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Immigration Policy and the Shaping of U.S. Culture

Becoming America

Roger White

The author examines the relationships between immigration policy, observed immigration patterns, and cultural differences between the United States and immigrants’ source countries. The entirety of U.S. immigration history (1607-present) is reviewed through a recounting of related legislative acts and by examining data on immigrant inflows and cross-societal cultural distances.
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Chapter 4: The National Origins Quota System: quantitative restrictions, 1921–1967

Becoming America

Roger White

Extract

We review U.S. immigration history during the period from 1921 through 1967. The Emergency Quota Act (1921) and the Johnson-Reed Act (1924) established and revised the National Origins Quota System, augmenting existing qualitative restrictions on immigration with quantitative restrictions. This greatly reduced immigrant inflows, including arrivals from Southern and Eastern Europe, while affording a large percentage of the quota allocation to Northern and Western Europe. The McCarran-Walter Act (1952) eliminated race as a barrier to immigration and citizenship, allowed immediate relatives of citizens to enter without numerical restriction, and revised the National Origins Formula. Even so, quota limits and the bias favoring immigration from Northern and Western Europe remained in place. During this period, the annual average inflow of 203,395 immigrants was markedly smaller than the average inflow of 537,945 witnessed during the 1885-1920 period, and much closer to the average annual inflow of 161,390 observed between 1820 and 1884.

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