The National-Origin Immigration Plan

March 12, 1929

A document from the CQ Researcher archives:

Report Outline
The Old and the New Immigration
Post-War Immigration Restriction
Contest Over the National-Origin Plan
Special Focus

The Immigration Act of 1924 provided that the annual immigration quota of each nationality should be two per cent of the number of foreign born individuals of that nationality resident in the United States as shown by the census of 1890. This basis of apportionment was to remain in effect for three years, at the end of which time the national-origin plan of quota apportionment provided in the act was to come into force. It was provided that:

“The annual quota of any nationality for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1927, and for each fiscal year thereafter, shall be a number which bears the same ratio to 150,000 as the number of inhabitants in continental United States having that national origin…bears to the number of inhabitants in continental United States in 1920, but the minimum quota of any nationality shall be 100.”

Provision was made for the determination of the national-origin quotas by a commission made up of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Labor. The President was to “proclaim and make known” the quotas so determined, and it was provided that: “Such proclamation shall be made on or before April 1, 1927.” The general plan of the act contemplated a three year transition period, and the coming into force at the end of that period of a permanent immigration policy where under the number to be admitted from each nation each year would be in exact relation to the contribution made by that nation to the white population of the United States as it existed in 1920.

Present Status of National-Origin Plan

Extreme difficulty was encountered in reaching a satisfactory determination of the contribution that had been made by each foreign nation to the population of the United States, due to the inadequacy of the existing data and to the creation of new nations after the World War, to which it was necessary that quotas be assigned. The studies that were made produced some unexpected results, and doubt as to their accuracy led Congress to postpone the effective date of the national-origin plan, first to July 1, 1928, and then to July 1, 1929. President Hoover, in his address of August 11, 1928, accepting the Republican presidential nomination, said:

“We welcome our new immigrant citizens and their great contribution to our nation; we seek only to protect them equally with those already here. We shall amend the immigration laws to relieve unnecessary hardships upon families. As a member of the commission whose duty it is to determine the quota basis under the national-origins law I have found it impossible to do so accurately and without hardship. The basis now in effect carries out the essential principle of the law, and I favor repeal of that part of the act calling for a new basis of quotas.”

During the closing days of the last Congress a final report upon the quotas to which each nation would be entitled under the national-origin plan was made, in which it was stated by the interdepartmental committee that “We are of the opinion that further study would not appreciably modify these results,” The question then arose whether there should be a further postponement or whether the quotas as finally determined should be placed in effect on July 1, 1929. In accordance with the wishes of the President-elect, a resolution for an additional postponement for one year was approved by the House on March 2, but the resolution was blocked in the Seriate and the Seventieth Congress expired on March 4, 1929, without having taken final action upon it.

The immigration act as amended still calls for a proclamation by the President announcing the national-origin quotas, and it provides that: “Such proclamation shall be made on or before April 1, 1929.” The original act contemplated the possibility that the proclamation might not be issued on or before April l, 1927, for it said: “If the proclamation is not made on or before such date, quotas proclaimed therein shall not be in effect for any fiscal year beginning before the expiration of 90 days after the date of the proclamation…” and further that: “If for any reason quotas proclaimed under this subdivision are not in effect for any fiscal year, quotas for such year shall be determined under subdivision (a) of this section”-that is, upon the basis of 2 per cent of the foreign born population of 1890. These words remain in the law as it stands today. The question therefore arises whether the President is legally bound to issue the proclamation, or may withhold it in his discretion. President Coolidge held in 1927 that the law was mandatory and that the proclamation must be issued on April 1, unless the date was postponed by Congress. President Hoover announced on March 8, 1929, that the question whether or not he must issue the proclamation on April 1 next had been referred to Attorney General William D. Mitchell for an official opinion.

If the proclamation is issued on April 1, 1929, there will still be time for further postponement or repeal of the national-origin plan at the special session of the Seventy-first Congress which has been summoned to meet on April 15. If the proclamation is issued and no further action is taken at the special session, the new plan will go into effect July 1, 1929. If, on the other hand, the proclamation is withheld, the effective date of the plan would be automatically deferred until July 1, 1930, and action by the new Congress might be deferred until it meets for its first regular session in December. At either one or the other of these sessions, however. Congress will be called upon to decide whether the national-origin plan shall be placed in effect or the present plan of quota allotment on the basis of the census of 1890 shall be continued as the permanent immigration policy of the United States.

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The Old and the New Immigration

The year 1890, which provides the base for the present immigration quotas, marked a turning point in the flow of immigration to the United States. Prior to that year the immigrants from Europe who disembarked at Atlantic ports came, mostly from the northern and western nations, from the British Isles, the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Germany.

