How did the Progressive movement affect immigrants?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Progressive movement affected immigrants in a number of ways.  In general, we can say that it tried to help individual immigrants but that it was somewhat opposed to immigrants as a group.

On the individual level, the Progressives wanted to help immigrants.  In particular, they wanted to get the immigrants to be similar to middle class, “native” Americans.  This was, for example, a major goal of the settlement house movement.  The settlement houses were meant to help teach the immigrants more American ways of living.

On the group level, however, the Progressives were not so friendly towards immigrants.  This can be seen in their attitude towards political machines in cities.  The political machines were important to immigrants both politically and in terms of welfare.  The Progressives disliked them because the machines were corrupt.  The Progressives also felt they gave too much power to immigrants who were often not well educated.  The Progressives’ attitude towards immigrants was also seen in the push for Prohibition.  Drinking was associated with lower class immigrants and the Progressives did not approve.  Therefore, they banned alcohol in large part to try to reform these lower class immigrants.

Thus, the Progressives wanted to help individual immigrants, but they were not very interested in doing what the immigrants as a group wanted.

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