Immigration Stream Drying Up
FOR THE FIRST TIME in our immigration history we lost, in the fiscal year which ended June 30, 1925Â more unskilled workers than we gained. Six European countries failed to fill their allotted quotas, and sixteen received back from the United States more of their own nationals than emigrated to this country.
Is this striking evidence of improving economic conditions in Europe, or are we getting unpopular? What is happening to immigration? The conclusion of the Indianapolis Star is that the present Immigration Law, which limits immigration, with certain exceptions, to 2 per cent. of the number of foreign-born from the same country who were living in the United States in 1890, “has not only checked the influx of aliens, but it has done so to a much greater degree than was expected.” The fact that natives of practically all the countries of Southern and Eastern Europe returned home in larger numbers than they arrived is evidence to the Providence Journal that “the aims of the sponsors of the law have been achieved.”
But what of the economic import of these statistics? “This aspect deserves serious thought,” believes the St. Paul Dispatch, “particularly at a time of increasing prosperity and growing need of labor.” Manufacturers and other employers, observes the Manchester Union, “say the greatest immigration problem just now is not too much immigration, but too little.” This leads the New Orleans Times-Picayune to predict that “the clamor against our restrictive law may be renewed at the coming session of Congress,” while to the New York Journal of Commerce:
Â “Figures for the first full year of the operation of the existing Immigration Law, particularly when coupled with the rather evident intention of the American Federation of Labor to go to further lengths if it can in excluding foreign labor, certainly suggest some very real dangers. The pertinent facts are: Total incoming aliens, 294,314; total departures, 92,728; leaving a net influx of aliens of 201,586. Net inflow of 42,422 skilled laborers, as compared with 143,616 during the preceding year. Net farm-labor immigration 14,762, as compared with 27,233 during the year before. Net loss in unskilled laborers 15,106, as compared with a gain of 70,742 during the previous twelve months. There was a substantial net outflow of peoples to South and Southeastern Europe, including departures to Italy of nearly 21,000. Some 130,193 persons over and above departures came in from Mexico and Canada, nearly two-thirds of the total net inflow of aliens.
Â “The law as it stands has put an end to the additions to our labor force that used to come from Italy and other southern and southeastern European countries, and has for the most part turned the tide in the other direction. That, of course, is what the unions have wanted all along and, needless to say, they are not in the least disturbed by it. They are, however, distinctly disquieted by the increasing number of aliens coming in from Mexico. These workmen are without high standards of living, and if they become numerous enough could without much doubt become, if indeed they have not on occasion already become, a thorn in the side of union officials, who are ever striving for higher money wages, quite regardless of the economic consequences to the men or to the nation at large.
Â “But to the dispassionate observer of the course of economic events the interesting question is what will be the ultimate effect upon the nation’s business of this policy of alien exclusion, evidently with us to stay for an indefinite period? The question is not one that admits of a categorical answer, particularly in detail. It is clear, however, that it can not fail to make permanent high money wages, shorter hours of work and the like, all of which tend very definitely to hold us on a basis of inflation and thus to hurt the volume of business, particularly in foreign trade.”