“The English, Dutch, Swedes, Germans, and even the Scotch-Irish, who constituted practically the entire immigration prior to 1890, ware less than two thousand years ago one Germanic race in the forests surrounding the North Sea. Thus, being similar in blood and in political ideals, social training and economic background, this ‘old’ immigration has merged with the native stock fairly easily and rapidly. Assimilation has always been only a matter of time and this had been aided by the economic, social and political conditions of the country.”1

Down to 1890 the United States was primarily an agricultural nation. The immigration from northern and western Europe fitted in well with its needs, and many devices were employed to by the western states to attract these aliens as settlers. During-the decade 1880–90, however, there had begun to be evidences of a shift in the immigration movement. In this perïod the manufacturing industries were experiencing an extraordinary expansion both in the United States and in northwestern Europe. The industrial nations of Europe took measures to discourage the migration of their workers to the United States, and to supply the labor needs of expanding American industries new sources had to be tapped. These new sources were the nations of southern and eastern Europe.

“The census of 1890 showed the population of the country increased to 62,622,250, an addition of 12,466,467 within the decade,” Woodrow Wilson said in his History of the American People. “Immigrants poured steadily in as before, but with an alteration of stock which students of affairs marked with uneasiness. Throughout the century men of the sturdy stocks of the north of Europe had made up the main strain of foreign blood which was every year added to the vital working force of this country…but now there cane multitudes of men of the lower class from the south of Italy and men of the meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland-men out of the ranks where there was neither skill nor energy not any initiative of quick intelligence-and they came in numbers which increased from year to year, as if the countries of the south of Europe were disburdening themselves of the more sordid and hapless elements of their population, the men whose standards of life and of work were such as American working men had never dreamed of hitherto.”

During the decade 1360–70 immigrants admitted from southern and eastern Europe had numbered less than 1.5 per cent of the total but during the decade 1890–1900 they represented more than half the total, and for the first time exceeded the immigrants coming from northern and western Europe. This tendency of northwestern European immigration to decline and of southeastern European immigration to increase continued down to the World War. In the fiscal year 1914, the last 12 month period preceding the war, southern and eastern European immigration constituted nearly 75 per cent of the total.

Period Total Immigrants admitted Immigrants Northern and western from Europe: Southern and eastern Northern & western Europe Southern & eastern Europe
1851–1870 2,314,824 2,031,642 33,628 87.8% 1.4%
1871–1380 2,812,191 2, 070, 373 201,889 73.6% 7.2%
1881–1890 5, 246,613 3,778,633 958,413 71.0% 18.3%
1891–1900 3,687,564 1,643,492 1,915,486 44.6% 51.9%
1901–1910 8,795,336 1,910,035 6,225,981 21.7% 70.8%
1911 878,587 202,391 562, 366 23.0% 64.0%
1912 838,172 161,290 557,585 19. 2% 66.5%
1913 1,197,892 132. 886 872,969 15.3% 72.9%
1914 1,218,480 164,133 894,258 13.4% 73.4%

In 1885 Congress passed the Alien Contract Labor Law which prohibited the importation of unskilled labor under contract, and with the increase in immigration from southern and eastern Europe there arose a demand for some form of direct immigration restriction. Senator Lodge of Massachusetts brought forward the literacy test in 1896 as a device which he said would operate not only to reduce the total number of immigrants, but particularly to cut down the numbers coming from southern and eastern Europe. His bill was passed by the Senate by a vote of 52 to 10 and by the House, 195 to 26, but it was vetoed by President Cleveland on March 2, 1897, two days before the close of his second term.

Ten years later immigration reached a new high water mark -1,285,349 in 1907-and of the new immigrants 74.4 per cent came from southern and eastern Europe, while only 21.9 per cent came from northern and western Europe. The Senate again approved the literacy test in that year, but subsequently compromised with the House on the creation of an Immigration Commission, which was to make a complete investigation and report its findings to Congress. The commission reported in 1910, recommending that immigration be restricted, largely on the ground that the influx of southern and eastern Europeans had created an over-supply of unskilled labor, and suggesting “the reading and writing test” as “the most feasible single method” of restriction.

Three years later the Dillingham-Burnett literacy test bill was passed by both houses by large majorities. It was vetoed by President Taft, February 13, 1913, two weeks before the close of his term. The bill was passed over the veto in the Senate by a vote of 72 to 18, but the veto was sustained in the House, 213 to 114, the affirmative votes being five short of the required two-thirds majority.

