriminate without appearing to do so. W. W. Husband, the commissioner general of immigration, advocated a plan to set quotas according to the rate at which each immigrant group became citizens. Naturalization was an indication of assimilation, Husband contended. Moreover, he believed that some nationalities "naturally" sought American citizenship, while others did not. Husband argued for disfavoring the immigration of those groups that resisted assimilation, rather than "advertising and going out into the highways and byways and dragging people into Americanization.... [W]hen you try to change [a man] by a hothouse process it does not work," he said. Not surprisingly, Husband found that the rate of naturalization was 67 percent among northern and western Europeans and 32 percent among southern and eastern Europeans.</p> <p>Another proposal was introduced by David Reed, the Republican from Pennsylvania and chair of the Senate immigration committee, and John Trevor, a leading restrictionist and head of an immigration-restriction coalition of patriotic orders and societies. Trevor, a New York lawyer, sat on the board of the American Museum of Natural History and was an associate of Madison Grant, author of the best-selling tract <i>The Passing of the Great Race</i>. In March 1924 Trevor submitted a proposal for quotas based on "national origin" to the Senate immigration committee. Like other restrictionists, Trevor warned that the new immigration threatened to lower the standard of living and dilute the "basic strain" of the American population. But Trevor turned the debate on its head by arguing that the quotas enacted in 1921 discriminated against native-born Americans and northwestern Europeans. Those quotas were based on the number of foreign born in the population, leaving "native stock" Americans out of the equation. As a result, the 1921 act admitted immigrants from southern and eastern Europe on a "basis of substantial equality with that admitted from the older sources of supply," discriminating against "those who have arrived at an earlier date and thereby contributed more to the advancement of the Nation." To be truly fair, Trevor argued, the national origins of the <i>entire</i> population should be used as the basis for calculating the quotas. He calculated an apportionment of national origins quotas based on the nation's population in 1920, which gave 16 percent of the total to southern and eastern Europe and 84 percent to northern and western Europe. The quotas were nearly identical to those calculated at 2 percent of the foreign-born population in 1890, yet could be declared nondiscriminatory because they gave fair representation to each of the nation's "racial strains."</p> <p>In May, Congress passed an immigration act based on Trevor's concept of national origins quotas. It restricted immigration to 155,000 a year, established temporary quotas based on 2 percent of the foreign-born population in 1890, and mandated the secretaries of labor, state, and commerce to determine quotas on the basis of national origins by 1927. The law also excluded from immigration all persons ineligible to citizenship, a euphemism for Japanese exclusion. Finally, Congress placed no numerical restrictions on immigration from countries of the Western Hemisphere, in deference to the need for labor in southwestern agriculture and American diplomatic and trade interests with Canada and Mexico.</p> <p>Taken together, these three components of the Immigration Act of 1924 constructed a vision of the American nation that embodied certain hierarchies of race and nationality. At its core, the law served contemporary prejudices among white Protestant Americans from northern European backgrounds and their desire to maintain social and political dominance. Those prejudices had informed the restrictionist movement since the late nineteenth century. But the nativism that impelled the passage of the act of 1924 articulated a new kind of thinking, in which the cultural nationalism of the late nineteenth century had transformed into a nationalism based on race.</p> <p>In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, "race" and "nation" were loosely conflated in intellectual discourse and in the public imagination. Race indicated physical markers of difference (especially color) but also often simultaneously referred to culture—commonalties of language, customs, and experience. <i>Race, people</i>, and <i>nation</i> often referred to the same idea. In the mid- and late nineteenth century, physical anthropology gave rise to "scientific" classifications that treated race as a distinctly biological concept. Social Darwinists believed civilization evolved to higher levels as a result of race competition and the survival of the fittest. Many, including Herbert Spencer and John Fiske, also held neo-Lamarckian views that cultural characteristics and behaviors acquired from the environment were inheritable. Of course, neo-Lamarckianism was two-faced, as it could both claim the inheritability of socially degenerate behavior and provide opportunity for race improvement. Thus, some social evolutionists believed that immigrants from the "backward" peoples or races of Europe might eventually become Americanized.