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Petition from residents of New York to Representative Albert Johnson of Washington, March 29, 1924

The United States welcomed more than 14 million immigrants from 1900 to 1914. Some Americans, especially those in urban centers where poverty became more visible, worried about limited resources and feared that the influx was upsetting the nation’s ethnic composition. They pressured Congress to curtail immigration. This petition was sent to Representative Albert Johnson of Washington, chairman of the House Committee on Immigration.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

Petition from residents of New York to Representative Albert Johnson of Washington, March 29, 1924

Investigating "Un-American" Activities and Restricting Immigration

World War I led to widespread concerns and speculation regarding threats to national security and democracy. Fear of “un-American” activities in the United States prompted the Senate to form the Overman Committee in 1918, which investigated possible pro-German, Bolshevik, and other activities and propaganda deemed dangerous to the nation. Public concern about the ethnic composition in the country and competition from foreign workers, meanwhile, pressured Congress to pass several laws in the early 1920s that banned or significantly restricted the number of immigrants admitted to the United States.

The nation having engaged in the greatest war in history with the purpose of saving the world for democracy, now emerges from that struggle confronted with the paramount duty of preserving democracy for the world.

“Senators Tell What Bolshevism in America Means,” The New York Times, June 15, 1919

Until now we have proceeded upon the theory that America was “the refuge of the oppressed of all nations,” and we have indulged the belief that upon their arrival here all immigrants were fused by the “melting pot” into a distinctive American type.

“America of the Melting Pot Comes to End,” The New York Times, April 27, 1924