The bill was reintroduced in the following Congress and was passed by the House, 252 to 126, and by the Senate, 50 to 7. It was vetoed by President Wilson, January 28, 1915, and an attempt to pass the bill over the veto failed in the House by four votes. Again in 1916 the bill was brought forward. It was approved by the House, March 10, and by the Senate, December 14, 1916, by overwhelming votes, but was again vetoed by President Wilson on January 29, 1917. The House passed the bill over the veto, February 1, by a vote of 287 to 106, or 25 more than the required two-thirds. The Senate voted 62 to 19 on February 5 to enact the bill, notwithstanding the President's objections, and on that day it became law, Thereafter, all aliens over 16 years of age unable to read the English language or some other language or dialect, with certain exceptions, were barred from admission to the United States.

In its twenty-year course, the literacy test bill was passed 32 times by one or the other of the two houses. Fourteen recorded votes in the House averaged 216 to 79, and ten recorded votes in the Senate, 53 to 15. It was vetoed by three Presidents and finally became law without the President's approval.

Immigration During War and Armistice Periods

During the war period there was a sharp falling off in immigration from Europe, particularly from southern and eastern Europe, and at the same time there were notable increases in immigration from Canada and Mexico, which helped to meet the demand for labor of the American war industries.

It will be seen from the table that immigration took a sharp upward turn during 1920, and by 1921 was back to almost three-quarters of its pre-war volume. At this time it was reported from consular offices in Czechoslovakia, England, Italy, the Netherlands Serbia, Spain, Turkey and Poland that millions were awaiting transportation facilities to carry them to the United States. The Commissioner of Immigration at the Port of New York estimated that Italy was preparing to send five million immigrants to the United States, and Germany eight million. The Commissioner General of Immigration was quoted as saying that “from ten to twenty-five million Europeans are ready to come to the United States.” These reports were widely circulated, and created deep concern, coming as they did at a time when industrial depression, accompanied by wide-spread unemployment, was prevalent in this country. As a result there came an insistent demand upon the Republican Congress that had been chosen in 1918 for a drastic limitation of immigration.

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Post-War Immigration Restriction

The first bill for numerical restriction of immigrants coming to the United States was approved by Congress in February, 1921, but was pocket vetoed by President Wilson at the expiration of his second term. It provided that the number of immigrants should be limited to three per cent of the foreign born in this country in 1910. The proposed law was to remain in effect for one year and it was estimated by the conference committee that it would limit immigration to a total of 355,461.

The measure, virtually unchanged, was reintroduced at the opening of the special session of the Sixty-seventh Congress and was passed by the House without a roll call, April 22, 1921. The Senate gave the bill its approval, May 5, by a vote of 78 to 1. The one negative vote was cast by Senator Reed, Democrat, of Missouri. The bill was signed by President Harding, May 19, and went into effect on June 3, 1921, fifteen days after it had received executive approval.

The most notable effect of the emergency act of 1921, aside from its reduction of the total number of aliens to be admitted, was the restriction it placed upon immigration from southern and eastern Europe and the encouragement it gave to immigration from northern and western Europe, This can be most clearly seen from a comparison of the quotas assigned to the European nations with the numbers of immigrants received from those nations in 1914 -the last year of normal pre-war immigration.

Northern and Western Europe Immigrants admitted in 1914 Original quotas under Act of 1921 Increase or Number reduction Per cent
Great Britain & Ireland 73,417 77,342 + 3,925 + 5.3%
Germany 35,734 68,059 +32, 325 +90.4%
Norway, Sweden, Denmark 29,391 37,938 + 8,547 +39.1%
Other northern and western Europe 25.591 14,743 -10,848 -42.4%
  164,133 198,082 +33,949 +20.7%
Southern and Eastern Europe Immigrants admitted in 1914 Original quotas under Act of 1921 Increase or Number reduction Per cent
Austria 134,831 7,451 -127,380 -94.5%
Hungary 143,321 5,538 -137,683 -96,0%
Greece 35,832 3,294 -32,538 -90.8%
Italy 283,733 43,057 -241,631 -85.2%
Russia 255,660 34,284 -221,376 -86.6%
Other southern and eastern Europe 40,876 64,506 +24.030 +58.7%
  894,253 157,630 -736,628 -82.4%

From this table it will be seen that the northern and western European nations were to be permitted, under the immigration restriction plan of 1921, to send one-fifth more immigrants than they actually sent in 1914, The southern and eastern nations, on the other hand, were to have the numbers they might send reduced by more than four-fifths. If all quotas had been exactly filled during the fiscal year 1922, the United States would have received 55,5 per cent of its quota immigration from northern and western Europe, as compared with 13.4 per cent in 1914. And from eastern and southern Europe, it would have received 44.1 per cent, as compared with 73.4 per cent in the year before the war. The countries of eastern and southern Europe all filled, or more than filled, their quotas during the first year so that the United States actually received 44.2 per cent of its immigration from this region. The northern and western nations, on the other hand, fell far short of filling their quotas. Germany, for example, had a quota of 68,059, but only 19,053 quota, immigrants came from that country in 1922. Taken as a group, the northern and western nations during the first quota year fell short of filling their quotas by nearly 55 per cent.

