Immigration and Urbanization

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How did Darwinism affect immigration in America? 

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Social Darwinism did indeed affect American immigration policies in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act  restricted Chinese immigration to the United States: for ten years, Chinese laborers were not allowed to enter the United States. After the law expired in 1892, Congress extended the restrictions...

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Social Darwinism did indeed affect American immigration policies in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act restricted Chinese immigration to the United States: for ten years, Chinese laborers were not allowed to enter the United States. After the law expired in 1892, Congress extended the restrictions on Chinese immigration in the form of the Geary Act. Under the Geary Act, immigrants of Chinese descent had to obtain certificates of residence or face deportation.

Meanwhile, Charles Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theory became the basis of a pseudo-scientific movement called eugenics. Eugenicists believed that the human race could be rehabilitated or improved by a process of selective breeding. 

Since those of northern European stock were said to be superior in terms of intelligence, emotional stability, and physical endurance, eugenicists believed that America should admit only immigrants of European descent. The term "eugenics" was first coined by Sir Francis Galton, Darwin's half-cousin. Shockingly, two of the main supporters of the eugenics movement were Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

In 1924, eugenicists were successful in helping to pass the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924. The law created quotas for immigration to the United States. Immigrants from northwest Europe and Scandinavia were allowed to enter in larger numbers than those from eastern and southern Europe. Accordingly, the 1924 law remained in place until it was repealed by the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act.

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Most Americans understood Darwinism as "the survival of the fittest."  It meant that certain organisms were destined to survive based on traits that they already possessed.  Some decided to extend this view of Darwinism to people.  Since America was established by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, followers of Social Darwinism argued that these people were destined to survive.  Immigrants from eastern and southern Europe were seen as sources of menial labor for factories.  Chinese immigrants were looked down upon as inferior, and they faced even greater obstacles to get into the country.  By 1924, there were immigration bans and limiting quotas placed on immigrants from places outside of Western Europe in order to preserve the "American" identity.  There were even drives to promote birth control in immigrant communities in order to ensure that those of Western European ancestry would not be outnumbered by those from southern and eastern Europe.  

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Darwinism explains biological evolution through natural selection, and, although connections can be established with regards to its effect on American immigration, the concepts discussed are likely to remain in contention.

One of the closest connections between Darwinism and American immigration can be made through ideas developed through Social Darwinism. The idea can be employed to suggest that immigration to America was fueled by the need of the people to improve their well-being through access to resources in the New World. 

However, upon arrival to America, the individuals were forced by circumstances to fight for survival, which encouraged their push for self-improvement. Attainment of self-improvement by individuals and groups provided an opportunity for their offspring to inherit the acquired status. However, the fact that not all immigrants had the capacity to access the available resources led to the development of social classes with children inheriting the social class of their predecessors. 

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It seems likely that this question is referring to Social Darwinism, as the biological theory of evolution by natural selection did not have much of an effect on immigration. Social Darwinism, on the other hand, took on racial overtones in the United States and elsewhere. The idea that the white race was "fitter" than others influenced many people in the United States who advocated for immigration restrictions. At various points, American nativists proposed quotas or bans on Chinese, Mexican, and Eastern European immigrants. Social Darwinists influenced by racial theories thought that immigrants from certain races would weaken the United States by intermarrying with Americans and undermining American institutions. These racist fears intertwined with typical concerns about the effect immigrants had on the labor market, the influx of radical political beliefs with immigrants, and other issues. By the 1920s, Congress had banned Chinese immigrants more or less outright, placed restrictions on Japanese immigration, and established immigration quotas intended to restrict the influx of allegedly inferior peoples from Eastern and Southern Europe. 

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