Unwanted: Italian and Jewish Mobilization against Restrictive Immigration Laws, 1882–1965
Gustavus Adolphus College
In the late nineteenth century, millions of Italians and Eastern European Jews left their countries to take advantage of the demand for unskilled labor in industrializing nations including the United States. Many Americans of Northern and Western European ancestry regarded these newcomers as biologically and culturally inferior, and by 1924 the United States had instituted national-origins quotas to curtail their immigration. Weaving together political, social, and transnational history, Maddalena Marinari in Unwanted: Italian and Jewish Mobilization against Restrictive Immigration Laws (University of North Carolina Press, 2019) examines how Italian American and Jewish reformers profoundly influenced the country’s immigration policy. Restrictionist legislators, anti-immigrant hysteria, and a fickle executive branch often left these immigrants with few options except to negotiate and accept political compromises. As they tested the limits of citizen activism, the reformers shaped the terms of debate around immigration in the United States in ways we still reckon with today.