Quota Immigrants and Non-Quota Immigrants

The quota act of 1921 did not apply, nor does the present act apply, to any immigrant born in the Dominion of Canada, Newfoundland, the Republic of Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Canal Zone, or any independent country of Central or South America. All of these were designated as non-quota immigrants. This class at present includes also (1) any immigrant who is the unmarried child under 18 years of age, or the wife, of a citizen of the United States; (2) any immigrant previously lawfully admitted, who is returning from a temporary visit abroad; (3) any minister of a religious denomination, or professor of a college, academy, seminary or university, provided that for two years immediately preceding his application for admission he has been such and seeks to enter for the purpose of carrying on his vocation; (4) any immigrant who is a bona fide student at least 15 years of age and who seeks to enter the United States solely for the purpose of study at an accredited school or college.

The numbers admitted as quota immigrants, and the numbers of immigrants admitted without reference to quotas during the years the quota plan has been in effect are shown in the following table.

Fiscal year Total immigrants Quota immigrants Non-quota immigrants Percent of total:
        Quota Non-quota
1922 309,556 243,953 65,603 78.8% 21.2%
1923 522,919 335,480 187,439 64.1% 35.9%
1924 706,896 357,642 349,254 50.6% 49.4%
1925 294,314 145,971 148,343 49.6% 50.4%
1926 304,488 157,432 147,056 51.7% 48.3%
1927 335,175 158,070 177,105 47.2% 52.8%
1928 307,255 153,231 154,024 49.9% 50.1%

During the last five years only about one half the immigration to the United States has been subject to quota limitations. This has been due principally to the large volume of immigration from the neighboring countries of Canada and Mexico. The numbers of immigrants received from those countries during the years the present immigration act has been in effect are shown below.

Fiscal year Total non-quota immigrants Immigrants from: Percent of total from:
    Canada Mexico Canada Mexico
1925 148,343 102,753 32,964 69.2% 22.2%
1926 147,056 93,368 43,316 63. 5% 29.4%
1927 177.105 84,580 67,721 47.4% 38.2%
1928 154,024 75,281 59,016 48.8% 38.3%

During the last four years immigration from Canada and Mexico has represented 45 per cent of the total immigration to the United States, and 89.3 per cent of the non-quota immigration. This condition has led to many recent proposals for application of the quota system to countries of the Western Hemisphere, According to Chairman Johnson of the House Immigration Committee, it is desirable that action upon this subject be delayed until a final decision has been reached upon a permanent plan for the apportionment of quotas.

The Immigration Act of 1924

The Immigration Act of 1921 was loosely drawn and hurriedly passed. It was intended that it should remain in effect for only one year, during which time Congress was expected to work out a parmanent immigration policy. When the time for its expiration approached, however, no agreement had been reached and on May 11, 1922, the original quota plan was continued in effect for two additional years. Meanwhile many loopholes had been found in the original act, and the numbers coming as non-quota immigrants was showing a steady increase. In 1924, the last year the act of 1921 remained in effect, total immigration had increased to 706,896- only about 100,000 short of the number admitted in the year before the adoption of the quota plan.

A new immigration act was approved by the House, April 12, 1924, by a vote of 323 to 71, and by the Senate, April 18, by a vote of 62 to 6. It retained the principle of numerical limitation, but changed the basis of the quotas from three per cent of the foreign born population, as shown by the census of 1910, to two per cent of the foreign born population as shown by the census of 1890. This basis of quota allotment was to remain in effect for three years, when it was to be superseded by the national-origin plan. The effect of the change from the census of 1910 to that of 1890 was greatly to faver the “old” immigration at the expense of the “new” immigration, for in 1890 the tide of immigration was just beginning to flow from eastern and southern Europe. The quotas of eastern and southern European countries under the new act totalled only 20,423, whereas they had totaled 157,630 under the act of 1921-a reduction of 87 per cent. The quotas of northern and western European nations were reduced also (from 198,082 to 140,999) but only by 28.8 per cent. The numbers of quota immigrants received from the nations of these two grand divisions during the last four fiscal years are shown in the following table.

