Jewish Involvement in Shaping American Immigration Policy, 1881-1965: A Historical Review
Kevin MacDonald Department of Psychology California State University-Long Beach Long Beach, CA 90840-0901
Population and Environment, in press.
ABSTRACT This paper discusses Jewish involvement in shaping United States immigration policy. In addition to a periodic interest in fostering the immigration of co-religionists as a result of anti- Semitic movements, Jews have an interest in opposing the establishment of ethnically and culturally homogeneous societies in which they reside as minorities. Jews have been at the forefront in supporting movements aimed at altering the ethnic status quo in the United States in favor of immigration of non-European peoples. These activities have involved leadership in Congress, organizing and funding anti-restrictionist groups composed of Jews and gentiles, and originating intellectual movements opposed to evolutionary and biological perspectives in the social sciences.
Jewish Involvement in Shaping American Immigration Policy, 1881-1965: A Historical Review
Ethnic conflict is of obvious importance for understanding critical aspects of American history, and not only for understanding Black/ White ethnic conflict or the fate of Native Americans. Immigration policy is a paradigmatic example of conflict of interest between ethnic groups because immigration policy influences the future demographic composition of the nation. Ethnic groups unable to influence immigration policy in their own interests will eventually be displaced or reduced in relative numbers by groups able to accomplish this goal. This paper discusses ethnic conflict between Jews and gentiles in the area of immigration policy. Immigration policy is, however, only one aspect of conflicts of interest between Jews and gentiles in America.
The skirmishes between Jews and the gentile power structure beginning in the late nineteenth century always had strong overtones of anti-Semitism. These battles involved issues of Jewish upward mobility, quotas on Jewish representation in elite schools beginning in the nineteenth century and peaking in the 1920s and 1930s, the anti-Communist crusades in the post-World War II era, as well as the very powerful concern with the cultural influences of the major media extending from Henry Ford's writings in the 1920s to the Hollywood inquisitions of the McCarthy era and into the contemporary era. That anti-Semitism was involved in these issues can be seen from the fact that historians of Judaism (e.g., Sachar 1992, p. 620ff) feel compelled to include accounts of these events as important to the history of Jews in America, by the anti-Semitic pronouncements of many of the gentile participants, and by the self-conscious understanding of Jewish participants and observers. The Jewish involvement in influencing immigration policy in the United States is especially noteworthy as an aspect of ethnic conflict. Jewish involvement has had certain unique qualities that have distinguished Jewish interests from the interests of other groups favoring liberal immigration policies. Throughout much of this period, one Jewish interest in liberal immigration policies stemmed from a desire to provide a sanctuary for Jews fleeing from anti-Semitic persecutions in Europe and elsewhere.
Anti-Semitic persecutions have been a recurrent phenomenon in the modern world beginning with the Czarist persecutions in 1881, and continuing into the post-World War II era in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. As a result, liberal immigration has been a Jewish interest because "survival often dictated that Jews seek refuge in other lands" (Cohen 1972, p. 341). For a similar reason, Jews have consistently advocated an internationalist foreign policy for the United States because "an internationally-minded America was likely to be more sensitive to the problems of foreign Jewries" (Cohen 1972, p. 342). However, in addition to a persistent concern that America be a safe haven for Jews fleeing outbreaks of anti-Semitism in foreign countries, there is evidence that Jews, much more than any other European-derived ethnic group in America, have viewed liberal immigration policies as a mechanism of ensuring that America would be a pluralistic rather than a unitary, homogeneous society (e.g., Cohen 1972). Pluralism serves both internal (within-group) and external (between-group) Jewish interests. Pluralism serves internal Jewish interests because it legitimates the internal Jewish interest in rationalizing and openly advocating an interest in Jewish group commitment and non-assimilation, what Howard Sachar (1992, p. 427) terms its function in "legitimizing the preservation of a minority culture in the midst of a majority's host society." The development of an ethnic, political, or religious monoculture implies that Judaism can survive only by engaging in a sort of semi-crypsis. As Irving Louis Horowitz (1993, 86) notes regarding the long-term consequences of Jewish life under Communism, "Jews suffer, their numbers decline, and emigration becomes a survival solution when the state demands integration into a national mainstream, a religious universal defined by a state religion or a near-state religion." Both Neusner (1987) and Ellman (1987) suggest that the increased sense of ethnic consciousness seen in Jewish circles recently has been influenced by this general movement within American society toward the legitimization of minority group ethnocentrism. More importantly, ethnic and religious pluralism serves external Jewish interests because Jews become just one of many ethnic groups. This results in the diffusion of political and cultural influence among the various ethnic and religious groups, and it becomes difficult or impossible to develop unified, cohesive groups of gentiles united in their opposition to Judaism.
