David FitzGerald is Associate Professor of Sociology at UC San Diego and co-Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies. His research aims to understand laws and policies regulating international migration as a total system of interactions among actors in countries of origin and destination. FitzGerald is also author of Nation of Emigrants: How Mexico Manages its Migration.
FitzGerald and Cook-Martín applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas, and reported the following:
Choosing immigrants by perceived race is today repugnant to ideals of equality and fairness. Generations of scholars have argued that racism was an aberration that democracies eventually worked out of their laws. Culling the Masses challenges this assumption by showing how governments in the Americas have, for most of the last 220 years, deliberately chosen their populations by ethnically selective immigration and nationality laws. The book draws on a survey of immigration and nationality laws in 22 countries of the Americas since 1790 and seven in-depth case studies. Surprising to some analysts, the most politically inclusive governments, whether democratic or populist, were most likely to select immigrants by race. The paragons of democracy in the Western Hemisphere modeled ethnic selection and maintained legal discriminations in immigration laws for the longest periods.Learn more about Culling the Masses at the Harvard University Press website.
Against a common narrative, Culling the Masses also shows that countries like Chile, Mexico, and China, among others, spearheaded the move away from ethnic discrimination in immigration laws, not English-speaking settler states. Notwithstanding this record, massive migrations from a diversity of geographical origins transformed historically discriminatory states after World War II. The Pew Research Center recently noted that while in 1960 the population of the United States was 85% white, by 2060 it will be 43% white, a change mostly attributable to the more than 40 million immigrants who arrived since 1965, primarily from Latin America and from Asia.
On page 99 we ask why U.S. immigration law at the close of the 19th century restricted the entry of black and Asian immigrants but did not discriminate against southern and eastern European immigrants, who were considered liminally white and politically threatening. To answer this question, we look at the same factors that we examine formally throughout the Americas and in our case studies, including interest group politics, economics, ideologies of nationalism and racism in the domestic sphere (the “vertical plane” below), and intersections with similar factors in the international domain (the “horizontal plane”). Critical to the book’s argument is a consideration of how policy decisions at one point in time affected domestic and international factors at a subsequent moment (the “temporal” dimension), as well as how the likelihood of one country’s adoption of a policy pattern (e.g. a preference for Europeans) affects the likelihood that another country will adopt a similar policy (i.e. diffusion). The excerpt that follows illustrates how the U.S. case study advances the larger argument:On the vertical plane, Zolberg argues that Democratic congressional dominance from 1835 to 1860, which was fortified by incorporating immigrants into urban political machines, prevented the enactment of nativist policies. On the horizontal plane, the fledgling republic wanted to build up its population to survive attacks from European competitors and expand west. It was not until the republic had become firmly established that policymakers had the luxury of restricting particular groups of Europeans.
Scientific racism on both planes gave a new shine to the old argument that certain races should be barred. Intellectuals in Europe and European settler societies circulated scientific papers and popularized works warning of the perils of race mixing. The most influential ideas originated in France, Germany, and Britain and spread through cultural emulation. In the United States, blacks and Asians were considered to be completely inassimilable, and discussion centered on how much the mixing of different European groups threatened national demographic health. Groups such as Celts and Alpines were considered different “races” with distinctive phenotypes and inherited social and behavioral characteristics.
Racism cut across the class divide on questions of immigration. By the 1880s, the Knights of Labor supported preferences for northern Europeans and restrictions on new sources from southern and eastern Europe. Business interests split. The National Association of Manufacturers opposed restriction, even as Protestant businessmen joined workers in the 2 million-strong American Protective Association that called for anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant measures in the 1890s. Irish and German ethnic lobbies fought against restriction, as did some social reformers.
Literacy tests became the preferred technique for restricting the entry of southern and eastern Europeans. Economist Claudia Goldin argues that literacy tests were motivated by the immigration of less educated groups with lower living standards, not by ethnocentrism, but this is unconvincing. Literacy tests were already an established model for facially neutral restrictions with racist goals, and proponents of tests for immigrants explicitly explained their motivation in racist terms. Mississippi already had adopted literacy tests at the polls to disenfranchise black voters, who were disproportionately illiterate. The Immigration Restriction League founded by Boston intellectual elites promoted a literacy test in the 1896 immigration bill. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, a prominent member of the League, explained its goals: “The literacy test will bear most heavily upon the Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, and Asiatics, and very light, or not at all upon English-speaking emigrants or Germans, Scandinavians, and French.” He invoked the warnings of French racist Gustave Le Bon, whose writings Lodge had encountered on a trip to France the previous year, that racial assimilation between superior and inferior groups would only progress if the numbers of the inferior group were small. [Restrictionists succeeded in implementing literacy tests in 1917, but] To the consternation of nativists, most immigrants from southern and eastern Europe passed the tests and gained admission!
The Page 99 Test: David Cook-Martín's The Scramble for Citizens.