6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

Inventing the Immigration Problem: The Dillingham Commission and Its Legacy

In 1907 the U.S. Congress created a joint commission to investigate what many Americans saw as a national crisis: an unprecedented number of immigrants flowing into the United States. Experts—women and men trained in the new field of social science—fanned out across the country to collect data on these fresh arrivals. The trove of information they amassed shaped how Americans thought about immigrants, themselves, and the nation’s place in the world. Katherine Benton-Cohen argues that the Dillingham Commission’s legacy continues to inform the ways that U.S. policy addresses questions raised by immigration, over a century later.

Katherine Benton-Cohen is associate professor of history at Georgetown University.  She is the author of Inventing the Immigration Problem: The Dillingham Commission and Its Legacy (Harvard, 2018), Borderline Americans: Racial Division and Labor War in the Arizona Borderlands (Harvard, 2009), and served as historical advisor to the documentary feature film Bisbee ’17. Benton-Cohen was a fellow at the Wilson Center for Scholars in 2009-2010, and currently serves as an Organization of American Historians (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer.  

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the George Washington University History Department for their support.

Speakers

Moderator

  • Christian F. Ostermann

    Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
    Woodrow Wilson Center
  • Eric Arnesen

    Fellow
    Professor of History, The George Washington University

Speakers