Questions about the role of the state, interest groups, and racial prejudice in determining the character of American society by controlling who is allowed to enter the country are important. But this emphasis on immigration policy misses an equally important question: What about immigrants already living in the United States? This book examines a group of Americans who attempted to answer that question 100 years ago. It looks at how four states with large immigrant populations—New York, California, Massachusetts, and Illinois—purposefully sought to “Americanize” their foreign-born residents, the social welfare policies they developed between 1908 and 1929 to do so, and the theories of citizenship and national identity used to justify these policies. The connection of citizenship and assimilation to social welfare shaped the policies that these states developed and determined the survival of Americanization programs in the face of changing political contexts.
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