Immigration to America from anothercountry was a very scary and overwhelming process. The individuals who packedtheir belongings and left their home countries in order to obtain morefreedoms, opportunities, and new lives for themselves and their families, werequite remarkable to say the least. Immigrants in American history have alwaysfaced obstacles; they have been discriminated against, mistreated, labeled,stereotyped, forced to work the worst jobs, forced to accept the lowest pay,and they were faced with many other disadvantages, but they kept on, asperseverance has always been one of the most notable traits that immigrantsobtain.
Immigrants have truly cultivated society into what it has become todayand without their work ethics, persevering attitudes, and strong-willed minds,the nation wouldn’t truly be able to call itself America, which has always beena place of freedom and opportunity. Though immigrants have faced manyhardships, Some ways that immigrants enteredAmerica was through the main port cities. Some of these ports included the portof Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and many others.
Immigrants were able to arrive here thanks mostly to transportation by thesteamship. The most popular and very well-known “immigration station” includedthe bustling Ellis Island, located in the port of New York City. Between1880-1930, almost 30 million immigrants entered America (12 million of the 27million who entered the country, entered through Ellis Island).
Undocumented immigrantsthat arrived before the creation of the immigration stations aren’t evenincluded in this number, especially since even the first American settlersthemselves were fleeing prosecution from England, and found refuge in thiscountry.However, entering America as animmigrant was a lengthy and tedious process. Immigrants went through manyscreening tests in which government employees and physicians inspected them forany transmittable diseases, their mental health, their intent to enter thecountry, and other personal questions that were tailored to the type ofimmigrant. The reason the process was quite lengthy was simply because theemployees who managed the immigration stations (who worked for the governmentas these structures were government funded), wanted to protect the country fromthose who had any intent to harm themselves or others after arrival. Theydecided to make this screening mandatory as for the most part, immigrants cameto America in large waves of people. Thanks to the Naturalization Act passed in1790, (http://encyclopedia.
densho.org), white, free, male immigrants were ableto become citizens of the U.S.
after two years of being accepted into thecountry (though it was not perfect as it left out indentured servants, slaves,and women, it was a step in the right direction to giving immigrant’s rights). An event that attracted manyimmigrants to America was Westward expansion (or Manifest Destiny). In Westwardexpansion, many immigrants found work constructing railroads throughout the country.After hearing word of the Gold Rush in California, the West became even more ofan adventure for immigrants and Americans alike (www.sutori.com). Duringperiods when America had a prospering economy, immigrants were welcomed andrelied on for their hard work and tenacity with the goal of accumulating moneyto support their families.
It is stated that, “In 1863, despite the extraworkers’ tax and the raging Civil War, the Central Pacific hired Chineselaborers to construct the first transcontinental railroad. The Union Pacific,meanwhile, hired mainly Irish laborers, and by 1869, both lines had met atPromontory Summit, Utah. Continuous train travel from coast to coast was nowpossible.” Sadly, as expressed by the political party in the 1850’s, the Know-Nothings,immigrants were just in the country to steal jobs from Americans.
In actuality,many groups of immigrants had very good reasoning for coming into the country;they weren’t there to just steal from the American public. For example,Mexicans fled from their home country to America after being victimized by theMexican Revolution in 1917 (www.loc.gov), Armenian families were desperate forrefuge due to the Armenian Massacre in Turkey (in which over one million peoplewere murdered throughout 1914-1923)(www.armenian-genocide.org), Irishimmigrants looked for safety in America as there was a Potato Famine in Ireland(in which over 1.5 million people were killed between the years of 1840-1850) (www.history.
com).But even when these individuals arrived at America, they did not live easylives in the slightest. As previously stated, immigrantscame in massive numbers some years, but other years, they trickled in slowly.In 1907, for example, roughly 1.25 million immigrants traveled into America,and after being processed, began their new lives. Immigrants fled to Americawhen tragedies struck in their home countries (there was a massive influx of500,000 Irish immigrants in the 1840’s and 1850’s; when the Potato Famine wasoccurring). To jump forward in time, during the 1940’s and 1950’s, Americafaced a “Red Scare”, in which skeptics emerged who accused individuals(especially those who were entering the country) of being Communist.
This was avery scary accusation as America was in the Cold War between the Soviet Union(a Communist nation) at this time. Due to the Red Scare, only 225,206immigrants entered America, which was considered to be a deficit in terms ofthe grand scheme of immigration through Ellis Island. The first immigrants to enter thecountry were mainly from areas such as Germany, Scandinavia, England, Ireland,mad many other European countries. Later on, immigrants began flocking to theUnited States from countries mostly from Southern and Eastern Europe.