(Table continued on following page)

Among the nations of northern and western Europe, the one that has fallen fartherest short of filling its quota during the last four years is Great Britain, with Switzerland a close second. And among the nations of southern and eastern Europe the one falling fartherest short is Italy.

During the four years in which immigration quotas have been based upon the census of foreign born in 1890, immigrants from northern and western Europe have represented 39.8 per cent of the total number admitted to the United States, as compared with 13,4 per cent in 1914. Immigrants from southern and eastern Europe have represented 10.9 per cent of the total, as against 73.4 per cent in the last pre-war year.

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Contest Over the National-Origin Plan

The national-origin plan was first brought forward by the late Rep. John Jacob Rogers, Republican, of Massachusetts, when he offered it as an amendment, April 11, 1924, to the bill then pending in the House, which subsequently became the Immigration Act of 1924. Rep, Rogers explained the effect of his proposed amendment as follows:

“It is to take the entire body of population resident in the United States, exclusive of the descendents of slaves. That number is some 95,000,000. The task then is to apportion that 95,000,000 by national origin-by British, or French, or German, or Polish origin, or whatever each may be-than decide upon the total annual immigration-say 200,000 or 250,000. Finally we apportion that total in exactly the proportions of the various national origins of the 95,000,000 residents of the United States.”

The. plan appears to have made little appeal to the House, for the Rogers amendment was twice rejected without a roll call. The bill as approved by the lower body, April 12, 1924, provided for immigration quotas based upon two per cent of the foreign born population as shown by the census of 1890.

When the bill came before the Senate, however, the national-origin plan was offered as an amendment by Senator Reed, Republican, of Pennsylvania, and it was approved, April 16, 1924, without a roll call, to take effect after the plan provided in the House bill had been in effect for three years. After passing the Senate, the bill remained nearly a month in conference. Congress was anxious to adjourn for the national nominating conventions and the House conferees, although opposed to the national-origin plan, ultimately accepted it, in order that some legislation might be got through to replace the existing quota law, which was scheduled to expire on June 30, 1924. The final vote on the conference report was 308 to 62 in the House and 69 to 9 in the Senate.

Determination of National-Origin Quotas

The Immigration Act of 1924 provided that, for the purposes of the new immigration plan to be placed in effect July 1, 1927, “national origin shall be ascertained by determining as nearly as may be, in respect to each geographical area which…is to be treated as a separate country …the number of inhabitants in continental United States in 1920 whose origin by birth or ancestry is attributable to such geographical area.” And further that: “Such determination shall not be made by tracing the ancestors or descendants of particular individuals, but shall be based upon statistics of immigration and emigration, together with rates of increase in population as shown by successive decennial United States censuses, and such other data as may be found to be reliable.” This task, assigned in the first instance to the Secretaries of State, Commerce and Labor, was passed on by them to a board made up of the following officers:

Representing the Secretary of State: Richard W. Flournoy, Jr., Assistant Solicitor, Department of State; Samuel W. Boggs, Geographer, Department of State.

Representing the Secretary of Commerce: Joseph A. Hill, Assistant Director, Bureau of the Census; Leon E. Truesdell, Chief Statistician of Census of Population.

Representing the Secretary of Labor: W. W. Husband, Second Assistant Secretary of Labor; Ethelbert Stewart, Commissioner of Labor Statistics.

The task of preparing the estimates of national origins involved countless difficulties. The first complete census was not taken until 1790; it did not cover the continental United States as it exists today, and there were doubts as to its accuracy. No records of immigration by nationality were kept until 1820. The total number of foreign born in the country was not listed by country of origin until 1850. The recording of the country of origin of persons born here of foreign born parents was not started until 1890, There was extreme difficulty in classifying persons of mixed stock. And added to all these difficulties were those produced by changes in political boundaries in Europe.

A preliminary report was submitted by the board to the three cabinet officers on December 16, 1926, and by them to the President on January 3, 1927. The report estimated the total number that would be admissible under the national-origin plan at 153,541 -the increase ever 150,000 being due to the assignment of a minimum quota of 100 to countries found to be entitled to fewer than that number on the basis of national origins. In their covering letter to the President, the three secretaries said:

“Although this is the best information we have been able to secure, we wish…to state that in our opinion the statistical and historical information available raises grave doubts as to the whole value of these computations as a basis for the purposes intended. We therefore can not assume responsibility for such conclusions under these circumstances.”

