The United States Immigration Policy and Immigrants’ Responses

Past and Present

by Agnieszka Malek (Volume editor) Dorota Praszalowicz (Volume editor)
©2017 Edited Collection 208 Pages


The contributions in this book focus on U.S. migration policies, receiving society, ethnic communities and return migration. The authors analyze various aspects of migratory history ranging from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. They cover such topics as the times when Eastern European immigrants in the USA encountered hostility and marginalization, the efforts to create American Polonia military formations during the WWI, the problem of ethnic mobilization among Ukrainian political migrants in the U.S. as well as how state policies influence the movement of people. All the contributions are extended and revised versions of the papers presented at the 7th Workshop American Ethnicity and Ethnic Community Building.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Editors’ Preface
  • America Beckons, but Americans Repel: East European Migration and American Nativism, 1880–1930 (Alan M. Kraut)
  • Not Legally Bound: Denying, Discouraging, and Dissolving Marriages in U.S. Immigration Policy (Suzanne M. Sinke)
  • Managing Migrants’ Identities with Population Statistics. The Representation of ‘Nationalities’ of People from Austria-Hungary in the US Census, 1870–1930 (Annemarie Steidl)
  • Is the New Immigration Really New?A Comparison of 1910 and 2010 (James S. Pula)
  • Immigrant Radicalism Revisited: Tracing the Origins of the Haymarket Anarchists’ Autobiographies (Hartmut Keil)
  • Jewish Ambivalence: The Responses to Open Admission at City University of New York (Steven J. Diner)
  • Ethnic Mobilization of Immigrants: Case Studies of Ukrainian Political Emigration in the United States (Anna Fiń)
  • Meet Me at the Fair: The Fourth Partition and the Lwów Fair, 1894 (Dominic A. Pacyga)
  • The Polonia Army That Never Was, 1914 (M. B. B. Biskupski)
  • Decisive Factors in the Selection of Place of Residence within the United States by the Post-World War II Political Émigrés from East Central Europe (Anna Mazurkiewicz)
  • Building the Community of the post-World War II Polish Political Exiles in Chicago – Mutual Aid Association of the New Polish Immigration (Joanna Wojdon)
  • The Role of the State in Contemporary Polish Political Migration and Return Migration (Mary Patrice Erdmans)
  • Contributors
  • Series Index

← 6 | 7 →

Editors’ Preface

This volume is the second in the series Migration-Ethnicity-Nation: Cracow Studies in Culture, Society and Politics devoted to American ethnicity. The previous one, entitled Between the Old and the New World. Studies in the History of Overseas Migration dealt with various issues such as remittances, poverty, gender, immigrant communities and the Jewish migrant experience. The current one, composed of twelve articles, focuses on U.S. migration policies, their reception in the receiving society and ethnic communities. Among the authors there are social historians and sociologists and, therefore, old and new, history and present intersect and appear in parallel.

All the articles are extended and revised versions of the papers presented at our seventh workshop, American Ethnicity and Ethnic Community Building which took place in Kraków, Poland, on June 6th–7th 2016. The workshop was organized by the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora of the Jagiellonian University and the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences. The book reflects both the lively discussions we held at the workshop and subsequent research and revisions done by the authors.

The author of the first article, Alan M. Kraut, recalls the times when Eastern European immigrants in the USA encountered hostility and marginalization. 19th century nativism gave birth to pejorative stereotypes and enriched a genre of nativist literature aimed at popular audiences. The anti-Eastern European nativists’ papers by E.A. Ross, Madison Grant, and others fueled a hyper-nationalism that yielded some of the most restrictive immigration policies in U.S. history.

Suzanne M. Sinke examines several categories of exclusion based on marriage and divorce through cases in U.S. immigration records from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. In particular she analyzes examples of polygyny, marriage to an alien ineligible for citizenship, common-law marriage, and same sex marriage.

Annemarie Steidl explores the representation of ‘nationalities’ of immigrants from Austria-Hungary in the US Censuses. She points out that no single census counted people from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the same way. The representation of ‘ethnic origins’ largely depended on political and ideological dynamics.

The question James Pula attempts to answer is to what extent the new immigration in the USA is really new. Using data mainly from U.S. immigration reports, censuses and the Pew Foundation research reports the author compares Hispanic immigration in 2010 with European immigration in 1910. In particular, the three ← 7 | 8 → largest groups of immigrants during those times are taken into consideration: Mexicans in 2010 and Italians and Poles in 1910.

