What Did Political Machines Do to Help Immigrants?

Political machines offered immigrants employment, food, money and other basic necessities in the period around the mid-1800s, according to The City University of New York. Political machines provided this aid in exchange for votes.

In order to gain access to many of the public jobs in urban areas, prospective employees had to offer money or political capital to bosses within the political machine, according to The City University of New York. Elected officials controlled public expenditure, so they decided which projects received funding and who was offered contracts. According to The University of Albany, discrimination against immigrants within the general public prevented many immigrants from gaining employment in this period. These immigrants came mainly from European countries, including those that had fought a war with the United States decades earlier. Political machines placed immigrants in low-skilled public works projects as well as offering public education for immigrant children. As immigrants received this assistance from political machines, the organizations also helped them secure citizenship to allow them to cast votes, according to George Washington University.

The tit-for-tat manner in which political machines helped immigrants represented the spoils system of corruption within these organizations. According to the University of Houston, political machines also engaged in bribery, extortion, and other forms of corruption. Though this corruption was a fact of life, the machines did offer a way for disadvantaged groups to gain social and economic stability.