When the preliminary estimates of quotas were transmitted to Congress many of those who had supported the national-origin plan in the first instance were surprised to find that it would result in steep reductions in the existing quotas of Germany, the Scandinavian countries and the Irish Fres State. The British quota, on the other hand, would be nearly doubled, with more moderate increases in the quotas of Italy, Russia and various others of the countries of southern and eastern Europe.

Postponements of National-Origin Plan

Immediate protests were voiced by representatives or the groups whose quotas would be cut under the national-origin plan, with the result that the House Immigration Committee reported a resolution on February 9, 1927, for repeal of the entire national-origin provision of the act of 1924.

“The great majority of the people of the United States,” the committee said, “including a majority of the citizens of foreign birth and of recent foreign ancestry, have accepted the 1890 census as a quota basis and realize that it is working remarkably well for the purposes for which it was intended. Your committee has come to the conclusion that it is unwise to invite further strife over a change to a plan based in part on estimates which go back into the times of the colonies. The carrying on of strife and feeling that should not exist in a country of 118,000,000 people made up of the blood stock of the peoples of the civilized world, should be avoided if the end to be obtained can be gained in any other way.”

The Senate, meanwhile, had adopted a resolution postponing the effective date of the national-origin system from July 1, 1927 to July 1, 1928, and to this resolution the House finally agreed, by a vote of 234 to 111, on March 3, 1927, the next to the last day of the Sixty-ninth Congress.

A second report was submitted by the national-origin board on February 15, 1928, which made a downward revision of about 10 per cent in the quota previously reported for Great Britain and readjustments in other quotas, bringing the total number to be admitted under the national-origin plan to 153,685. The transmission of this report to Congress was followed in March, 1928, by the adoption in both houses without a roll call of a resolution postponing the effective date of the national-origin plan from July 1, 1928 to July 1, 1929, thus putting the whole matter over until after the presidential election.

A final report upon the quotas to which each nation would be entitled under the national-origin plan was filed by the quota board on February 21, 1929, in which it was said that “further study would not appreciably modify these results.” In transmitting this report to the President, February 26, Secretary Kellogg, Secretary Whiting and Secretary Davis said:

“We wish it to be understood that we neither individually nor collectively are expressing any opinion on the merits or demerits of this system of arriving at the quotas.”

In the new report slight revisions were made of the quotas previously reported and the total number admissible under the national-origin plan was fixed at 153,714, as compared with the existing quota total of 164,667-a reduction of 10,953, or 6.6 per cent.

Changes in Quotas Under National-Origin Plan

Whereas the northern and western nations of Europe were permitted under the immigration act of 1921 to send more immigrants than they had actually sent in 1914, and are permitted under the existing quotas to sent more than they actually send in 1921, while the numbers of immigrants from the southern and eastern nations were being subjected to steep reductions-under the national-origin plan a slight increase would be given in the quotas of the southern and eastern nations, while the quotas of the northern and western nations would be reduced by more than 10 per cent Non-European quotas would not be materially affected by the national-origin plan. At present non-European nations are permitted to send only 3245 quota immigrants annually. Their total quotas under the national-origin plan would amount to 3223.

The table on the following page shows the general effect of the post-war immigration legislation. It compares the original quotas, the present quotas, and the national-origin quotas of the two grand divisions of Europe with the numbers of immigrants received from those divisions in the last year before the war, and the last year before numerical restriction went into effect.

        Percent from Europe:
  Total Northern & western Europe Southern & eastern Europe North South
Fiscal year 1914 1,218,480 164,133 394,253 13. 4% 73. 4%
Fiscal year 1921 805. 228 138 551 513 813 17.2% 63.8%
Immigration Quotas:          
Original quotas, Act of 1921          
(3% of foreign born in 1910) 356,995 198,082 157,630 55. 5% 44. 1%
Existing quotas. Act of 1924          
(2%of foreign born in 1890) 164.667 140.999 20.423 85.6% 12.4%
Quotas under National-Origin Plan 153,714 125,853 24,633 81.9% 16. 0%

It will be seen from this table that under the national-origin plan the number of immigrants admissible from northern and western Europe would be reduced by a little more than 15,000 while the number admissible from southern and eastern Europe would be increased by 4215.

The next table compares the present quotas of the separate European nations with the quotas they would have under the national-origin plan. In the two right hand columns the percentages of gains and losses are shown.

The most striking changes in northern and western European quotas under the national origin plan would be the increase of 31,714, in the quota of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and the reductions of 25,270 in the German quota, 10,714 in the quota of the Irish Free State, and of 11,931 in the quotas of the Scandinavian countries. In view of the record of the past there is extreme doubt as to whether so large a quota as would be assigned to Great Britain and Northern Ireland would be filled. The effect of the new plan, therefore, might well be to reduce immigration considerably below the total of the quota figures.

