The New immigration and Eugenics

Discuss the New Immigration and the Eugenics Movement………….

Eugenics movement

In 1833, Francis Galton came up with the term Eugenics[1] which in other words meant, “Well born”. This was a moral philosophy geared towards encouraging healthy people to reproduce. He saw it best to motivate the healthy people to procreate and thereby discouraging the unfit people from procreating. This move was geared towards creating a perfect society free from unfit people. However concerns were raised by the Americans about the hereditary of the unfit. Many believed that problems affecting the society such as burglary, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, poverty emerged from the unfit people. Otherwise if the unfit people were ‘wellborn’ then these social problems will not have been evident. Later on, tests on intelligence were done on individuals who were mentally impaired otherwise known as the antisocial clique in order to stop them from reproducing. These people were regarded as a burden in the society and the tests would permanently sterilize them from procreating.

In 1927, a ruling named Buck V.Bell was implemented  by the supreme court of united states to affirm the  1924 Virginia sterilization bill  which advocated for the  sterilization of unfit’ individuals. Between 1927 and 1970s, at least 60 000 of Americans underwent the sterilization process[2].Reformers believed that sterilization would result to savings since confining mentally impaired individuals in institutions proved expensive and a waste of time and resources. It meant that once sterilized these individuals would be in a better position of caring for themselves other than causing unnecessary burden to the society. In the early 1790’s, issues related to race, citizenship and immigration were introduced since the process of naturalization[3] was only possible for the white people. Concerns were raised over the Chinese immigrants who had posed threats to the American government and its workers. American detractors argued that Chinese immigrants do not qualify for citizenship because they were docile and immature workers who would slow down Americas independence .In 1882, the Chinese Excursion Act was passed which restricted Chinese laborers from migrating to the United States. This was the first legislation on a national basis restricted a specific group.

Alleged threats posed by new immigrants

The shipping of immigrants in the United States always caused a strain to the economy. It was because of the increasing population that issues of unemployment became rampant. There was a dire need for white collar jobs and accommodation of immigrants to various towns and cities

Mexican immigrants were considered to be unhygienic in the way conducted themselves. They were feared by the Americans’ who opted to deport them back to their country. They were believed to have terminal diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera.However, in the 1920s as the immigrants were restricted and quotas were given for the Europeans the Mexican immigration to Chicago rapidly increased[4]. Consequently, most immigrants were backward and illiterate and therefore America had to spend their wages to involve them in civic education. In addition, some immigrants were not allowed to settle in the American lands because the Americans feared that they might possess antisocial behaviors which may be inappropriate to the citizens America.

Solutions eugenics offer to combat threats

The United States came up with a way of combating threats from the immigrants and this was through establishing   immigration laws. The purpose of this law is to avoid further mongrelization or degredation, Americans saw it best to protect its racial stock. They believed that a mixture of racial blood has a negative effect on the individual and thus it will degrade his ideals on political and social values within the society. In addition, the law aims at protecting the society from being affected by immigrants who are barbaric and diseased thus protecting them from crime related activities and pauperism.

Most Eugenics believed that the only way to have a perfect society free from any that a generation characterized by antisocial behaviors such as prostitution and crimes will be diminished.

In order to allow the immigrant to adapt to American culture, values and ideals, a program known as Americanization was being formed. The program which was formed by the Ford Motor Company was geared towards impacting immigrants’ knowledge on the need to appreciate and imitate America’s way of life [5].In order to achieve mass productions in the industrial and agricultural sector, Ford had to incite his workers attitude towards a scheme that would make them realize profits. This scheme came about in January 1914 and it was referred to as the Five Dollar Day.

Ford had to educate his workers on how to adapt good living conditions since a productive worker is one whose environment is conducive enough to allow him to work effectively .He claims that for good habits to be instilled then there need to be a clean mind free from any pollution or congestion. The 97 Orchard Street like other tenements was a sparse building. This building was not of the ordinary since it lacked water, light heat and gas. Apart from Fords laws there were the Housing laws which were also exhibited in 1867 in the New York City. These laws prompted the landlord to install running water, flush toilets and gas lines.Moreover, he transformed the buildings’ paveways, dressed it up with tiles, cementing and filling up the wall cracks[6].

Work, achievements and challenges faced by the immigrants

Comprehension was a big challenge and struggle to the adult immigrant since they were not used to speaking fluent English other than their native language. Most of the immigrants would choose to remain illiterate and uncivilized holding onto their customs and beliefs. They had portrayed Americanization as a means of rubbing off their generation.

Unemployment kicked off in the 1920s and this greatly affected the Industrial workers who at that time were facing economic downturns. Even though the payroll had shrunk still there were workers who would work for the Chicago Manufacturing Industries workers in 1927.When the bread winner happened to lose his job then the entire household had to suffer as a result.

Most immigrants were denied privileges of landing in America. For instance the Chinese immigrants’ passports were rejected by the American government. This was because their, passports were in form of papers yet the country law in America recommends for certificates. When an immigrant fails to produce the required certificate then he or she is taken to detention.

