Disabusing the ‘Tight Housing Supply’ Narrative
“If Washington was the father of the country and Lincoln the savior of the union, then Theodore Roosevelt was the philosopher of the modern nation. He believed that immigration was central to the question of American identity.”
― Vincent J. Cannato,
American Passage: The History of Ellis Island
As a nation, the United States had never so closely identified with its philosophical roots as the world’s Melting Pot as it did on April 17, 1907. On that day, more than 115 years ago, 11,747 individuals entered the country through Ellis Island. The number processed averaged about 5,000 a day at the time. The Ellis Island Foundation notes that for the full historic month, the Port of New York received 197 ships carrying more than a quarter-million passengers. By the time 1907 drew to a close, nearly 1.3 million entrants had passed through America’s gateway.
The new century brought with it the height of the U.S. Industrial Revolution. At the same time the growing factory sector thirsted for cheap immigrant labor, the Old-World pogroms – organized massacres of Russian and Eastern European Jews – drove millions into America’s open arms; over two million fleeing religious persecution entered in the 40 years ended 1920. Over that same period, economic hardship, mainly in southern Italy, landed more than 4 million on U.S. shores.
It wasn’t until the 1924 passage of the Immigration Act, which staunched the number of immigrants allowed entry into the United States through a national origins quota, that the largest mass human migration in world history was stemmed. In the 62 years Ellis Island was in operation after opening in 1892, more than 12 million immigrants were processed; only 2% were rejected. My grandfather was, thus, lucky on two counts. At the age of two, Gennaro DiMartino arrived at Ellis Island and was promptly diagnosed with polio. That year, 1923, the last before the law made it that much harder to gain entry, only quarantine slowed his passage to one day attaining the American Dream.
Danielle DiMartino Booth is founder and Chief Strategist at Quill Intelligence