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Dillingham Commission

Theodore Roosevelt

Dillingham Commission: Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th American President who served in office from September 14, 1901 to March 4, 1909. One of the important events during his presidency was the Immigration Act of 1907 which established the Dillingham Commission.

Definition and Summary of the Dillingham Commission
Summary and definition:
The Immigration Act of 1907 created of a commission (Dillingham Commission) to review U.S. immigration policy. The Dillingham Commission was formed in response to ever increasing political concerns about the effects of immigration in the United States and to report on the social, cultural, physical, economic, and moral welfare of the nation.

The detailed 41 volume report by the Dillingham Commission was completed in 1911. The Dillingham Commission report concluded that immigration from southern and eastern Europe posed a serious threat to American society and culture and should therefore be greatly reduced.

Dillingham Commission for kids: What was the Dillingham Commission?
The Dillingham Commission (1907-1911) was established as part of the Immigration Act of 1907 to create a committee with the power to investigate and report on the effects of the increased levels of immigration to the United States.

Reason for the Dillingham Commission: Nativism
The reason for the Dillingham Commission was due to the rise in Nativism in America, a belief that the interests of established US residents should be given a favored status compared to new immigrants.  The rise in belief in Nativism was due to the massive increase in immigration (between 1901 - 1910, a total of 8,795,386 immigrants were to arrive in the US). Nativism was also fueled by city riots (immigrants were blamed) and the fear of anarchy due to the 1901 President McKinley Assassination. The assassination of the president had a profound effect on Americans who became increasingly concerned about the spread of Marxism (a form of communism) that had started in Russia and encompassed an economic and political philosophy that advocated revolution and anarchy (hence the 1901 Anarchist Exclusion Act).

Dillingham Commission for kids: Who were the members of the Dillingham Commission?
The Dillingham Commission was a joint committee made up of politically motivated members of the House of Representatives and Senate together with three unelected representatives with specific knowledge on the subject of immigration. The committee was known as the Dillingham Commission after its chairman, William P. Dillingham, the Republican Senator of Vermont. The unelected members were William R. Wheeler, California Commissioner of Immigration, Charles P. Neill from the Department of Labor and Jeremiah W. Jenks from Cornell University. Hundreds of research experts on immigration and industry, reporting to members of the Dillingham Commission, also contributed to the Immigration report.

The Dillingham Commission Report for kids: What did the Dillingham Commission do?
The Dillingham Commission produced a 41 volume report on Immigration with its effects on important industries including mining, steel, iron, textiles, meat processing, leather, glass and tobacco. The Dillingham Commission Report and incorporated thousands of pages of exhaustive research that provided statistical information and analyses of subjects related to:

  • Immigrant occupations

  • Living conditions of immigrants

  • Immigrant education

Facts on immigration legislation at state and federal level together with details of social and cultural organizations were also detailed in the Dillingham Commission Report. The highly influential anthropologist Franz Boas (1858 – 1942), who has been called the "Father of American Anthropology", was also an important contributed to the Dillingham Commission Report.

Dillingham Commission for kids: A Dictionary of Races of People
Jeremiah Whipple Jenks (1856–1929) was an American educator and economist. He worked with his key assistant, anthropologist Daniel Folkmar to discover ‘whether there may not be certain races that are inferior to other races... to show whether some may be better fitted for American citizenship than others.’ Jenks and Folkmar produced 'A Dictionary of Races of People' as one of the key contributing Reports of the Immigration Commission (Volume 5) which classified immigrants in racial terms.

The Dillingham Commission Report: "Old immigrants" and "New immigrants"
The Dillingham Commission Report made distinctions were made between "old immigrants" and the more recent "new immigrants". The report favored "old immigrants" who had come from North and West of Europe and opposed "new' immigrants" who came from the east and south of Europe and other parts of the world. For additional facts refer to the differences between Old and New Immigration.

The Dillingham Commission Report Conclusions
The Dillingham Commission Report was summarized in Volume 1 by William P. Dillingham. He was obviously one of the politically motivated members of the committee and selected specific areas of the report to highlight the need for immigration restriction.  Using the content of the report William P. Dillingham was able to provide a scientific argument to recommend Immigration restriction to the United States. The Dillingham Commission report was completed in 1911 and concluded that immigration from southern and eastern Europe had resulted in a massive influx of inferior, uneducated and unskilled workers who failed to integrate with Americans, thus posing a serious threat to American society and culture and the number of such migrants should therefore be greatly reduced.

Dillingham Commission for kids: Immigration Restriction Recommendations
The Dillingham Commission recommendations were that new immigration legislation should “look especially to the economic well-being of our people” and that:

  • That American industry should not be advanced by employing unskilled labor to the detriment of wage levels and conditions of employment of Americans

  • Immigration from China, Japan and Korea should continue to be restricted

  • The further further immigration restrictions should be placed on unskilled immigrants

  • That a literacy test should be introduced

  • The deportation of immigrants who committed crimes and those immigrants who became 'public charges' dependent on the financial support from the government

Dillingham Commission Report Conclusions: The Dillingham Flaw
The content of the Dillingham Commission Report established a false, artificial and totally biased view of "old immigrants" and "new immigrants". The unfair comparisons are referred to as the 'Dillingham Flaw'. The 'Dillingham Flaw' was due to the use of simplistic categories for various immigrant groups that led to an unfair comparison of "old" and "new” immigrants". No account was taken of the rapid, unplanned Urbanization of America and the squalid living conditions forced on new immigrants. No account was taken of the short time spent in America compared to "old" immigrants, which clearly impacted their education, finances, environment, occupations, and rate of assimilation.

The Impact and Effects of the Dillingham Commission Report
The effects of the Dillingham Commission Report published in 1911 were highly significant and impacted US immigration policy for many years. The Dillingham Commission Report was published and the Dictionary of Races of People exerted a massive impact on US Immigration. No recognition or consideration was made for the 'Dillingham Flaw'.

  • In 1913 the Bureaus of Immigration and Naturalization were created

  • In 1914 The Eugenics Movement emerged influencing US Immigration Policy

  • In 1917 another Immigration Act was passed denying entry to Immigrants from Eastern Asia and the Pacific Islands

  • In 1921 the First Quota Act was passed into US law limiting the number of immigrants from specific countries

  • In 1924 the Border Patrol was established to combat illegal immigration.

  • In 1924 the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act reduced immigration quotas

US American History
1881-1913: Maturation Era

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