It was the responsibility of a girls’ parents  to arrange for courtship and contact which led to marriage.The Italian girl was closely monitered by the parents to ensure that she does not engage with any men.

A  woman’s subordination  was meant to exist between the husband and the wife.Only the man was supposed to show degree of masculinity as opposed to the woman who remained submissive at all times .She was taught not to associate herself with men unless that man was familiar to her family members.In addition,she had to seek a permit from her parents if at all she desires to go to any function like church service.Women who worked in garment industries or in the textile industries were the lucky ones who would receive wages for their payment.Those who never got jobs opted to work as prostitutes in the streets in order to raise income for their personal use.

Mexican women face ridicule from their male counterparts with regards to the changes in behaviour,modesty and roles.They are regarded as househelps all they could do is to wash dishes,clothes, iron and cook

The male figure in the Irish American family had disapeared and this is because they  left all responsibilities to the woman and his ability to ascertain authority had not been effected.Migration  forced  women as wives and mothers to be in charge of authority as opposed to men whose power and status was overtaken. [7]

Drastic changes in roles and responsibilities made young Irish women to actively involve in proffesions such as teaching nursing,white collar jobs among others.She was able to  prove her status as someone of worth in the society.Irish women preferred to marry later and therefore proceed with childbearing after they have settled financially and economically. A woman giving up her career means that she will focus only in childbearing other than concentrating on her career.

Unlawful proceedings such as divorce and domestic violence was unheard of in the Irish community since marriage was considered to be a union from heaven  and anyone who attempts these acts goes against God.

Catholisicism was seen to have a positive influence in the social lives of people. It was a place for various activities such as marriages, funerals and youth activities. Many sessions were also held in order to help the immigrants feel at ease such sessions include guidance, counseling and spiritual mentorship programs.

Mexicans were featured with inflammatory attacks in the United States through a Saturday Evening Post in the late 1920s[8]. They were described as “illetrate, diseased, pauperized”people who bear children “with the reckless prodigality of rabbits.”

It was between 1931 and 1934 that saw over five hundred thousand Mexicans being deported to their country even though most claimed to be citizens of the United States [9](269).Of all the immigrants in the United States, Mexicans were the only ones considered for removal. Prejudice, discrimination and segregation were still rampant in schools and in some neighbourhoods which prevented Mexicans from using and purchasing public property. Most social amenities were out of bound for any Mexican immigrant.

Competition seemed impossible to the Chinese community because every business they would venture in was destined for the whites. Therefore, in order to remove all efforts from his competitor, he would work for a cheaper wage. For years now, Americans have found it hard to handle jobs that were done by Japanese and Chinese laborers. A Mongolian is usually preferred for employments which are permanent since it is rare for the white laborer to find permanent positions.

As away of raising wages for the immigrants, prostitution was seen as the better option to solve poverty related problems. A Hull- House was developed by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr who were eager to setup avenues of social intercourse between children poor immigrants and the middle class or well-to-do Americans. They saw this as the only way of tying bonds between the rich and the poor and therefore create an urban space between the elite and the dominant people in society. As a result, the Hull-House was developed and transformed into a place where the privileged men and women in society would hold lectures, musical clubs and reading lessons to the immigrants. The immigrants later benefited from this and issues related to customs and languages were no longer a barrier[10].

After the historical events of immigration and eugenism, the United States Government opened its first museum to preserve a tenement and have it portrayed as a National Historical Site. It was meant to preserve and interpret the immigrants’ history and experiences. Immigrant history was long ignored by the working class and the urban revellers.This unique and clear depiction of community life of urban migrants show cased the real-life stories of the female race and the family crisis[11].


As more immigrants flock into the American land, the Government figures out ways on how to handle such a population. Moreover, the challenge faced by the immigrants refutes claims made by the eugenicists. There is no society which can survive without the unfit people in the society. It is because of this fact that the American government introduced the Americanization program so as to educate and impact individuals with knowledge on how to assimilate America’s values and norms in their way of life.

Works Cited

Donna, G. (1994). From the other side: women, gender and immigrant life in the US, 1820-1990. (1994). Print.

Dorr, G. M. ‘Buck v. Bell”Encyclopedia Virginia.Ed. Brendan Wolfe. Virginia foundation for the humanities. Web 7 Apr. 2011. (1927). Print

Hasia Diner, Erin’s daughters in America. 1983

Meyer Stephen, Adapting the immigrant to the line: Americanization in the Ford Factory 1914-1921. (1980). Print.

[1] Eugenics means wellborn, Encyclopedia Virginia: Buck V.Bell, pg.1

[2] The sterilization process as authorized by Carrie Buck

[5] From Stephen Meyer, “Adapting the immigrant to the line: Americanization in the Ford factory 1914-1921.”

[7] From Hasia Diner, Erin’s Daughters in America, copyright@ 1983.

[9] Deportation of Mexicans


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