“Children sleeping on Mulberry Street.” 1890. From Jacob Riis’ book, How the Other Half Lives. Museum of the City of New York.

European immigrants struggled to find housing and good-paying jobs, most settling in densely crowded, racially segregated urban neighborhoods. While some Americans worked to feed impoverished immigrants, many others relied on pseudo-scientific arguments about racial purity to argue that hunger in immigrant neighborhoods proved the new arrivals were “unfit” for citizenship. Fears that the number of immigrants threatened to overwhelm the capacity of the U.S. to feed its citizens resulted in the 1924 National Origins Act, which imposed strict quotas that sharply curtailed immigration from Europe and effectively banned immigration from Asia.

“Street Arabs in Sleeping Quarters,” Jacob A. Riis Museum of the City of New York.

How the Other Half Lives