Historically, major anti-Semitic movements have tended to erupt in societies that have been, apart from the Jews, religiously and/or ethnically homogeneous (MacDonald, 1994; 1998). Conversely, one reason for the relative lack of anti-Semitism in America compared to Europe was that "Jews did not stand out as a solitary group of [religious] non-conformists (Higham 1984, p. 156). It follows also that ethnically and religiously pluralistic societies are more likely to satisfy Jewish interests than are societies characterized by ethnic and religious homogeneity among gentiles.
Beginning with Horace Kallen, Jewish intellectuals have been at the forefront in developing models of the United States as a culturally and ethnically pluralistic society. Reflecting the utility of cultural pluralism in serving internal Jewish group interests in maintaining cultural separatism, Kallen personally combined his ideology of cultural pluralism with a deep immersion in Jewish history and literature, a commitment to Zionism, and political activity on behalf of Jews in Eastern Europe (Sachar 1992, p. 425ff; Frommer 1978). Kallen (1915; 1924) developed a "polycentric" ideal for American ethnic relationships.
Kallen defined ethnicity as deriving from one's biological endowment, implying that Jews should be able to remain a genetically and culturally cohesive group while nevertheless participating in American democratic institutions. This conception that the United States should be organized as a set of separate ethnic/cultural groups was accompanied by an ideology that relationships between groups would be cooperative and benign: "Kallen lifted his eyes above the strife that swirled around him to an ideal realm where diversity and harmony coexist" (Higham 1984, p. 209). Similarly in Germany, the Jewish leader Moritz Lazarus argued in opposition to the views of the German intellectual Heinrich Treitschke that the continued separateness of diverse ethnic groups contributed to the richness of German culture (Schorsch 1972, p. 63). Lazarus also developed the doctrine of dual loyalty which became a cornerstone of the Zionist movement. Kallen wrote his 1915 essay partly in reaction to the ideas of Edward A. Ross (1914). Ross was a Darwinian sociologist who believed that the existence of clearly demarcated groups would tend to result in between-group competition for resources. Higham's comment is interesting because it shows that Kallen's romantic views of group co-existence were contradicted by the reality of between-group competition in his own day. Indeed, it is noteworthy that Kallen was a prominent leader of the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress).
During the 1920s and 1930s the AJCongress championed group economic and political rights for Jews in Eastern Europe at a time when there was widespread ethnic tensions and persecution of Jews, and despite the fears of many that such rights would merely exacerbate current tensions. The AJCongress demanded that Jews be allowed proportional political representation as well as the ability to organize their own communities and preserve an autonomous Jewish national culture. The treaties with Eastern European countries and Turkey included provisions that the state provide instruction in minority languages and that Jews have the right to refuse to attend courts or other public functions on the Sabbath (Frommer 1978, p. 162). Kallen's idea of cultural pluralism as a model for America was popularized among gentile intellectuals by John Dewey (Higham 1984, p. 209), who in turn was promoted by Jewish intellectuals: "If lapsed Congregationalists like Dewey did not need immigrants to inspire them to press against the boundaries of even the most liberal of Protestant sensibilities, Dewey's kind were resoundingly encouraged in that direction by the Jewish intellectuals they encountered in urban academic and literary communities" (Hollinger, 1996, p. 24).
The well-known author and prominent Zionist Maurice Samuel (1924, p. 215) writing partly as a negative reaction to the immigration law of 1924, wrote that "If, then, the struggle between us [i.e., Jews and gentiles] is ever to be lifted beyond the physical, your democracies will have to alter their demands for racial, spiritual and cultural homogeneity with the State. But it would be foolish to regard this as a possibility, for the tendency of this civilization is in the opposite direction. There is a steady approach toward the identification of government with race, instead of with the political State." Samuel deplored the 1924 legislation and in the following quote he develops the view that the American state as having no ethnic implications.