The most striking changes shown in the quotas for southern and eastern Europe are the increases of 1,957 in the Italian quota, 628 in the Austrian quota, 542 in the Polish quota and 536 in the Russian quota. All of these nations had their quotas sharply reduced, however, when the quota basis was changed from the census of 1910 to that of 1890.

Failure of Effort for Further Postponement

The report of the national-origin board showing the quota allotments given in the foregoing table was not forwarded to Congress until February 27, 1929-six days before the adjournment of its last session. A resolution for a third postponement or the effective date of the national-origin plan-to July 1, 1930 -had been offered early in the session, however, by Senator Nye, Republican, of North Dakota. This resolution was blocked in the Senate Immigration Committee, February 13, by a vote of 7 to 4 against giving it a favorable report. The House Immigration Committee marked time until March 2, 1929, when it reported a similar resolution, stating at the same time its preference for an outright repeal of the national-origin plan. Adoption of the resolution by the House was a foregone conclusion. The main obstacle lay in the possibility of a filibuster in the Senate. Advocates of the postponement were able on Saturday night, March 2, to bring about the adoption of a resolution-with a margin of two votes-for a meeting of the Senate at 11 o'clock on Sunday morning, March 3, for consideration of the resolution, which would in the meantime have been approved by the House. The House met at 10 o'clock on Sunday morning and adopted the resolution, after brief debate. Four-fifths of the Republican members voted in its support, in accordance with the wishes of the incoming administration. Seven-tenths of the Democratic members voted against it, and in favor of bringing the national-origin plan into effect on July 1 1929.

The Senate vote of the night before had been taken as foreshadowing adoption of the resolution by the upper house, but when the Senate met on Sunday an eloquent appeal was made to its members by Senator Robinson, Arkansas, leader of the Democratic minority, “not to desecrate and dishonor the Sabbath” by the transaction of business on that day. The result was the adoption of motion-by a majority of one vote-for a recess of the Senate until 11 o'clock on Monday, March 4. The adoption of this motion removed all possibility of reaching a final vote on postponement of the national-origin plan in advance of the expiration of the Seventieth Congress at noon on March 4.

The roll calls by which the Senate decided first to meet on Sunday, and then decided to recess till Monday-both of which were regarded as test votes on the national-origin plan-are analyzed in the following table.

Those voting aye on the first roll call, and those voting nay on the second, favored postponement of the national-origin plan. On the first roll call they were in a majority of two and on the second their opponents were in a majority of one, indicating a very close division on the plan in the Senate of the last Congress. The Republicans who opposed postponement in the Senate and the House were mostly from the New England states and from states where the Ku Klux Klan has exerted a powerful influence. Democrats who opposed postponement were mostly from the southern states. Democrats from urban centres in the North have been generally opposed to the national-origin plan.

It is safe to say that at no time since its original adoption has a majority in the House favored the national-origin plan. The principal support for the plan has been found in the Senate. In the Senate of the Seventy-first Congress the Republican majority will be increased, as a result of the last election, from three to fifteen, and it seems probable that any effort that may be made by the President for repeal of the plan will meet with success.

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1Garia, R. A., Immigration Restriction, pp. 203–204.

1Wilaon, History of the American People, Vol. V, p. 212.

1Iceland and Luxemburg, whost quotas of 100 remain unchanged under the national origin plan.

1Senator Nye, Republican, North Dakota, subsequently changed his vote from nay to aye to enable him to move for reconsideration.

2Senator Reed, Republican. Pennsylvania, subsequently changed his vote from nay to aye for the purpose of enabling him to move for reconsideration.

