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Jewish Involvement in Shaping American Immigration Policy, 1881- 1965

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Jewish Involvement in Shaping American Immigration Policy, 1881- 1965: A Historical Review

This paper discusses Jewish involvement in shaping United States immigration policy. In addition to a periodic interest in fostering the immigration of co- religionists as a result of anti- Semitic movements, Jews have an interest in opposing the establishment of ethnically and culturally homogeneous societies in which they reside as minorities. Jews have been at the forefront in supporting movements aimed at altering the ethnic status quo in the United States in favor of immigration of non- European peoples. These activities have involved leadership in Congress, organizing and funding anti- restrictionist groups composed of Jews and gentiles, and originating intellectual movements opposed to evolutionary and biological perspectives in the social sciences.

Ethnic conflict is of obvious importance for understanding critical aspects of American history, and not only for understanding Black/ White ethnic conflict or the fate of Native Americans. Immigration policy is a paradigmatic example of conflict of interest between ethnic groups because immigration policy influences the future demographic composition of the nation. Ethnic groups unable to influence immigration policy in their own interests will eventually be displaced or reduced in relative numbers by groups able to accomplish this goal.

This paper discusses ethnic conflict between Jews and gentiles in the area of immigration policy. Immigration policy is, however, only one aspect of conflicts of interest between Jews and gentiles in America. The skirmishes between Jews and the gentile power structure beginning in the late nineteenth century always had strong overtones of anti- Semitism. These battles involved issues of Jewish upward mobility, quotas on Jewish representation in elite schools beginning in the nineteenth century and peaking in the 1920s and 1930s, the anti- Communist crusades in the post- World War II era, as well as the very powerful concern with the cultural influences of the major media extending from Henry Ford's writings in the 1920s to the Hollywood inquisitions of the McCarthy era and into the contemporary era. That anti- Semitism was involved in these issues can be seen from the fact that historians of Judaism (e. g., Sachar 1992, p. 620ff) feel compelled to include accounts of these events as important to the history of Jews in America, by the anti- Semitic pronouncements of many of the gentile participants, and by the self- conscious understanding of Jewish participants and observers.

The Jewish involvement in influencing immigration policy in the United States is especially noteworthy as an aspect of ethnic conflict.
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