The United States has been known to be the home of the free, the “promise lands” and that was the foundation for it, for a while. The more you dig deeper into who lives in America, and where their ancestors originated, you begin to realize that the real foundation of America, is freedom and refuge for immigration. America has always been a spot for immigrants all over to come and start new lives for them. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always easy to enter the United States as an immigrant. This essay will be explaining the important Four Waves of Immigration that has occurred in the American story.Immigration has always been around, It was how the first tribes and such groups were developed 20,000 years ago all around what is now the United States.
These groups were the first Americans who were ancestors of the Native Americans known as Bering Straits. Later on, around the year of 1000, a little group of Vikings arrived. 500 years, the great European migration began and spread across America. Throughout the decades the migration of Europeans continued. These people came in hopes of freedom for political and religious beliefs. Even though the long travel for them caused people to go through 2-3 months of uncomfortable conditions and unhealthy situations, they still came to the new world in search for better lives. Unfortunately, the newcomers brought deadly diseases and violence amongst the Native Americans who had been there first.
Very few encounters between the Europeans and Native Americans were peaceful. Over time, through the 16th Century up to the 17th century, the Spanish ended up creating an establishment in St. Augustine with landscapes that were full of thriving communities.
The British, Dutch, and the Swedish were all living amongst these settlements too. During this time, first Census had counted 3.9 million people in America during the time with English being the largest group there were also the German, Scottish, and the Irish. There were also the African Americans which was 20% of the population. Unfortunately the Census did not count the Native Americans.
In between the time of 1790-1820, approximately more than 1.2 million immigrants were English, African, Scots-Irish, Scottish, German, Dutch, and French. The reasons for these immigrants to come to the United States were for Economic Opportunities, Slavery, Religious and Political Freedom. These groups of Germans, who immigrated were criticised for being the “rejects” or “unwanted” population of their kind.There was the “The Alien Enemies Act” which allowed the President the ability to arrest or expel all aliens that they felt were being “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States.” During this time, the immigrants coming were mostly Protestants from northwestern Europe. Some issues that had occurred for immigrants during this time. Issues like how groups of Germans that had immigrated, were criticised for being the “rejects” or “unwanted” population of their kind.
At this time, there was the “The Alien Enemies Act” which allowed the President to arrest or expel all aliens that they felt were being “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States.” Also, Immigrants who spoke foreign languages were forced to learn english languages Anglo-American cultural norms.During the second wave in between the 1820’s through 1880’s, there was a rise of immigrants due to many different issues and reasons. Such as the Irish coming to escape the potato famine in Ireland during the 1840’s and 1850’s, or the Germans immigrating to leave the economic crisis they went through, behind. A reason for reduced immigration during this time was because of the Civil War, but this still didn’t stop the people from immigrating.
People had immigrated because of talk of better opportunities and work in the United States. Such as the Scandinavians who came for farming land and the Chinese who came to work during the California Gold Rush. Transportation was better during the time with railroads and Ships.
Unfortunately, they weren’t immigrating to the promise lands. Immigrants were accused of stealing jobs from the “real Americans,” causing wages to lower, and increasing unemployment. German and Irish immigrants arrived in large groups adding onto the growth of population. Because they were different from the Anglo-American society, with religion and culture it had resulted in widespread hostility and organized opposition. Riots between Nativist Protestant and Irish Catholic workers became a regular thing during this time because they were believed to be religious terrorists to the subvert american democracy. The chinese had to go through what was called, the “Yellow Peril”. It was when there was so much discrimination against the chinese who immigrated to the United States. During this time, they were seen as a threat and “harmful” to citizens.
Anti-Chinese prejudices would cause riots and mobs against the chinese. There was even a law that looked down upon chinese workers and shopkeepers. Later on, Congressed passed an act that was called the Chinese Exclusion Act that put an end to people immigrating from China over to the United States. The term “Nativism” was used in the 1850’s to describe a group of people who prefer those who were born in America such as the “Know Nothings”.