Special Focus

Fiscal Total immigrants Northern & western Europe Southern & eastern Europe Canada Maxico
1914 1,218.480 13.4% 73.4% 7.1% 1.2%
1915 326,700 24.2% 36.3% 25.2% 3.3%
1916 298,325 17.1% 31.7% 33.9% 6–2%
1917 295,403 13.0% 32.0% 35.7% 6.0%
1918 110,618 11.7% 16.4% 29.3% 16.8%
1919 141,132 12,8% 4.7% 40.9% 21.1%
1920 430,001 20.2% 37.1% 20.9% 12.2%
1921 805,228 17.2% 63.8% 3.0% 3.3%
Country Quota Number of quota immigrants admitted Average Per cent of Average Per cent of quota unused
    1925 1926 1927 1928    
Belgium 512 505 507 516 514 510 0.3%
Denmark 2,789 2,523 2,712 2,621 2,558 2,604 6.7%
France 3,954 3.481 3,833 3,942 3,683 3,736 5.5%
Germany 51,227 45,760 51,036 49,792 47,383 48,618 5.1%
Gt. Britain &              
No. Ireland 34,007 30,461 31,182 31,090 32,053 31,196 8.3%
Irish Free State 28,567 27,112 27,590 29,997 27,093 27,948 2.2%
Netherlands 1,643 1,500 1,640 1,566 1,588 1,574 4.5%
Norway 6,453 6,118 6,291 6,123 5,944 6,119 5.2%
Sweden 9,561 8,961 9,233 8,966 8,605 8,941 6.5%
Switzerland 2,081 1,869 1.910 1.993 1,874 1,911 8.2%
Other countries 200 162 156 172 143 158  
  140, 999 128,452 136,095 136,778 131,928 133,315  
Country Quota Number of quota immigrants admitted Average Per cent of quota unused
    1925 1936 1927 1928    
Austria 785 761 763 815 786 781 0.5%
Czechoslovakia 3,073 2,556 3,159 3,168 2,948 2.958 3.8%
Danzig 228 212 223 241 .211 222 2.8%
Esthonia 124 113 116 126 122 119 3.9%
Finland 471 466 468 456 485 459 2.6%
Greece 100 95 95 96 103 98 2.5%
Hungary 473 357 471 465 468 440 6.9%
Italy 3,845 2,662 3,808 3,826 3,926 3,555 7.6%
Latvia 142 127 137 136 148 137 3.5%
Lithuania 344 332 341 341 347 340 1.1%
Poland 5,982 4,873 6,386 5,972 6,129 5,840 2.4%
Portugal 503 474 493 459 498 481 4.4%
Rumania 603 595 601 597 603 599 0.7%
Russia 2,248 2,141 2,158 2,147 2,231 2,169 3.5%
Spain 131 127 126 128 134 129 1.8%
Turkey 100 96 86 97 100 95 5.3%
Other countries 600 271 314 365 280 307  
  20,423 16,258 19,746 19,435 19,519 18.729  

Albania, Andorra, Bulgaria, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marina, each entitled to 100.

Country Present quotas National Origin quotas Gains and Losses (number) Gains and Losses (per cent)
Belgium 512 1,304 + 792   +154.7%  
Denmark 2,789 1,181   -1,608   -57.6%
France 3,954 3,086   868   -21.9%
Germany 51,227 25, 957   -25,270   -49. 3%
Great Britain and            
Northern Ireland 34,00? 65,721 +31,714   +93.2%  
Irish Free State 28,567 17,853   -10,714   -37. 5%
Netherlands 1,648 3,153 -1,505   +91.3%  
Norway 6,453 2,377   -4,076   -63. 2%
Sweden 9,561 3,314   -6,247   -65. 5%
Switzerland 2,081 1,707   -374   -17.9%
Other countries1 200 200        
  140, 999 125,853 +34,011 -49,157 Net loss 15,146 (10.7%)
Country Present quotas National Origin quotas Gains and Losses (numbers) Gains and Losses (per cent)
Austria 785 1,413 +628   +80.0%  
Czechoslovakia 3,073 2,874   -199   -6.5%
Danzig 228 100   -128   -56.1%
Esthonia 124 116   -8   -6.4%
Finland 471 569 + 98   +20. 8 %  
Greece 100 307 + 207   +207.0%  
Hungary 473 869 + 396   +83. 7%  
Italy 3,845 5,802 + 1,957   +50. 9%  
Latvia 142 236 + 94   +66. 2%  
Lithuania 344 386 + 42   +12. 2%  
Poland 5,982 6,524 + 542   + 9.1%  
Portugal 503 440   -63   -12.5%
Rumania 603 295   308   -51.1%
Russia 2,248 2,784 + 536   +23.8%  
Spain 131 252 + 121   +93.1%  
Turkey 100 226 + 126   +126. 0%  
Yugoslavia 671 848 + 174   +25.9%  
Other countries 600 600        
  20,423 24,633 + 4,921 -706 Net gain 4,215 (20.6%)

Albania, Andorra, Bulgaria, Liechtenstein. Manaco and San Marino, whose quotas of 100 remain unchanged.

  Ayes Nays
Republicans 145 42
Democrats 44 110
Farmer-Labor 2  
  191 152
  Ayes Nays
Republicans 23 121
Democrats 7 16
  30 28
  Ayes Nays
Republicans 14 252
Democrats 24 12
  38 37

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Document APA Citation
The national-origin immigration plan. (1929). Editorial research reports 1929 (Vol. I). Washington, DC: CQ Press. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre1929031200
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