</p> <p>The nativism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century comprised a cultural nationalism in which cultural homogeneity more than race superiority was the principal concern. Restrictionists did not entirely discount the possibility of assimilation but complained that the high volume of immigration congested the melting pot, creating "alien indigestion." But by World War I, restrictionists spoke increasingly of "racial indigestion" and rejected the idea of the melting pot altogether. The shift in thinking evidenced the influence of eugenics, which had grown after the rediscovery of Mendelian genetics in the early twentieth century disproved Lamarckianism and severed environment from biology.</p> <p>The eugenicists were strict biological determinists who believed that intelligence, morality, and other social characteristics were permanently fixed in race. They believed racial boundaries were impermeable and that assimilation was impossible. In its most radical articulation, eugenics espoused social policy that advocated race breeding and opposed social reform because, as Charles Davenport, the founder of the Galton Society, said, the latter "tends to ultimately degrade the race by causing an increased survival of the unfit." Witnesses who testified at congressional hearings frequently invoked race theories alleging the superiority of "Nordics" over the "Alpine" and "Mediterranean" races of southern and eastern Europe and warned that race-mixing created unstable "mongrel" races. During the 1920s the House committee retained a scientific expert, Harry H. Laughlin, the director of the Eugenics Institute at Cold Spring Harbor, New York, the research arm of the Galton Society. Laughlin supplied Albert Johnson with copious amounts of data on "degeneracy" and "social inadequacy" (crime, insanity, feeblemindedness) showing the alleged racial inferiority and unassimiability of southern and eastern Europeans. Laughlin also cited the psychologist Robert Yerkes's intelligence tests conducted among soldiers during World War I as evidence of racial hierarchy. The army tests shocked contemporaries because they purported to show that the average white American male had the mental age of 13 (a score of 12 ranked as "moron"). Eugenicists seized upon Yerkes's study because it appeared to vindicate their innatist theory of intelligence: the tests indicated low intelligence among African Americans (10.4), and ranked Poles, Italians, and Russians barely higher (10.7 to 11.3).</p> <p>To the extent that historians have focused their attention on the legislative process leading to the 1924 act, the race-nativism of men like Madison Grant, Harry Laughlin, and John Trevor has dominated the story of the law. No doubt, scientific racism clarified and justified fears about immigration that were broadly based, and also enabled the descendents of the old immigration to redeem themselves while attacking the new immigrants. But if the language of eugenics dominated the political discourse on immigration, it alone did not define the national origins quota system. Placing the eugenics movement in the foreground of the story of the Johnson-Reed Act has obscured from view other racial constructions that took place in the formulation of immigration restriction, some of which have turned out to be more enduring in twentieth-century racial ideology.</p> <p>In fact, the national origins quota system involved a complex and subtle process in which race and nationality disaggregated and realigned in new and uneven ways. At one level, the new immigration law differentiated Europeans according to nationality and ranked them in a hierarchy of desirability. At another level, the law constructed a white American race, in which persons of European descent shared a common whiteness distinct from those deemed to be not white. In the construction of that whiteness, the legal boundaries of both white and nonwhite acquired sharper definition. Thus, paradoxically, as scientific racism weakened as an explanation for Euro-American social development, hereditarianism hardened as a rationale for the backwardness and unassimiability of the nonwhite races. Moreover, the idea of racial "difference" began to supplant that of racial superiority as the basis for exclusionary policies. Lothrop Stoddard, a leading race-nativist who explicitly advocated for white supremacy in <i>The Rising Tide of Color</i> in 1920, argued in 1927, "When we discuss immigration we had better stop theorizing about superiors and inferiors and get down to the bedrock of <i>difference</i>."</p> <br> <p><b>The Invention of National Origins</b></p> <p>It was one thing for David Reed and John Trevor to convince Congress that a system of quotas based on "national origins" was a conceptually sound and nondiscriminatory way to align immigration with the composition of the American people. But it was quite another matter to actually design that system—to define the "national origins" of the American people and to calculate the proportion of each group to the total population.</p> <p>The Johnson-Reed Act mandated the formation of a committee under the Departments of Commerce, Labor, and State to allocate quotas by 1927. Dr. Joseph A. Hill, an eminent statistician with a thirty-year tenure at the Bureau of Census, chaired the Quota Board, as the committee was known. Computing the national origins quotas was arguably the most difficult challenge of Hill's career: Congress would reject reports submitted by the Quota Board and postpone implementation of the quotas twice before finally approving a third report in 1929.