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1891 Concern about Jewish Refugees From Russia Taking Jobs From Americans

Benjamin HarrisonPresident Benjamin Harrison: 1889-1893

“This government has found occasion to express in a friendly spirit, but with much earnestness, to the government of the czar its serious concern because of the harsh measures now being enforced against the Hebrews in Russia. By the revival of anti-Semitic laws, long in abeyance, great numbers of those unfortunate people have been constrained to abandon their homes and leave the Empire by reason of the impossibility of finding subsistence within the Pale to which it is sought to confine them. THE IMMIGRATION OF THESE PEOPLE TO THE UNITED STATES—MANY OTHER COUNTRIES BEING CLOSED TO THEM—IS LARGELY INCREASING AND IS LIKELY TO ASSUME PROPORTIONS WHICH MAY MAKE IT DIFFICULT TO FIND HOMES AND EMPLOYMENT FOR THEM HERE AND TO SERIOUSLY AFFECT THE LABOR MARKET, WHICH IS ESTIMATED THAT OVER 1,000,000 WILL BE FORCED FROM RUSSIA WITHIN A FEW YEARS. The Hebrew is never a beggar; he has always kept the law—life by toil—often under severe and oppressive civil restrictions. It is also true that no race, sect, or class more fully cared for its own than the Hebrew race. But the sudden transfer of such a multitude under conditions that tend to strip them of their small accumulations and to depress their energies and courage is neither good for them nor for us.

The banishment, whether by direct decree or by not less certain indirect methods of so large a number of men and women is not a local question. A decree to leave one country is in the nature of things an order to enter another—some other. This consideration, as well as the suggestion of humanity, furnishes ample ground for friendship for that Government cannot fail to give the assurance that our representations are those of a sincere wellwisher.”

Source: President Benjamin Harrison 1891 – State of the Union Address

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