Today's controversies on this topic are an eerie echo of the debate over immigration and assimilation that gripped the nation in the opening years of the 20th century. Henry James, touring New York City in 1906 after nearly a quarter century in Europe, visited Ellis Island - "the first harbour of shelter and stage of patience for the million or so of immigrants knocking at our official door" (cited in Brimelow 33). The scene was overpowering to James. He wrote that it brought home to the observer "the degree in which it is his American fate to share the sanctity of his American mind, the intimacy of his American patriotism, with the inconceivable alien" (ibid.) James himself now felt alien in his native land, as if the newcomers had taken "settled possession" and natives had lost it - "the implication of which, in its turn, is that, to recover confidence and regain lost ground, we, not they, must make the surrender and accept the orientation" (ibid.).
What James found troubling, others found bracing. In widely read essays and books, Horace Kallen suggested a model of "cultural pluralism" to replace the idea of the melting pot. Writing in the Nation in 1915, Kallen challenged both the fact and wisdom of the assimilation of immigrants to Anglo-Saxon America.