12 Apr 2022


The Debate over Immigration Restriction

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This paper evaluates different sources concerning the debate over immigration restriction. Some scholars are in favor of immigration restriction while others are opposed to it. Some of the topics included in these discussions include unemployment, crime, literacy and racial perceptions towards immigrants. The evaluation is aimed at creating an understanding of the relationship between immigration and these factors as well arriving at a reasonable conclusion concerning immigration restriction. 

Immigration and Unemployment

Statistics indicate that there was less unemployment during the first seven years of the twentieth century when immigration was at a maximum as compared to the following ten years when immigration was at a minimum. Even though an oversupply of labor may result in underemployment, the average number of days of employment per person rises with an increase in immigration and falls with a decline in immigration. 

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According to Hourwich (1915), unemployment and immigration are born out of economic dynamics moving in different directions. When these dynamics promote business expansion, they consequently cut unemployment and attract immigration. On the other hand, those dynamics that tend to increase unemployment and discourage immigration. Thus, it would be inaccurate to claim that an increased immigration leads to increased unemployment. Warne (1916) is, therefore, inaccurate when he claims that a restriction of immigration promises increments in wages, a decrease in the hours of labor, and an improvement in working conditions. Industries would still be compelled, particularly by unions, to pay more reasonable wages, reduce the hours of labor for workers, and improve working conditions regardless of a restriction of immigration. In fact, immigration increase the size of the country’s workforce, which is beneficial, especially for industries that require many workers. 

While the proponents of immigration restrictions claim that Native Americans have been displaced by immigrants in the labor market, the impact of immigration on the American labor market has been a mere reformation of the population regarding occupations ( Mitchell, 1909 ). According to Hourwich (1915), “many of Americans of native parentage are engaged in farming, in business, in the professions, and in clerical pursuits” whereas many immigrants earn their wages in the industries. It is only in a few cases that this readjustment has involved the actual displacement of the native worker. Otherwise, there is barely any statistics to support the idea that the entry of immigrants in the United States labor market has caused the displacement of native workers. 

Immigration and Racial Perceptions

It is clear that much of these immigration restrictions, as seen nine the House and in the press, are founded on the discussion concerning racial differences. The issue of immigration has created a tug of war between those who consider certain races superior to others and those who do not acknowledge any superiority among races. 

The label of “inferior races” was used to identify particular peasant communities, especially Blacks and Latin Americans, who because of isolation and limited opportunities are inherently backward (Addams, 1915). However, such people do not, by virtue of their circumstances, qualify or deserve to be referred to as an inferior group. Furthermore, they do not demonstrate any significant differences to people of other races living under similar circumstances. For instance, there are white communities living in the mountains of Tennessee and Virginia, where people are illiterate and completely unfamiliar with the developments of civilization in other parts of the United States. It has been found that there were individuals who lived in these areas and moved to other more developed areas and blended in. This group is found to demonstrate a capacity to develop that matches those who already lived in the developed areas. This means that in most cases, all one needs is opportunity and exposure in order to develop. Labeling a certain group of immigrants as an inferior race is, therefore, inappropriate and demeaning. 

It was not until the industrial conditions in the United States were addressed that the immigrant was no longer blamed for a situation for which the community was at fault. It is clear that America failed to implement any legislative provisions against racial discrimination in the first decade of the twentieth century as other countries did. This is partly because of average citizens’ perceptions of the “inferior race” and, as a result, lack of action on their behalf. In the end, race does not define one’s capacity for development.

Immigration and Literacy

Proponents of immigration restrictions argue that foreign whites are considerably illiterate as compared to their native counterparts. Furthermore, the children of these immigrants tend to have better access to the countries educational facilities as compared to the children of the natives. This means that if the foreigners were absent, then it would have been the natives who would have been enjoying such facilities. In a country of more than 80,000,000 people, it was unreasonable to admit more foreigners since it was hard enough addressing the burdens of educational facilities in the initial years of the twentieth century. 

Regardless, such statements tend to ignore the fact that the illiteracy of most immigrants is a trait of the country from which they come and not necessarily of the individual. Additionally, it would be inaccurate to claim that the children of immigrants are enjoying the educational facilities and opportunities that the children of the Native Americans would otherwise be enjoying because it is a matter of location. Both immigrants and the most advanced educational facilities are abundant in the North as compared to the South, and the cities as compared to the country. It is hard to establish whether immigrants shun from living in the South and the country just to take advantage of the educational facilities in the North. Thus, it is not accurate to say that they are unfair to the Native Americans. It is merely a coincidence. 

Immigration and Crime

Many scholars have linked immigration with criminality and suggest that it is vital for the country to impose restrictions to immigration in order to address this problem. While it is obvious that the migration of millions of foreigners into the country would increase the rate of crime, there is no evidence that foreigners contribute disproportionately to the crime in the United States. There is not any statistics that support the claim that the foreign-born population contributes more largely to the prison population as compared to the white natives of the same age and gender and living in the same neighborhood. 


From the discussion, it is clear that immigration restrictions would not be effective in solving the problems facing the United States. First, contrary to claims that immigration is responsible for unemployment, it can be seen that immigration and unemployment go hand-in-hand. For instance, there was less unemployment during the initial years of the twentieth century when immigration was at a maximum as compared to the following decade when immigration was at a minimum. Second, it is unjustified to impose immigration restriction because of racial perceptions of the immigrants since there are no inferior or superior races. Third, immigrants occupy cities and northern states and for this reason, have better access to educational facilities; not the other way round. Instead of placing barriers to immigration, one should move to the cities or facilitate development in their own area. Finally, while immigration results in a rise in the rate of crime in the country, there is no evidence that foreigners contribute disproportionately to the crime in the country. 


Isaac A. Hourwich, “Immigration and Labor; a Summary,” in Mary Katherine Reely, ed., Selected Articles on Immigration (H.W. Wilson Company: New York, 1915), pp. 187-196

Jane Addams, “Pen and Book as Tests of Character,” in Mary Katherine Reely, ed., Selected Articles on Immigration (H.W. Wilson Company: New York, 1915), pp. 219-220

Mitchell, J. (1909). Immigration and the American Laboring Classes.  The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 34 (1), 125-129.

Warne, F. J. (1916).  The tide of immigration . New York: Appleton and Company.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). The Debate over Immigration Restriction.


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