Cultural and Ethics Studies Sample Essay on National Origins Quota System

National Origins Quota System

The national origin quota system was meant to control the quantity and quality of the United States (US) immigrants in order to prevent further erosion of the US society’s ethnic composition. The goal was to be accomplished using three mechanisms, where the first one involved capping the overall number of immigrants allowed in the US in a given year. Secondly, it also favored immigrants from some countries, as it completely excluded others, for instance, those of Asian origin. Finally, the visa screening process screened out some qualified immigrants that were considered unsuitable for the US. Although the quota system reduced the number of immigrants entering the US, it strained the country’s relations with the Asian countries, especially Japan. The immigration restrictions caused shortages in specific areas of the US labor markets that were previously dominated by immigrants, for instance, cheap unskilled labor in the agricultural sector.  Few years after the adoption of the national origins quota system, the US suffered from the Great Depression that discouraged movement of immigrants into the nation. In fact, some immigrants that had been allowed into the US relocated back to their native countries where life was much better. The economic collapse was more effective in reducing immigrants’ population as compared with the national origins quota system. It is evident that the migration system did not benefit the American society very much in terms of preserving their ethnic identities. The reason for this is that the Americanization campaigns undertaken by the country eroded its ethnic identities more than the increase in immigrant populations.

The 1924 Immigration Act was justifiable to some extent, especially as it relate to the American working class population and the country’s natural resources. The negative impacts of the immigrants were evident in the labor market. As compared to the natives Americans, the immigrants provided cheap labor as they readily accepted low wages. They were highly preferred by land and factory owners because their cheap labor reduced their cost of production, thereby increasing profitability of the enterprises. The preference of immigrants in the labor market negatively affected the lives of the American working population, as it increased their unemployment and underemployment levels (Brian and Watts 245-246). While the lives of immigrants continued to improve, the living standards of the unskilled and semi-skilled Americans continued to decline. The American way of life could have been protected mainly through the enactment of strict immigration restrictions that would reduce the availability of cheap labor. The immigrants’ birth rate was higher compared with that of the white Americans. This high rate would have definitely eroded the ethnic identities of the American over the years, as the immigrants would have developed a dominant culture. An article by Madison Grant, who was a lawyer and author, titled “Restriction of Immigration: Racial Aspects” provides an insight into the ethnic frictions that existed between the immigrant groups and the natives. In the article, Grant warned that the “wretched outcasts” entering the US from Europe threatened the conservation of the country’s natural resources (qtd. in Spiro 207). Grant warned that, “if all valleys of the Sierras are to be drowned to irrigate deserts, … if all our rivers and streams must be stripped of their fish and turned into sewers to carry off waste materials for factories, if the land must be gridlocked with rail-roads and highways” (207).

Works cited

Greenberg, Brian, and Linda S. Watts. Social History of the United States. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2009. Print.

Spiro, Jonathan P. Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant. Burlington, Vt: University of Vermont Press, 2009. Print.