Hartmut Keil offers a new insight into Haymarket Riot. Although much has been written on Haymarket anarchists, less is known about who suggested that the jailed labor leaders write down their autobiographies. On the basis of archival sources, the author uncovers the origins of the autobiographies. After describing the community of immigrant radicals, its context in Chicago and connections to European radical movements, Keil shows that Theodor Cuno, a labor leader and journalist working for the socialist New Yorker Volkszeitung who was sent to Chicago to cover the Haymarket Trial, was the instigator of the autobiographies.

Steven J. Diner explains how American Jews responded to Open Admission at City College and City University, and how public discussion of this policy defined it as an issue of special significance to Jews.

Anna Fiń explores the problem of ethnic mobilization among Ukrainian political migrants in the U.S. taking into consideration the context of the country of origin and attitudes of immigrant groups towards their homeland. In particular, the author concentrates on the anti-communist activity of Ukrainian political migrants during the Cold War and demonstrates the key characteristics of this activity. She also describes the influence of the anti-communist activity on maintaining strong ethnic interaction and reinforcing social ties.

Dominic A. Pacyga describes the role the American Polonia played in the Lwów Fair held in 1894. The Polish American Pavilion in Lwów, as well as Polish Day at the Columbian Exposition organized one year earlier, symbolized the desire of the Polonia, and especially of Chicago’s Polish leadership, to express their sense of Polishness and their willingness to prove that the diaspora had not been lost to the motherland.

M.M. Biskupski explores a topic which is less often present in migration scholarship, i.e. immigrants in the military. The author describes the efforts to create American Polonia military formations during the First World War.

Drawing on individual life stories of post-World War II political exiles from East Central Europe, Anna Mazurkiewicz analyzes the multi-faceted decisions regarding the selection of a place to live in the U.S. following their arrival. In the first section, the legal constrains connected with immigration and state security laws are described. The second one is a description of the political centers of the various groups of exiles. The third part presents selected but largely typical migration stories of ten exiles. Their motivations for moving within the U.S. are analyzed in a comparative manner. Cases of changes in residence prompted by political, economic, social and private factors are examined and explained alongside problems in political activities created by detachment and long-distance cooperation. ← 8 | 9 →

Joanna Wojdon focuses on the activities of post-World War II Polish political exiles addressed to the members of their own community as reflected in the annual Regular General Assemblies of Stowarzyszenie Pomocy Nowej Emigracji (Mutual Aid Association of the New Polish Immigration) in Chicago. The Association was founded in 1949 and aimed at assisting Poles who had recently arrived in Chicago thanks to the Displaced Persons Act and encouraging them to help those who were applying for American visas in European countries.

Finally, Mary P. Erdmans poses two major questions: first, how do state policies influence the movement of people? Second, to what extent can theories developed primarily by examining the experiences of economic immigrants with a contiguous border between the country of origin and the host country be useful for understanding political emigration across more distant borders? In order to answer these questions she draws on a case study of Polish political emigration in the late 1970s and 1980s as well as return migration after systemic transition in Poland. ← 9 | 10 →

← 10 | 11 →

Alan M. Kraut

America Beckons, but Americans Repel: East European Migration and American Nativism, 1880–1930

Abstract: As John Higham once reminded us, “History may move partly in cycles, but never in circles.” The contemporary anti-Mexican migration tropes of intellectuals such as the late Samuel Huntington and, more recently, President Donald Trump who dreams of a wall so high on our Southern border that it will protect Americans from challenges to their language, culture, and public morality echo an earlier time. Then the anti-Eastern European nativist rants of E.A. Ross, Madison Grant, and others fueled the efforts of those who sought to construct a wall of legislation to exclude the foreign-born they so feared. In the last century the assimilation of Eastern Europeans into American society and culture proved a desirable contribution to American life.

Keywords: nativism, Eastern European, immigrant, Jewish, Cracow, Poland, Edward Alsworth Ross, Madison Grant, Jacob Riis, industrial illness, Johnson-Reed Act

At a moment in the history of the United States when presidential candidates think little of publically lashing out at some ethnic groups with the vilest language and transparent stereotypes, demanding that others be categorically barred for an unspecified period of time, Americans would do well to remind themselves and others that this is hardly the first time in our history that we have broadcast a dual-edged, contradictory message regarding our view of the foreign-born. So often in American history Americans have looked to foreign-born workers to labor in our fields and factories and to bend their intellectual talents to enhance the national prosperity while at the very same time denigrating their heritage and mocking their appearance, religion, or mannerisms.1

