Cover: Inventing the Immigration Problem: The Dillingham Commission and Its Legacy, from Harvard University PressCover: Inventing the Immigration Problem in HARDCOVER

Inventing the Immigration Problem

The Dillingham Commission and Its Legacy

These days virtually all historians revile and reject the Dillingham Commission. Benton-Cohen reveals, however, that the Dillingham reports, which did not always support the Commission’s recommendations, tell us a lot about a time, not unlike our own, of ‘simultaneous suspicion and celebration of immigrants, fear of government power and confidence in public policy, need for manual labor’ and concern about wages and jobs for so-called Anglo-Saxon Americans.—Glenn C. Altschuler, The Forward

In 1907, Congress authorized the largest study of immigrants in American history. Though many may not know of the Dillingham Commission, Benton-Cohen ably examines the bipartisan special committee and its abstract purpose… Benton-Cohen places the committee in its historical context, demonstrates the emergence of the social norms during the Progressive Era, and successfully relays how immigration policies of the early 1900s still resonate today.—William D. Pederson, Library Journal (starred review)

An innovative interpretation of how the production of knowledge about immigration a century ago not only generated support for immigration restriction but also deepened the federal government’s reliance on social science research to support policymaking, thereby shaping views of immigration for the next century. I enthusiastically recommend this book.—Donna R. Gabaccia, author of Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective

This is a landmark work about a critical turning point in the history of the ‘nation of immigrants.’ In graceful prose, Katherine Benton-Cohen tells how a powerful body of government investigators defined which newcomers were a ‘problem’ and which were not. This set forth policies that radically changed the demography and culture of America. In another era of intense conflict over immigration, there could be no more relevant or timely study.—Michael Kazin, author of War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914–1918

The work of the Dillingham Commission opened wide a window on early-twentieth-century immigration. Benton-Cohen details the migration experience as well as the role of the social sciences employed to analyze the wealth of data collected. She also shows how Congress used the commission’s conclusions to expand federal control over America’s peopling. Immigration scholars will find her study indispensable, but this rich book offers insight to anyone wanting to comprehend immigration policy challenges past and present.—Alan M. Kraut, author of Silent Travelers: Germs, Genes, and the “Immigrant Menace”

Historians have long understood that ‘immigrants were American history.’ This book is a timely reminder that immigrants are also America’s present and future. By locating the development of immigration rules in the global context of the early twentieth century and in domestic conflicts over race, ethnicity, and religion, Benton-Cohen demonstrates the mix of ‘simultaneous suspicion and celebration’ of migrants that remains at the core of today’s conflicts.—Judith Resnik, Yale Law School