"The Undesirability of Admitting Deaf Mutes": U.S. Immigration Policy and Deaf Immigrants, 1882-1924
Abstract

When the federal government began in the 1880s to regulate immigration, the exclusion of what were termed "defectives" was one of the primary aims. Deaf people were among the thousands of disabled immigrants turned back each year at U.S. ports as "undesirables." Stereotyped as economically dependent and as carriers of potentially defective genes, deaf immigrants were seen as a threat to the nation. The advent of immigration restriction was one aspect of a pervasive and intensified stigmatization of disability during this period, which also saw the widespread incarceration of mentally disabled people in institutions, the sterilization of the "unfit" under state eugenic laws, the suppression of sign language, and a growing tendency to exclude disabled people from social and cultural life.