An historical look at immigration policies in the United States.
Katherine Benton-Cohen studied what the American response to immigration was a century ago. Back in 1917, there was no such thing as an "illegal alien" or even a border patrol. But the question remained — are you an American, or are you not? Who should be excluded, and why?
During the large-scale immigration of the early 20th century, Americans feared the foreign-born would steal jobs, lower wages and threaten American morality and culture. They also feared immigration would weaken what they called the "American race." How has this evolved today?
Benton-Cohen explains how and why a framework for federal immigration policy was established. Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Acts of 1917 and 1924.
Benton-Cohen is an associate professor of history at Georgetown University. She has a forthcoming book on the policy legacies of the Dillingham Commission of 1907-1911, the largest study of immigrants in American history.
Benton-Cohen spoke December 2, 2017 at the Minnesota Historical Society's "History Forum." Her talk was titled, "The Immigration Problem, 1917 and 2017."
To listen to the speech, click the audio player above.