We have just witnessed, in America, the repetition, in the peculiar form adapted to this country, of the evil farce to which the experience of many centuries has not yet accustomed us. If America had any meaning at all, it lay in the peculiar attempt to rise above the trend of our present civilization- the identification of race with State. . . . America was therefore the New World in this vital respect- that the State was purely an ideal, and nationality was identical only with acceptance of the ideal. But it seems now that the entire point of view was a mistaken one, that America was incapable of rising above her origins, and the semblance of an ideal-nationalism was only a stage in the proper development of the universal gentile spirit. . . .
To-day, with race triumphant over ideal, anti-Semitism uncovers its fangs, and to the heartless refusal of the most elementary human right, the right of asylum, is added cowardly insult. We are not only excluded, but we are told, in the unmistakable language of the immigration laws, that we are an "inferior" people. Without the moral courage to stand up squarely to its evil instincts, the country prepared itself, through its journalists, by a long draught of vilification of the Jew, and, when sufficiently inspired by the popular and "scientific" potions, committed the act. (pp. 218-220)
A congruent opinion is expressed by prominent Jewish social scientist and political activist Earl Raab 1 who remarks very positively on the success of American immigration policy in altering the ethnic composition of the United States since 1965. Raab notes that the Jewish community has taken a leadership role in changing the Northwestern European bias of American immigration policy (1993a, p. 17), and he has also maintained that one factor inhibiting anti-Semitism in the contemporary United States is that "(a)n increasing ethnic heterogeneity, as a result of immigration, has made it even more difficult for a political party or mass movement of bigotry to develop" (1995, p. 91).
Or more colorfully: The Census Bureau has just reported that about half of the American population will soon be non-white or non-European. And they will all be American citizens. We have tipped beyond the point where a Nazi-Aryan party will be able to prevail in this country. We [i.e., Jews] have been nourishing the American climate of opposition to bigotry for about half a century. That climate has not yet been perfected, but the heterogeneous nature of our population tends to make it irreversible- and makes our constitutional constraints against bigotry more practical than ever. (Raab 1993b, p. 23).2
It should be noted as a general point that the effectiveness of Jewish organizations in influencing American immigration policy has been facilitated by certain characteristics of American Jewry. As Neuringer (1971, p. 87) notes, Jewish influence on immigration policy was facilitated by Jewish wealth, education, and social status.
Reflecting its general disproportionate representation in markers of economic success and political influence, Jewish organizations have been able to have a vastly disproportionate effect on United States immigration policy because Jews as a group are highly organized, highly intelligent, and politically astute, and they were able to command a high level of financial, political, and intellectual resources in pursuing their political aims.
Similarly, Hollinger (1996, p. 19) notes that Jews were more influential in the decline of a homogeneous Protestant Christian culture in the United States than Catholics because of their greater wealth, social standing, and technical skill in the intellectual arena. In the area of immigration policy, the main Jewish activist organization influencing immigration policy, the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee), was characterized by "strong leadership [particularly Louis Marshall], internal cohesion, well-funded programs, sophisticated lobbying techniques, well-chosen non-Jewish allies, and good timing" (Goldstein 1990, p. 333). In this regard, the Jewish success in influencing immigration policy is entirely analogous to their success in influencing the secularization of American culture. As in the case of immigration policy, the secularization of American culture is a Jewish interest because Jews have a perceived interest that America not be a homogeneous Christian culture.
