American HistoryImigration and Discrimination in the 1920’sBeginning in the early nineteenth century there were massive waves ofimmigration. These “new” immigants were largely from Italy, Russia, andIreland. There was a mixed reaction to these incomming foreigners.
Whilethey provided industries with a cheap source of labor, Americans were bothafraid of, and hostile towards these new groups. They differed from the”typical American” in language, customs, and religion. Many individuals andindustries alike played upon America’s fears of immigration to further theirown goals. Leuchtenburg follows this common theme from the beginning ofWorld War I up untill the election of 1928.If there was one man who singlely used America’s fear of immigrants toadvance his own political goals it was Attorney General Palmer.
The rise ofCommunism in Russia created a fear of its spread across Europe, and toAmerica. Palmer tied this fear to that of immigration. He denounced laborunions, the Socialist party, and the Communist party in America, as beinginfultrated with radicals who sought to overturn America’s political,economic, and social institutions. Palmer exasperated this fear in Americansand then presented himself as the country’s savior, combatting the evils ofCommunism. He mainly centered his attack on Russian immigrants. During theinfamous Palmer raids thousands of aliens were deported and even more werearrested on little or no evidence.
Their civil liberties were violated,they were not told the reasons for their arrests, denied counsel, and notgiven fair trials. What followed was an investigation of Palmer led by LouisPost which overturned many of Palmer’s actions. Palmer’s cretability wasshattered after in a last minute attempt to gain the 1920 presidencialnomination, he made predictions about a May Day radical uprising, the nationperpared itself, but on May 1st 1920 all was peaceful. While the raids hadstopped, the hostilities towards immagrants still remained prevelent.Immigrants were used by organized industries as a source of cheap labor.But as labor unions began to form and push for better pay, shorter hours,and improved working conditions industries saw that it was not as easy toexploit these immigrants as it had been before.
Like Palmer, they tied theAmerican’s hostilities towards immigrants to the newly emerging fear ofradicalism. When workers struck, industry leaders turned public opinionagains them by labling the strikes as attemps at radical uprising. As aresult, workers were often left with no other choice than to accept theterms of industry management.The fight for prohabition was aided by America’s antagonism for immigrants.
Protestants and “old-stock” Americans attempted to link alchol withCatholic-Irish and Italian immigrants.They were viewed as immoral andcorrupt for their vice. Prohabition was a means of counterattacking theevils of the urban cities and their immigrant dwellers.In addition, therise of the KKK was a direct result of the hostilities harbored towards theimmigrant population. Started by native born, white, Protestants, the KKKwas afraid of “the encroachment of foreigners,” expecially those whoanswered to a foreign Pope as their religious authority.
Playing upon thesefears, the KKK gained support and was it’s members were able to politicallycontrol parts of Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and much of Indiana.