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To what extent does a fear of Communism explain the changes in American policy towards immigration in the 1920s?

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Introduction

To what extent does a fear of Communism explain the changes in American policy towards immigration in the 1920s? In the 1920s, the changes in American policy towards immigration were partly due to a fear of Communism within the country however, other factors were significant. In the 1920s it was largely felt throughout America that some immigrants, mainly from Eastern Europe were trying to provoke a Communist revolution in the country. As a result of this, hostility towards immigrants grew and thus American policy changed. Due to World War I, policy towards immigration changed further due to the growth of nativism in America. This increased xenophobia within the country, particularly towards the Germans, and resulted in Americans wanting less immigration. The social problems in America such as crime and poor housing were largely blamed on immigrants, increasing hostility, and along with the fear for American society and beliefs, policy towards immigration changed further. Economic fears were also a significant factor in this changing policy due to the loss of American jobs. This was the result of many immigrants willing to work for less pay and in poorer conditions than Americans, thus increasing hostility towards them. Also, due to the different religious backgrounds of the immigrants, religious fears were evidently a factor in this changing policy. These different religions made Americans fear for their largely Protestant society. Overall, these factors contributed greatly to the changing American policy on immigration and resulted in the desire of 'America for Americans'. ...read more.

Middle

The war therefore changed the American policy on immigration as there was an increased feeling of hostility towards foreign members of society, meaning it can be argued that it had more of an influence than the fear of Communism. As well as Communist fears and the results of World War I, there were many significant social fears that contributed to the changing American policy on immigration. In the 1920s, many unskilled and poorly paid 'new' immigrants lived in poor conditions and in big cities. Many Americans resented these immigrants as they blamed them for running-down the areas they lived in and due to increased crime (linked to the Italians) and increased drinking (linked to the Irish and Southern Germans), hostility towards immigrants increased further. Many journalists, reformers and politicians held the increasing crime rates in cities as proof of the bad influence of immigrants. It can however be argued that social fears were of limited influence in this changing policy as most crimes committed were petty and associated with poverty rather than ethnicity. As well as the influence of crime rates, education was another factor which was influential in America's changing policy. Many schools tried to refuse entry to many immigrants and were impervious to the efforts of political bosses to allow the students in. This further emphasises the hostility felt towards these immigrants as despite the complains about their lack of education, many felt they should not be allowed into prestigious universities. ...read more.

Conclusion

The xenophobia resulting from World War I also contributed greatly to this changing policy and also, the Immigration Acts that were passed to limit the amount of immigrants entering America were greatly influential and arguably more significant than the fear of Communism. Due to social fears in America such as poor housing and growing crime rates being blamed on immigrants it can be argued that they were significant in the changing policy on immigration and due to the strong evidence on discrimination, they can be argued to have had more of an influence that the fear of Communism. Economic fears in America also contributed to this changing policy as hostility grew towards immigrants due to them willingly working for lower pay and in poorer conditions however, due to the benefits of this labour to the country it can be argued to have had less of an influence than the fear of Communism. Also, the growing fears of foreign religions in America also played a part in this changing policy as many Americans believed that they were a threat to their WASP society and due to the support of groups such as the KKK there is an argument that these religious fears were more significant than the fear of Communism. Overall, it is evident that the fear of Communism was a significant factor in the changing American policy over immigration, however due to many other - some more significant - factors, its significance is limited. Stacey Mitchell 6L3 ...read more.

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