"Jewish civil rights organizations have had an historic role in the postwar development of American church-state law and policy" (Ivers 1995, p. 2). Unlike the effort to influence immigration, the opposition to a homogeneous Christian culture was mainly carried out in the courts. The Jewish effort in this case was well funded and was the focus of well-organized, highly dedicated Jewish civil service organizations, including the AJCommittee, the AJCongress, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
It involved keen legal expertise both in the actual litigation but also in influencing legal opinion via articles in law journals and other forums of intellectual debate, including the popular media. It also involved a highly charismatic and effective leadership, particularly Leo Pfeffer of the AJCongress:
No other lawyer exercised such complete intellectual dominance over a chosen area of law for so extensive a period* as an author, scholar, public citizen, and above all, legal advocate who harnessed his multiple and formidable talents into a single force capable of satisfying all that an institution needs for a successful constitutional reform movement. . . . That Pfeffer, through an enviable combination of skill, determination, and persistence, was able in such a short period of time to make church-state reform the foremost cause with which rival organizations associated the AJCongress illustrates well the impact that individual lawyers endowed with exceptional skills can have on the character and life of the organizations for which they work. . . . As if to confirm the extent to which Pfeffer is associated with post-Everson [i.e., post-1946] constitutional development, even the major critics of the Court's church-state jurisprudence during this period and the modern doctrine of separationism rarely fail to make reference to Pfeffer as the central force responsible for what they lament as the lost meaning of the establishment clause. (Ivers 1995, pp. 222-224) Similarly, Hollinger (1996, p. 4) notes "the transformation of the ethnoreligious demography of American academic life by Jews" in the period from the 1930s to the 1960s, as well as the Jewish influence on trends toward the secularization of American society and in advancing an ideal of cosmopolitanism (p. 11).
The pace of this influence was very likely influenced by immigration battles of the 1920s. Hollinger notes that the "the old Protestant establishment's influence persisted until the 1960s in large measure because of the Immigration Act of 1924: had the massive immigration of Catholics and Jews continued at pre-1924 levels, the course of American history would have been different in many ways, including, one may reasonably speculate, a more rapid diminution of Protestant cultural hegemony. Immigration restriction gave that hegemony a new lease of life" (p. 22). It is reasonable to suppose, therefore, that the immigration battles from 1881 to 1965 have been of momentous historical importance in shaping the contours of American culture in the late twentieth century.
Notes 2In Australia, Miriam Faine, an editorial committee member of the Australian Jewish Democrat stated that "The strengthening of multicultural or diverse Australia is also our most effective insurance policy against anti-semitism. The day Australia has a Chinese Australian Governor General I would feel more confident of my freedom to live as a Jewish Australian" (in McCormack 1994, p. 11). 3
Moreover, a deep concern that an ethnically and culturally homogeneous America would compromise Jewish interests can be seen in Silberman's comments on the attraction of Jews to "the Democratic party . . . with its traditional hospitality to non-WASP ethnic groups. . . . A distinguished economist who strongly disagreed with Mondale's economic policies voted for him nonetheless. 'I watched the conventions on television,' he explained, 'and the Republicans did not look like my kind of people." That same reaction led many Jews to vote for Carter in 1980 despite their dislike of him; 'I'd rather live in a country governed by the faces I saw at the Democratic convention than by those I saw at the Republican convention' a well-known author told me" (pp. 347-348).
Equality Moreover, achieving parity between Jews and other ethnic groups would entail a very high level of discrimination against individual Jews for admission to universities or employment opportunities, and would even entail a large taxation on Jews in order to prevent the present Jewish advantage in the possession of wealth, since at present Jews are vastly over-represented among the wealthy and the successful in the United States (e.g., Ginsberg, 1994; Lipsett & Raab, 1995).
Beginning in the 1920s, studies have repeatedly shown that Ashkenazi Jews have a full-scale IQ of approximately 117 and a verbal IQ in the range of 125 (see MacDonald, 1994 for a review).
By 1988, Jews constituted about 40% of admissions to Ivy League colleges and Jewish income was at least double that of gentiles (Shapiro (1992, p. 116). Shapiro also shows that Jews are overrepresented by at least a factor of nine on indexes of wealth, but that this is a conservative estimate because much Jewish wealth is in real estate which is difficult to determine and easy to hide. While constituting approximately 2.4% of the population of the United States, Jews represented one half of the top 100 Wall Street executives.
Lipset and Raab (1995) note that Jews contribute between one-quarter and one-third of all political contributions in the United States, including one-half of Democratic Party contributions and one-fourth of Republican contributions. Indeed, many Jewish intellectuals (including "neo-conservatives" such as Daniel Bell, Sidney Hook, Irving Howe, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Norman Podhoretz, and Earl Raab) as well as Jewish organizations (including the ADL, the AJCommittee, and the AJCongress) have been eloquent opponents of affirmative action and quota mechanisms for distributing resources (see Sachar 1992, p. 818ff).