Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Coming to America

There's some controversy surrounding comments made on a blog by the Phantom Gourmet, the secretive restaurant critic:
I’m sorry to tell everyone, but without illegal aliens, there is no restaurant business. 

Is it true? What about the hospitality field? Agriculture? Unskilled labor? If so, what should be public policy regarding immigration? Should there be stricter enforcement of employers?

The number of undocumented immigrants has decreased in the past two years, with estimates are that there are a million fewer than the high of 12 million in 2007. Much of that is in response to the weakened economy, but it has been under-reported that deportation of illegal workers has increased under President Obama and audits of employers have quadrupled.

Immigration is down in Arizona as well, and all of the rhetoric about waves of murderers streaming across the border was completely political -- a cynical, but common, tactic to scare voters to the right. The current Congress is unlikely to pass any immigration legislation, as it helps the Republican Party to continually vilify immigrants.

I discovered recently that there were limits placed on the number of Italians allowed to come to the US from 1921 to 1965. The Emergency Quota Act, signed by President Warren G. Harding, drastically reduced the immigration from southern and eastern Europe, principally Italy, while allowing larger numbers from western and northern Europe.

About five million Italians came to America seeking a better life for themselves and their children, and I am here and living comfortably because of several of those people. At the height of the influx, a number of Americans looked around and decided that they didn't like these newcomers, with their large families, different language and smelly foods, and they passed laws to keep us out. Shame on them, and shame on us if we turn around and look down upon the latest groups to set foot on these shores.


N.starluna said...

It was really the Johnson-Reed Act and Oriental Exclusion Act passed in 1924 that had the biggest impact in restricting immigration from southern and eastern Europe. The 1921 Emergency Quota Act did create the structure that the Johnson-Reed Act emulated but it had a sunset provision. The 1924 acts made the laws permanent and stricter.

If you want to see quotas that were used, go here:

You should keep in mind that much of the objection at the time to people from these countries had as much to do with their religion as it did their race. During this time period, race was defined partly by nationality, partly by religion, and partly by skin color. In the early 20th century, the restricted immigrants were largely Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim.

The 1940 Alien Registration Act gave the Attorney General the authority to provide "relief" to individuals and allow lawful entry. This was applied more often to preferred Europeans groups than to other nationalities. Among Italians, it was applied more often to those from Northern Italy than from Southern Italy.

Jim said...

Thanks for the information. And happy new year.