American immigration suffered in the 1920s because of restrictive acts such as the Immigration Act of 1924 and the Asiatic Barred Zone Act. Essentially, nonwhite people, which included Eastern and certain Southern Europeans, were restricted from gaining American citizenship and status. Despite these restrictions, certain ethnic groups, such as the Italians, immigrated to the United States in considerable numbers.
Italian immigration rose significantly in the 1920s. The third decade of the 20th century came with many immigration restrictions, and the Italians were one of the few groups that did not receive such confinements. According to the book "Immigrating to the USA," more than 2 million Italians immigrated between 1900 and 1930. Italian neighborhoods appeared in Eastern cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore and Detroit.
The Immigration Act
The Immigration Act of 1924 placed restrictions on immigrants from other countries, specifically war-torn Europe and Asia. The act was designed to identify "unfit" individuals attempting to immigrate into America. The act effectively reduced the already small number of allowable immigrants by 15 percent. The passing of the Immigration Act directly affected immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, who were considered by many in the United States to be uneducated and lazy.
The Asiatic Barred Zone Act
This act, passed in 1917, restricted the immigration of Asians into America. The word "Asian" covered not only those from Japan, China or Southeast Asia, but also India. Indian Americans began to live under new restrictions, as a court case in 1922, the United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thind, stripped existing Indian Americans of their citizenship. With no new immigration from India allowed and new American confines on existing Indian Americans, the Indian population quickly decreased in America. By 1940, enough Indian Americans had left America that their numbers were cut in half.
The Red Scare
Russian immigrants suffered during the beginning of the Red Scare, which would effectively hinder Russian immigration for nearly half a century. In 1919, A. Mitchell Palmer was hired as the country's attorney general. The revolution in Russia worried Palmer, who believed Communist rebels were planning to overthrow the American government. The Palmer raids began, and citizens and immigrants of Russian descent were arrested and questioned. Russian immigrants were discouraged through the Red Scare coupled with the Immigration Act of 1924.
The Emergency Quota Act and the National Origins Act
The Emergency Quota Act helped to limit Southern and Eastern Europeans from immigrating to the United States. The National Origins Act severely limited Japanese and other Asian immigrants, as well as furthering the restrictions on Southern and Eastern Europeans. Through these acts, in conjunction with the original Immigration Act of 1924, many parts of the world were closed to America. Essentially, Northern and Western Europeans, such as the British Isles, Spanish, French and Italians, were the only immigrants welcome into the United States.