Immigration the year 1000. Spaniards were the

      Immigration is closer than you think, in California alone there is a total of 4,282,000 Immigrant families. Of that 4,282,000 70% of them are Mexican. The driving question of this research was”What Role Does Immigration Play in the American Story?” In this essay I’ll tell you about the four main waves of immigration and their effects on our lives today. By the end of this essay I hope you begin to understand that immigration is the American story. Once we are able to understand that only then will our minds begin to open up to the idea of immigration and the immigrant people.       Before the first major wave of immigrants people were only trickling in little by little. The first people who traveled to America were the Vikings who came in the year 1000. Spaniards were the first people to bring European customs to what is now known as America.

At first the natives saw these newcomers as those of a higher power but that soon changed. Spaniards took notice to the jewels and well crafted tools of the Natives and started claiming riches for themselves. They started colonies and started spreading Christian faith. Once word spread to Europe even more people started coming. Most Europeans came to America in search of freedom whether that be religiously, politically or economically.

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As these new Europeans settled most became farmers which made it harder for disease to spread because of all the land between each property. This kept the death rates in the new land low and as more people kept coming soon the Native people were outnumbered by immigrants. As people start to come in bigger numbers the first wave begins.        The first wave begins in 1790 and lasts until the 1820s. During the first wave of immigration the majority of people who came were either European or African. People from Europe came in search of economic opportunities because during the period of aristocratic control of wealth and power they didn’t give much opportunity to the majority of people who wanted to advance economically. Some people came to America because people had way more say so in the political system whereas Europeans of this period were still ruled by Kings and aristocrats. The largest group of immigrants were Indentured servants, poor people, debtors, and petty criminals who couldn’t afford passage so instead they entered into a contract to work for a master for 4-7 years by the end of which they would be given passage.

Once these indentured servants finished their time people started replacing them with African immigrants. Nearly 800,000 African Slaves were brought over to the US in 1808. Once slave numbers hit an all time high in 1808 the congress was given power to ban slave trade and they did. By the end of the first wave in 1820 it was estimated that population of immigrants in America was around 1 million.  This wave comes to a close as the numbers of immigrants are high but the next wave would end up bringing even more immigrants over.

        The second wave began in 1820 and lasted until 1880. A total of 15.3 million immigrants came during this time period. Immigrants came from Ireland, Europe, China, Asia and Germany. Scandinavians also came from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and settled in the upper Midwest after the Civil War to work small farms. The Irish immigrated in 1840s-1850s in hope of escaping the famine that Ireland was experiencing.

The Asian and Europeans came to US because of issues pushed then from home so they came in search of gold during the California gold rush. the invention of clipper ships and railroads made it easier for people to come to the US so many people saw this as a good opportunity to escape from their homelands and chase the American dream. Word was spreading that America was a safe place and a land of further opportunities for immigrants so that drew them here.

Once they arrived they were met with a different feeling than expected. The immigrants were resented by “Americans” for many different reasons. There was religious resentment because many Americans were against the catholic beliefs of the new immigrants and saw the pope as an Antichrist. They even saw the Catholics as religious terrorists.

They saw the immigrants as a threat, they were stealing American jobs because their labor was cheaper. Most Americans during this time were farmers and saw the growth of the cities at fault of the new immigrants. They saw the cities and immigrants as a threat to American social order. “Americans” saw their culture as the best so when this new wave of immigrants came along with their customs the saw it as threatening to the American way of life.

People really didn’t like these new immigrants I mean there was even a political party against them. The party was called the “Know Nothings”. They were called the know nothings because they were sworn to secrecy and would answer questions with a simple “I know nothing “. This political group succeeded in electing six governors and several congressmen. The popularity of the know nothings plummeted due to the civil war. The civil war created a low point in immigration during this wave. Once war was over restrictions were tightened on immigration and came the Yellow Peril.

The Yellow Peril refers to the way Asian-Americans were perceived. They were seen as threats. Laws were passed both locally and statewide to discriminate against Asian-Americans.

In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which kept them from entering America. This tone of the second wave set the even worse restrictions that the third wave immigrants were to face.       After the second wave came the third which proved to be the highest point of immigration and lasted from 1880-1930.

During this wave Mexican immigrants who were victimized by the revolution came to America in search of freedom. Jews came to America fleeing the pogroms found in Eastern Europe and Russia. Armenians trying to escape massacres in Turkey found refuge in America. In the 1900s over 80% of immigrants came from  Southern and Eastern Europe which included Italy, Russia, Austro-Hungary. People were push from their homelands for many different reasons including religious persecution, lack of food, lack of and mechanization farmland as well as high population growth in their homelands. People chose to come to America because the large amounts of available land alongside overall freedom both economically and religiously.

