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Lessons From the Immigration Histories of Midwestern Cities

September 20, 2017 (1 min read)

CCGA, Sept. 18, 2017 - "Cities of the American Midwest were largely built by immigration. Immigrants and their children were a key component of the population growth these cities experienced in the early decades of the last century. In the 1920s, however, the federal government essentially shut off immigration to the United States for a multi-decade period lasting until the 1960s.

This analysis explores how the federal immigration cutback acted as a tourniquet on the growth of 13 large Midwestern cities. Although factors such as suburbanization and migration south and west drew population from these cities, the loss of immigration was a serious blow that contributed to decades-long stagnation and declines in the numbers of residents. Only in the last few decades did immigrant populations begin to rebound in the cities, helping to stabilize ongoing loss of natives.

Today, national policymakers are once again considering deep, new cuts to legal immigration levels, including the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order from the White House, which calls for an administrative review of the immigration system, to the Senate’s Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (“RAISE”) Act and its House companion bill, the Immigration in the National Interest Act , which purport to halve legal immigration by legislating a selective points-based admission system.

But Midwestern cities have a special tale to tell about cuts to immigration. Contemporary versions of restrictive 1920s-era legislation will deprive many Midwestern cities of a major source of new residents and would constitute a major blow to their revival."