Authored by Matthew A. Hamilton
A mid-19th Century Tabernacle, circa 1878. Courtesy of the Archives of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.
The United States of America experienced a significant rush of immigrants between 1870 and the 1920s. New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and other major cities could not healthily sustain such population growth. Jobs and food became scarce. Thus, immigrants sought refuge and a better life elsewhere. Continue reading
Authored by: Ariana Kaleta
President Kennedy Press Conference on the Immigration and Nationality Act June 11, 1963, Abby Rowe/White House
“Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world, and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.”
John F Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants
Here we see a relaxed President Kennedy, laughing during a break at a press conference but what he was discussing were serious matters for the future face of America. The President was compelled to write “A Nation of Immigrants” after repeatedly hearing the stories of immigrant’s rights groups, such as at this meeting with the American Committee on Italian Migration.
When Kennedy first came into office, Henry Cabot Lodge’s Immigration Act of 1924 had been diligently enforced under the firm hand of the Immigration Restriction League (a prominent lobbying group founded in 1884).  For four decades, the Immigration Act of 1924 used quotas to prohibit all ‘non-nativist’ nationalities, in particular Jewish, Irish and Italians fleeing Europe. However, it also had punitive effects on the almost historically unrecognized Arabic and Asian immigrants. As the threat of communism and post war depression flooded across Europe and Asia, waves of immigrants risked their lives to journey to America, only to be turned away at Ellis Island, due to these racist and religious discriminatory laws. Continue reading