Booming industries in steel and railroads provided the incoming immigrants the security of a job.       The great picture of America many immigrants had in their head was soon destroyed by the thought of Ellis island. First and second class passengers we able to walk right into New York City from the Hudson River piers bit for many others this was only the beginning of a long road. Third class and steerage passengers had to pass multiple medical and psychological tests to prove they we “fit” for America. They basically had someone monitoring their every move starting as soon as they stepped foot off the ships.

These people were looking for anything to keep the immigrants from getting into America. If they saw something they thought was out of line an immigrant he/she was marked then was sent away for further testing basically. About 20% of immigrants were detained on Ellis island for a period of time but 98% made it onto US soil.

       Most immigrants from the third wave settled into small urban areas where it was cheaper to live. Many immigrants were outcasts in America so they would settle in big groups of the same heritage and ethnicities, this is why there are places like little Italy and little Poland. The so called “native Americans” accused this new wave of immigrants of stealing their jobs. Immigrants were seen as racially inferior and uneducated. Landlords would refuse to rent to them and employers would refuse to hire them. The government provided no help to these people so they searched for help from Immigrant Aid Societies of churches or ethnic organizations such as the Sons of Italy or Polish National Alliance.

As time continued to pass the gates of Ellis island started to close resulting in more and more laws passed to stop immigration. These laws affected mainly Southern and Eastern Europeans and caused a major drop in immigration totals. After a drop in immigration from 1930-1965 the fourth wave begins.       The fourth wave is still happening in the current day and began in 1965 after the great internal migration. During this wave it is estimated that more than 30 million legal immigrants came.

This is also the point in time when we started having issues illegal immigration, and anywhere from 8-20 million illegal immigrants. A lot of illegal immigrants would overstay what their visas allowed because they were poor and desperate for money. Most legal immigrants were from Latin America and Asia.

People came from both Cuba and Southeast Asia in attempt to escape war. Many professional such as doctors, nurses and hi-tech specialists came to America because there was and still is a policy that gave them preference or first go basically. This surge in highly trained professional immigrating is often referred to now as the brain drain. Other than war many people came to America trying to escape governmental repression, rising population pressures and terrible poverty within the less developed countries. People came to America in search of economic opportunities.

Plus with the invention of airplanes that can shorten the journey and more ways to enter rather than having one entry point the actual moving from country to country was easier on the immigrants.         With the rise in immigration the government began to step in more often to help regulate and make it easier. President Lyndon Johnson signed this act into place on October 3 1965.

This was the act that stopped what many called the racist quota system. It created a raise in immigration totals and allowed about 300,000 per year. Due to this law legal immigration numbers increased to 3.3 million in the 1960s.

That number keeps rising slowly. Today that number is about one million per year. In 1986 the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed and it attempted to stop the large number of new illegal immigrants all while granting residence to existing illegal immigrants who wanted a chance to become legal US residents. As more and more illegal immigrants started to enter America they obviously were hired by employers because they did hard labor for cheaper wages. During the 2000s era the rising numbers of US unemployment rates along with the rising number of immigrants created a nativist anti-immigrant backlash. Vigilante groups started to patrol the borders and anti-immigrant legislation was passed that requires police to check people’s immigration status.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act also allowed the government to fine any employer 10,000 dollars for every illegal immigrant they employed. Overall the ways and systems for immigration have changed a lot but there’s still a lot of progress to be made.       Most of the fourth wave immigrants settled in California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. These states have over 70% of the immigrant population. California received immigrants from the Asian mainland and, Mexico, the Philippines and Central America. The influence of there cultures can often be seen in the area from the Imperial Valley to Silicon Valley. With the fourth wave came a lot of religious, racial and cultural diversity.

As recently as the 1970 era, the US was still about 85% white, but that number has lowered to about 60% today. Latinos have now overtaken African-Americans as the largest US “minority group.” These are only some of the major effects immigration has on our country but there are many more.      Immigration has been part of America forever. Now that we’ve completed this unit I think I can finally answer the question of “What role does immigration play in the American story?”  America is made up of almost entirely immigrants of some other ethnicity and without them I believe that North America as a country couldn’t function.

They’re all around us and we may not even notice them. They’re the people who do the jobs you won’t and I guarantee you cross paths with at least one a day.  I’ll be honest with you I wasn’t too fond of immigrants when we started but now I respect and am grateful for everything they do for us. I will now stand up for the immigrants because they are part of my story and now I understand that.


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