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The Third World

The Naturalization Act of 1790 limited naturalization to “free white persons”; it was expanded to include blacks in the 1860s and Asians only in the 1950s.[17] This made the United States an outlier, since laws that made racial distinctions were uncommon in the world in the 18th Century.[18]

In the early years of the United States, immigration was fewer than 8,000 people a year,[19] including French refugees from the slave revolt in Haiti. After 1820, immigration gradually increased. From 1836 to 1914, over 30 million Europeans migrated to the United States.[20] The death rate on these transatlantic voyages was high, during which one in seven travelers died.[21] In 1875, the nation passed its first immigration law, the Page Act of 1875.[22]

Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, 1902

After an initial wave of immigration from China following the California Gold Rush, Congress passed a series of laws culminating in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, banning virtually all immigration from China until the law’s repeal in 1943. In the late 1800s, immigration from other Asian countries, especially to the West Coast, became more common.

20th Century

The peak year of European immigration was in 1907, when 1,285,349 persons entered the country.[23] By 1910, 13.5 million immigrants were living in the United States.[24] In 1921, the Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act, followed by the Immigration Act of 1924. The 1924 Act was aimed at further restricting immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, particularly Jews, Italians, and Slavs, who had begun to enter the country in large numbers beginning in the 1890s, and consolidated the prohibition of Asian immigration.[25]

Polish immigrants working on the farm, 1909. The welfare system was practically non-existent before the 1930s and the economic pressures on the poor were giving rise to child labor.

Immigration patterns of the 1930s were affected by the Great Depression. In the final prosperous year, 1929, there were 279,678 immigrants recorded,[26] but in 1933, only 23,068 moved to the U.S.[15] In the early 1930s, more people emigrated from the United States than to i