A Perspective on Italian Immigration in the 1960s

Authored by Pamela Griffin Hansen

 A watermarked image of the Maxime Maurice Caretti letter.

Letter from Maxime
Maurice Caretti

A letter dated June 15, 1963, from Maxime Maurice Caretti of Brooklyn to the House of Representatives Committee on Immigration, is archived in the Endres Collection held by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS). Arthur P. Endres was legal counsel to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and International Law, from 1973 to 1989. (CMS Archivist 2015) The Endres Collection is comprised of thirteen linear feet of documents and records kept by Mr. Endres as part of his immigration-related legal work for the House of Representatives, ibid. Mr. Caretti’s letter is one of just a few pieces of original correspondence from private citizens found in the Endres Collection, ibid.

Mr. Caretti was born in England in 1892. His father, Phillip Caretti, was born in a town in northern Italy, Brescia, Lombardia, and his mother Emma, was born in France (Ancestry 2010; New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957). The half-Italian, half-French Mr. Caretti was an American WWI veteran (Fold3 2014). Mr. Caretti, in this document, describes his dissatisfaction with the influx of Italian immigrants. Mr. Caretti disassociates himself from Italians while discussing the high crime rate among Italian immigrants (Caretti 1963). Many Italians, like Mr. Caretti, made their way to America for a better way of life and were “looking for some new opportunities that America seemed to promise” (Paul Kessler, Pers.Comm.). Years of economic turmoil likely contributed to Mr. Caretti’s journey to America. In an encyclopedia that includes a history of Italy, it was observed, “political and economic problems had grown out of Italy’s centuries of political extinction” (The World Book, s.v. Italy).

Mr. Caretti appears threatened that the “so-called Italo-Americans” were taking over, stating that the populations in New York City and Rhode Island were examples of “colonizing.” (Caretti 1963) Ironically, Mr. Caretti (1963) writes, “as the son of an Italian immigrant, I feel we have enough Italians here now.” According to Andolsek (1973), “most of the immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were rural people. In the United States, Italians were forced, for the most part, into an urban way of life … the Italians represent the largest single group of immigrants from southern Europe. More than five million have come to [America] since 1820.” This represents an isolationist point of view of southern Europe.

In his letter, Mr. Caretti compares the population of New York to the population of Naples, south of his father’s hometown of Brescia (Ancestry 2004; 1900 United States Federal Census). Mr. Caretti agrees with the national origins quota established by the Immigration Act of 1924, not realizing that additional immigration occurred (The Immigration Act of 1924, 43 U.S.C. § 153). For example, under special legislations, there were a documented total of 102,538 non-quota Italian immigrants between 1950-1962 (Immigrants Born in Italy 1963).

When Mr. Caretti (1963) states, “I have been informed that there is a move to admit more Italians to this country,” he may have been referencing President Kennedy’s plan for immigration reform that would remove the national origins quota (Reddy 1998). According to Reddy (1998), “the Civil Rights movement helped: if the nation was tearing down racial barriers at home, why should it continue to discriminate potential newcomers?” The same can be said to be true today, with the efforts by Univision to register Hispanic voters to counter the populist Republican candidates (New York Times, February 22, 2016).

Works Cited

Ancestry (Ancestry.com). “1900 United States Federal Census.” Ancestry.com Operations Inc. Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; (2004): Enumeration District: 0733; FHL microfilm: 1241113. Roll: 1113.8B.

Ancestry (Ancestry.com). “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957.” Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. Year: 1913; Arrival: New York, New York; (2010): Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: 2066; 9.16.

Andolsek, L. J. “No Matter What Boat.” Civil Service Journal 13, January/March (1973): 14–19.

Angel, Christine. M. “Digication E-Portfolio: Christine Angel’s ePortfolio: Evolution of My Teaching.” Division of Library and Information Science. St. John’s University, (2013). Accessed March 22, 2016.   https://stjohns.digication.com/christineangel/Evolution_of_My_Teaching_2013.1-7.

Maxime M. Caretti to House of Representatives, 15 June 1963, Endres Collection: Center For Migration Studies, New York, New York.

Corasaniti, Nick. “Univision Aims to Make Hispanic Voting Bloc Even More Formidable.” The New York Times, February 22, 2016. Accessed http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/us/politics/univision-hispanic-voting.html

CMS Archivist. 2015. “Arthur P. (‘Skip’) Endres Papers, 1960-1980s.” Catablog of the Center for Migration Studies Archive Collection. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://archives.cmsny.org/2015/03/27/arthur-p-skip-endres-papers-1960-1980s/.

“Immigrants Born in Italy Admitted to the United States, By Classes Under the Immigration Laws: Years Ended June 30, 1950-1962.” 1963. United States Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service. Endres Collection: Center For Migration Studies, New York, New York.

Paul Kessler, email message to author, March 19, 2016.

Reddy, Patrick. “The Kennedy Presidency Immigration: The Real Kennedy Legacy.” The Public Perspective, October/November (1998): 18-19, https://ropercenter.cornell.edu/public-perspective/ppscan/96/96018.pdf.

The Immigration Act of 1924, 43 U.S.C. § 153 (1924).

The World Book, s.v. “Italy.”

WWI New York Army Cards.” 2014. Fold3. https://www.fold3.com/image/322238102.

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