</p> <p>Indeed, the project was marked by doubt from the beginning. The law required quotas to be allocated to countries—sovereign nation-states recognized by the United States—in the same proportion that the American people traced their origins to those geographical areas, through immigration or the immigration of their forebears. Census and immigration records, upon which the Quota Board relied, however, were woefully incomplete. The census of 1790, the nation's first, did not include information about national origin or ancestry. The census did not differentiate the foreign-born until 1850 and did not differentiate the parental nativity of the native-born until 1890. Immigration was unrecorded before 1820, and not classified according to national origin until 1899, when the Immigration Service began designating immigrants by "race or people." Emigration was not recorded at all until 1907 and not recorded according to nationality until 1909. To complicate things further, many boundaries in Europe changed after World War I, requiring a translation of political geography to reattribute origins and allocate quotas according to the world in 1920.</p> <p>Before the Quota Board could address the data (or lack of it), it had to conceptualize the categories that comprised the national origins quota system. "National origin," "native stock," "nationality," and other categories were not natural units of classification; they were constructed according to certain social values and political judgments. For example, "native stock" did not refer to persons born in the United States but to persons who descended from the white population of the United States at the time of the nation's founding. The board defined the "immigrant stock" population as all persons who entered the United States after 1790 and their progeny.</p> <p>The law defined "nationality," the central concept of the quota system, according to country of birth. Although the statute made no explicit reference to race, race entered the calculus and subverted the concept of nationality in myriad ways. Ironically, nationality did not mean "country of birth" as far as defining the American nationality was concerned. The law excluded nonwhite people residing in the United States in 1920 from the population universe governing the quotas. The law stipulated that "'inhabitants in continental United States in 1920' does not include (1) immigrants from the [Western Hemisphere] or their descendants, (2) aliens ineligible for citizenship or their descendants, (3) the descendants of slave immigrants, or (4) the descendants of the American aborigines."</p> <p>The Quota Board applied that provision according to race categories in the 1920 census: "white," "black," "mulatto," "Indian," "Chinese," "Japanese," and "Hindu." It discounted from the population all blacks and mulattos, eliding the difference between the "descendants of slave immigrants" and the descendants of free Negroes and voluntary immigrants from Africa. It discounted all Chinese, Japanese, and South Asians as persons "ineligible to citizenship," including those with American citizenship by native-birth. The provision also excluded the Territories of Hawai'i, Puerto Rico, and Alaska, which American immigration law governed and whose natives were United States citizens. In other words, to the extent that the "inhabitants of the continental United States in 1920" constituted a legal representation of the American nation, the law excised all nonwhite, non-European peoples from that vision, erasing them from the American nationality.</p> <p>On a practical level, eliminating nonwhite peoples from the formula resulted in larger quotas for European countries and smaller ones for other countries. For example, African Americans comprised 9 percent of the United States population in 1920; if they had been counted, and their "national origins" in Africa considered, 9 percent of the quota would have been allocated to west African nations, resulting in 13,500 fewer slots for Europe.</p> <p>Race altered the meaning of nationality in other ways as well. Formally the quota system encompassed all countries in the world, except for those of the Western Hemisphere. China, Japan, India, and Siam each received the minimum quota of one hundred; but the law excluded the native citizens of those countries from immigration because they were deemed to be racially ineligible to citizenship. Congress thus created the oddity of immigration quotas for non-Chinese persons of China, non-Japanese persons of Japan, non-Indian persons of India, and so on. With regard to the independent African nations, Ethiopia, Liberia, and South Africa received quotas of one hundred each, amounting to a concession of two hundred immigration slots for black Africans. European mandates and protectorates in Africa, the Near East and Far East—for example, Tanganyika, Cameroon, Palestine, New Guinea—each had their own quotas, which in practice served to increase the quotas of Great Britain, France, and Belgium, the nations with the largest colonial empires (table 1.1). </div></div><br/> <i>(Continues...)</i> <!-- Copyright Notice --> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'>Excerpted from <b>IMPOSSIBLE SUBJECTS</b> by <b>Mae M. Ngai</b>. Copyright © 2004 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS. <br/>All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br/>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.</font><hr noshade size='1'></blockquote>