During the 2016 presidential primaries when Donald Trump branded Mexicans sexually immoral and demanded high walls to exclude them and statutory barriers equally as lofty to exclude those who worship in Mosques, he was articulating a trope that is more than familiar to students of earlier migrations to this country, especially Eastern European migrations to the United States in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Whether Gentile or Jewish, Eastern Europeans were ← 11 | 12 → the targets of nativists in an earlier era. Nativism is as historian John Higham suggested, “an intense opposition to an internal minority on the ground of its foreign (i.e. “Un-American”) connections.”2 It is fueled by a kind of ultra-nationalism. Anti-Eastern European nativism gave birth to derogatory stereotypes and enriched a genre of nativist literature aimed at popular audiences. Nativist authors often cloaked themselves in the mantle of the social sciences and even the medical sciences. It comes as no surprise that in response to the ambivalent reception, immigrants often repeated the popular aphorism, “America beckons, but Americans repel.”

Those concerned with patterns of prejudice in the United States have at times begun their studies abroad. In 1910, during a peak period of international migration to the United States and internal migration of African-Americans out of the South fleeing Jim Crow discrimination, African American scholar and activist Booker T. Washington and University of Chicago sociologist Robert Park traveled to Europe. Washington explained the reason for the trip: “I was curious … to learn why it was that so many of these European people were leaving the countries in which they were born and reared, in order to seek their fortunes in a new country and among strangers in a distant part of the world.”3

Washington told his readers that he was intentionally avoiding “palaces, museums, art galleries, ancient ruins, monuments, churches, and graveyards,” preferring to submerge himself in the “grime and dirt of everyday life.”4 For what was Washington hunting? His answer was in the title of the volume he and Park authored upon their return, The Man Farthest Down. And where did they conduct their hunt for suffering? They visited various parts of Austria-Hungary, including Bohemian mines, Hungarian farms, Viennese slums, Adriatic ports, Galician border towns, tiny Carpathian villages and oh yes, the Jewish ghetto in Cracow.

In a chapter entitled, “Cracow and the Polish Jew,” the American black man born a slave and the Chicago sociologist identified at least some of those Eastern ← 12 | 13 → Europeans on the move. Washington wrote, “I was interested in all I saw of the life of the Jew in Cracow, because it gave me some idea of the poverty, degradation, and squalor in which more than half of the Jewish race is living to-day in different parts of Europe. Of the twelve million Jews in the world, about nine millions live in Europe. Of this number more than six million live in Russia and nearly 2.5 million in Austria, Rumania, and the other parts of southeastern Europe.”5 Booker Washington had little doubt that the Jews were hanging tenaciously to their customs in the face of a hostile environment and great poverty. It was their formula for survival and yet such adherence to custom and tradition narrowed the already limited possibility of acceptance in the non-Jewish world. It puzzled Washington.

In seeking the “grime and dirt of everyday life,” Washington’s trip to Europe became somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy – he found only “poverty, degradation and squalor.” Yet from the founding of the Polish state in 966 through the creation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569, Poland was a sanctuary for Jews in flight from more repressive regimes. Especially attractive was Poland’s unusual tolerance for demographic diversity. By the end of the eighteenth century religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics diminished that tolerance as did the partition of Poland in 1795 by Prussia, Russia, and Austria. Still, during the 19th century, some Polish Jews became active in the Haskalah or Jewish Enlightenment, a movement to secularize Jewish life, and promote social and economic assimilation. By the time of Booker Washington’s visit in 1910, the Pale of Jewish settlement in Poland (still partitioned between three empires) had the largest concentration of Jews in Europe. Despite now virulent levels of anti-Semitism, assimilationist Jews held seats in the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, and on municipal councils. Active politically, Jews formed numerous parties, ranging from Zionist to anti-Zionist. They were influential in the development of the highly secular Bund socialist party that spread throughout Poland in the early 1900s and participated in Polish insurrections against Russian control.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (April)
Ethnicity Migration Immigration Policy Ethnic Community Polish Diaspora Political Emigration
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 208 pp., 22 tables

Biographical notes

Agnieszka Malek (Volume editor) Dorota Praszalowicz (Volume editor)

Dorota Praszałowicz is Professor of sociology at the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. She teaches courses on world migrations, migration theories, and on ethnic groups and ethnic relations in the U.S., especially on Polish, Jewish and German groups. Agnieszka Małek is a sociologist and Assistant Professor at the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. Her research and teaching interests include anthropology of migration, migration policy, immigration in contemporary Italy, Italian American culture and second-generation immigrants.


Title: The United States Immigration Policy and Immigrants’ Responses
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210 pages