Sadly,entering the country began to become increasingly harder over time. Nativistsemerged from the moment that immigrants began entering the country. As sad asit is to recall, discrimination existed everywhere. The Asian immigrantsspecifically, had a very hard time assimilating to the culture. This wasbecause many acts were passed against them, including the Chinese Exclusion Act(created in 1882), which placed a 10-year prohibition on Chinese immigrationinto the states. A gentleman’s agreement was made with Japan in the early 1900’s,which deepened resentment of the Asian immigrants and made it even harder forthose who previously entered the country to connect with their families, whowere supposed to have met them after some stability was obtained.
After WorldWar I in 1914, the Asian immigrants were not the only ones who became excluded.Immigration began to become a negative process in the eyes of American’s andsuspicious attitudes regarding foreigners developed. Nationalism surged inAmerica, and many laws were passed to limit the number of immigrants allowed tofind refuge in the United States. When immigrants came into thecountry, they flocked to large cities, where they could easily find jobs in thetextile, steel, coal, and automobile industries. Due to this surge in economicprofit and the increase in the work force, the United States became known asone of the “economic powerhouses” (www.
sutori.com). The workers lives were not asprosperous however. Immigrants were payed very low wages and were crammed intoapartments and tenement houses, in which there was no running water, poorventilation, and extremely unsanitary conditions. Due to these said conditions,disease spread quickly and spread to massive amounts of the people that livedin these shabby spaces, the immigrants. A downside to immigration is thesurplus of homeless children; known as Street Arabs, the children begged on thestreets and had nowhere to go as they were either abandoned (because immigrantsgot paid so little and couldn’t afford anything) or, they got lost in a newcity (because their parents would be working so much that they would havelittle to no supervision). Some Americans, however, saw thenecessity to help these immigrants and did their part to step in.
Jane Addams,for example, created a home known as the Hull House. The Hull House created anarea in which poor immigrants were offered services (such as a service where theirchildren would be watched while they worked 14-hour work days), or evenopportunities for education or speech therapy. As time rolled on, the GreatDepression was a huge factor which forcibly made immigrants return to theirhome countries, sometimes against their own will. This was because the ideathat immigrants stole jobs was still having a profound impact on someAmericans. Even in World War II, when refugees were crying out for help fromNazi persecution, many were turned away due to the restrictive laws andnativist attitudes.
When the United states went into World War II, immigrantswho were there for years were punished if their nationality was affiliated withthat of the Central Powers (including Germany, Italy, Japan, etc.) For example,an Enemy Alien Control Program was created to find and detain immigrants whose’nationalities were affiliated with that of the central powers. Over 11,000Germans (many who were deemed to be ultra-nationalists for Germany but who wereactually Americans with a German great-grandparent for example) were detainedduring the war to “protect the public”. Italian immigrants andItalian-Americans were also detained by this same group. They had to carry I.
D,their travel was restricted, more than 1600 were arrested, and more than 250were placed in military camps. However, these groups did not suffer half asmuch as the Japanese did under “Executive Order 9066” which stated thatJapanese-Americans or direct Japanese immigrants had to be forcibly moved intoWCAA centers (Wartime Civil Control Administration Assembly Centers) because ofthe bombing in pearl harbor in 1942. The executive order forced Japaneseindividuals to leave their homes and go into internment camps, while manydidn’t do anything to provoke this punishment, but were rather imprisoned fortheir ethnicity. Inconclusion, immigrants have faced many acts of hardship and discrimination inAmerica. Due to their persevering attitudes however, we have formed the Americathat thrives as a unified nation today. If not for immigrants, Americans wouldnot be exposed to the many wonderful cultures, traditions, goods, ideas, andmany other premises that diversifies it today.
Though immigrants faced a longand hard struggle to get the respect that they earned, they finally have, andthey currently make up 13.5 and 11.7 percent of the American population(foreign born immigrants and American born citizens with a foreign-bornparent).
It has been stated that “Immigrants make up significant shares of theU.S. workforce in a range of industries, accounting for over 41 percent of allfarming, fishing, and forestry workers—as well as nearly 25 percent of thoseworking in computer and math sciences. As workers, business owners, taxpayers,and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of the country’s diverse andthriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.” (www.americanimmigrationcouncil.
org), which truly encapsulates theimportance of immigrants in American society today and reminds us of the featsthat they accomplished 100 years ago.