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January 24: The “Immigration Pogrom”

Lawrence Bush
January 24, 2017
More than 130 Jewish labor groups sent representatives to a New York protest meeting against the Johnson-Reed Act, which severely restricted immigration to the U.S. from Southern and Eastern Europe as well as Africa -- and banned outright the entry of all Asians and Arabs -- on this date in 1924. Fiorello LaGuardia branded the act “an immigration pogrom,” “the creation of a narrow mind, nurtured by a hating heart.” On the same date as the protest meeting, U.S. Secretary of Labor James A. Davis reported that from 1908 to 1923, 9,949,740 immigrants had arrived in the U.S. and 3,498,185 had left. “The Hebrews, above all other races,” noted Secretary David, “come to stay; only five percent as many left as came. The Chinese occupy the other extreme; 10,914 more left than came.” Some 27,000 Jews immigrants were debarred and deported from 1899 to 1923 — only 1.56 percent of the number admitted. In 1924, however, the restrictions set into place by the Johnson-Reed Act resulted in more Jews leaving the U.S. than arriving. “Upon signing the Act, President Calvin Coolidge commented, ‘America must remain American.’ This phrase would become the rallying cry of anti-immigration sentiment until after World War II. . . . This was also the period that produced the lynching of Leo Frank . . . and its defensive response to a spreading anti-Jewish threat, the Anti-defamation League for Jews; inspired by that lynch mob also the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that, within eight years grew from the few murderers of Leo Frank to a mass movement of more than four million by 1924.” --Jerusalem Post

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.