“alien Peril” Baseless: Ratio of Aliens Less Now Than Before Civil War

Interesting data showing that the ratio of the foreign born element to the native population in the United States was much larger before the Civil War than it was in 1920 was persented by Congressman Emanuel Celler in an article in the October issue of “The Immigrant,” monthly bulletin published by the Department of Immigrant Aid of the National Council of Jewish Women.

The percentage of foreign born to the entire population in the principal cities of the United States in 1920, as compared with 1860, as presented by Congressman Celler shows: Baltimore 24.71 per cent in 1860, 11.6 in 1920; Brooklyn. 39.22 in 1860, 33 in 1920; Buffalo 46.44 in 1860. 24.2 in 1920; Chicago 29.99 in 1860, 29.9 in 1920; Cincinnati 45.71 in 1860, 10.7 in 1920; Cleveland 44.76 in 1860, 30.1 in 1920; Jersey City 39.11 in 1860, 25.6 in 1920; Louisville 33.73 in 1860. 5.0 in 1920; Memphis 30.66 in 1860, 3.6 in 1920; Milwaukee 50.49 in 1860; 24.1 in 1920; Mobile 24.13 in 1860, 3.3 in 1920; New York (Manhattan and Bronx) 47.62 in 1860, 36.1 in 1920; Philadelphia 28.93 in 1860, 22.0 in 1920; Pittsburgh 36.7 in 1860, 20.5 in 1920; San Francisco 50.09 in 1860, 29.4 in 1920; St. Louis 59.76 in 1860, 13.4 in 1920; Washington 17.51 in 1860, 6.7 in 1920.

“In other words” Congressman Celler writes “colonization of aliens in large cities is not a new phenomenon in American life. We have always had it. Of course it is not a wholesome condition. Nevertheless, the evil thereof, if any, is gradually being lessened. But unjust and abnormal stress was given to this colonization throughout the immigration debate.

“Although the Bureau of Census is unable, at the present time, to give more recent figures regarding the ratio of foreign born population in the principal cities, yet the data of the Bureau which I have examined indicate that the principle herein announced is still sound, and that in the days of the Civil War there were far more foreigners in the big cities than during the administrations of Harding and Coolidge.

“Strange as it may seem to some people, there has never really been an alien peril. The ratio of aliens to the entire population of the country has at no time gone beyond 13 per cent. and this in the heyday of immigration. It has never been more than 13 percent either in 1860 or 1880 or 1900 or 1910 or in 1920. and very likely never will be, no matter what our immigration policy may be.

“The law of supply and demand has always governed in immigration. When we had business depressions, immigration subsided, and when we had business prosperity there was an upward trend in immigration. But, however this may be, favorable industrial conditions never brought about a condition in this country where there was more than 13 per cent, of our entire population which was non-native. Thus the timidity and fear concerning immigration has been and still is mere bugaboo.

“Furthermore, we are a mere handful of people flung across a whole continent. We are thirty-five people to the square mile. In Germany. France and Belgium there are well nigh four hundred to the square mile.

“But the voice of these truths during the debate was drowned in the tumult of prejudice and alarm. Now the truth may be told and heard.” he concludes.

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