Immigration by Data

According to data found in the National Archive file 55,775-593, the number of immigrants from each demographic matches the common preconception. The document in question records the demographics of immigrants from 1922 to 1931 and provides concrete evidence of immigration trends. Notably, the document shows a steep drop in the number of total immigrants after 1924, which correlates with the passing of the National Origins Quota Act, which applied limits to the number of immigrants from each area. Additionally, the document shows a decline in immigration prior to the 1930s, associated with the Great Depression and the reduction of the outside workforce. Unfortunately, this document does not break down the number of immigrants by the port of entry nor by the nation of origin so it is difficult to tell if the number of South Asians immigrants matched the overall trend for immigration. Other documents in this file record the demographic breakdown of immigrants in 1930 and 1931. These documents show that immigration during those two years was dominated by immigrants from Germany, the U.K., and the Irish Free State. 

Of particular interest to this research project is the number of Asian immigrants, specifically those of South Asian origin. According to the documents in this file, the number of total Asian immigrants was 1,424. Of that number, only 78 were from South Asia. The number of Asian immigrants is quite low, in accordance with the Quota Act, which drastically limited the number of and type of Asian immigrants who could come to the United States. Paradoxically, in the 1929 record of immigrants, there were far fewer total categories and as such there was only one category for all Asians. In the record of immigrants in 1930, however, the amount of categories increases, breaking up the ‘Asian’ category into further subcategories, such as ‘Indian’ and ‘Chinese.’ This difference in categorization shows there was some bureaucratic effort in 1930 to better record the nation of origin for immigrants.[1] This data, while not wholly specific to South Asian immigration studies, does help give perspective to the period.

[1] File 55,775-593, Subject and Policy Files, 1893-1957, Records of Immigration and Naturalization Services, RG 85  (National Archives, Washington, DC).

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