Italian immigrants into the United States represented ethnic/regional and job entitlements. The immigrants originated from different parts of Italy and worked in specific fields and job titles in the native nation. During the period from 1880 to 1915, millions of Italians migrated out of Italy into the US. While in America, the immigrants faced numerous challenges. The immigrants did not understand the English language and had little formal education; therefore, they were forced to take low wage manual labor jobs (Connell 2019). As a result, they were often taken advantage of by the intermediaries who served as go-betweens between them and the potential bosses. Most Italians saw the US as a place that could offer jobs that the unskilled and uneducated Italians peasants like they could do.
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 →
First page of material presented at the American Committee on Italian Migration’s Third National Symposium
A defining principle of American democracy is the inherent equality of all mankind. America’s history of immigration legislation illustrates, however, that advocates of equality must often struggle to cause this principle to be reflected in law. This document, which contains excerpts from material presented at the American Committee on Italian Migration’s (ACIM) Third National Symposium on Italian Immigration and American National Interest, shows that legislation antithetical to the values of democracy can be reformed through activism. The document highlights ACIM’s role in the trajectory from the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952, which resulted in large-scale national and racial discrimination, to the race-neutral reforms of the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965. It exhibits ACIM’s advocacy for Italian immigrants in the U.S. political system, its instrumental role in influencing legislative reform and its use of Christian principles to inspire political participation. Continue reading →