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In the first two parts of this series (part 1 here and part 2 here), we looked at records on the Bureau of Immigration’s crackdown on radicals during and after World War I. In part three, we look at two of the more radical elements targeted by the Bureau of Immigration: the publishers and subscribers to the Subversive Chronicle, and the members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

The Cronaca Sovversiva, or Subversive Chronicle, was considered especially threatening. Published by the Italian radical Luigi Galleani in Lynn, Massachusetts, it served as the mouthpiece for the Circolo di Studi Sociali. Galleani was an avowed proponent of violent anarchism, and his followers both urged violence and carried it out themselves, though Galleani apparently never participated.

After a wave of bombings in 1919, Galleani and eight followers were arrested and deported to Italy. Giovanni Eramo, whose case also appears in this collection, served as Galleani’s publisher, and was likewise charged with advocating anarchy; he was initially released with a small fine, but continued to aid Galleani and was apprehended again. Raffaele Schiavina was another one of Galleani’s close collaborators, acting essentially as assistant editor of the Cronaca, while Giuseppe Solari was a bookseller and financial supporter.

After raiding Galleani’s offices in June 1917 and February 1918, the authorities found subscription lists for the Cronaca, and they used this information in subsequent deportation cases. Indeed, some cases from Washington indicate that the person was apprehended solely because his name was found on the Cronaca subscription list, though more often they had also been associated with the Circolo di Studi Sociali in Seattle, which maintained a large collection of Cronaca and other anarchist literature.

Case file 54379, meanwhile, focuses almost exclusively on IWW members, rather than Cronaca subscribers or members of the Union of Russian Workers. Almost all of the cases involve suspected IWW members arrested in Seattle after a general strike in January 1918. These IWW members were a diverse lot, including Irish, British, Russian, Austrian, Swedish, and Norwegian immigrants. Although most of them were not accused of carrying out acts of sabotage, they were questioned at length on whether or not they agreed with IWW positions regarding sabotage. This line of attack was codified later that year with the passage of a new immigration law (October 1918), which authorized the expulsion of aliens who, at any time after entry into the United States, had joined any organization “that teaches or advocates the unlawful destruction of property.”

Since the IWW did indeed advocate sabotage, immigration officials could use the new law as a threat to force IWW members to live up to the terms of their parole. As a lawyer for one of the men complained, “Perhaps in no other section of the American Republic do people receive such unjust punishment as foreigners are receiving who happen to be found in the Northwest and who hold membership in the [IWW].” Despite this, most accused IWW members seem to have met the conditions of their parole and their arrest warrants were ultimately canceled. It is our great fortune that the records they left behind help to illuminate the experience of immigration in the early twentieth century.

On the whole, this Immigration collection in ProQuest History Vault demonstrates that immigration officials were not interested in deporting immigrants indiscriminately; they usually required proof that the person under scrutiny was a threat, most often for supporting violent anarchism. They always questioned the subjects carefully, and in the absence of contradictory evidence, usually accepted claims of innocence. Only those who had actively and persistently advocated violence or the overthrow of the U.S. government were kicked out, including Italian immigrants who subscribed to the Cronaca Sovversiva and Russian immigrants who belonged to the Union of Russian Workers. Membership in the IWW, meanwhile, was not an automatic ticket to deportation: again, immigration officials needed actual proof of dangerous activities or beliefs.

In our current immigration environment, it is quite interesting to read these cases that are now almost 100 years old, and to consider any lessons learned or similarities and differences with the recent debates over immigration into the United States.

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Librarians: learn more and sign up for free trials of ProQuest History Vault modules. Plus, learn about complementary resources including ProQuest Executive Branch Documents, new ProQuest Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations 1789-2014 releasing soon, ProQuest Digital U.S. Bills and Resolutions, 1789-Present, and ProQuest Historical Newspapers™.

06 Aug 2014

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