This was a nativist political group who pledged secrecy, claimed to protect their protestantism against catholicism. And wanted to restrict immigration.They had wanted the elective office to be a native-born only, and require 21 years of naturalization to achieve citizenship. The third wave took place in the 1890s through 1920s.
Immigrants came from mostly Northwestern Europe, such as British Isles, Germany, Scandinavia and Southern and Eastern Europe like Italy, Russia, and Austro-Hungarian. The population of America grew more and more, unfortunately, as well as Xenophobia (fear and hatred of foreigners). These people traveled long and far to the United States for many reasons. Most of the reasons were caused of foreign conflict with in their home countries, like Southern and Eastern European population growing faster than expected, less and less food and jobs available and little to no farmingland. With so much talk of the promos lands being perfect and had everything they could dream of, people fled to the United States. People came in hopes of many opportunities that would be available for them, such as freedom of religion, available farming land, and economic opportunities.
Along with the development of booming industries involved with steel and railroads, jobs were advertised for immigrant workers to come here and earn a job. Because of steamships becoming a new form of transportation, it cut 3-month voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, into a 2 week trip. Unfortunately, those that weren’t blessed with this advantage would have to stay in open areas below ship decks with no private cabin or beds. Instead they slept on rough metal bunks and most often got seasick. Most of the immigration processes all went through Ellis island, New York, the first federal immigration center. Ellis island was the main port of entry for American immigration from 1898 to 1924.
Ellis island wasn’t all wonderful though, immigrants had to wait in long, crowded lines. They had to keep their papers in hand to provide information that they were entitled to gain admittance. This process wasn’t easy either, they often spent hours showing their papers, and went through medical and psychological tests to ensure there were no illiterates, no anarchists,and no contagious disease carriers. 20% of immigrants that went into Ellis Island had to stay longer than expected usually because of a medical condition, but they would be released less than 2 weeks later. Immigration slowed down for a short time while World War One was happening.
After World War One, immigration bloomed and people came from all impacted areas, while Xenophobia proceeded to grow more. Their reasons for being scared of foreigners were because of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the Red Scare bombings of 1919. This was causing people to fear foreigners, while the KKK came back and grew all over the United States. The 1921 Immigration Quota Act when the Kkk demanded a restriction of immigration. Ever since World War One, immigrants were perceived as a threat to people. At some point, the US restricted immigrants from fleeing over here because they were perceived as bad people. Even though laws were changed to restrict Asians from coming over, Canadians and Mexicans could freely come over during this time. When immigrants who had fled to America, searched for housing, they ended up moving into poor urban neighborhoods with the cheapest housing that usually resulted in having to bunk with people of the same ethnic group.
They would started up their own businesses, churches, and restaurants. Unfortunately, some landlords would discriminate them and refused to rent to them because of their race. The same thing happened with certain jobs when employers refused to hire “their kind”. The Government didn’t help either but Immigrant Aid Societies did such as, Sons of Italy and Polish National Alliance. The most recent, and current wave was the “Fourth Wave”, which started in 1965 and has been continuing on to this day. More than 10 million immigrants have been coming throughout the years. The large groups of immigrants coming in, consisted of mostly Latin American and Asian immigrants, such as from:CubanVietnameseChineseFilipinosDominicansIndiansA cause for large groups of refugees immigrating over was because of the Southeast Asian war happening. The United States was known for accepting the most amount of legal immigrants than the rest of the world all together.
With so many immigrants being permanent residents of the US, more family members were eligible to come, causing the overall quota to be increased. In October 3rd, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) with intentions to end “a cruel and enduring wrong,” that was the old quota system. This quota was known to favor immigrants from Northwestern Europe. This new immigration law allowed family reunification and increased it by 76%. It also didn’t pick only specific skilled immigrants, but all individual talents and skills. The number of immigrants allowed in increased by 300,000 per year.
Unfortunately, during this time, there was a huge surge of illegal immigrants coming through as well. These illegal immigrants were very poor and mostly unskilled workers. They were willing to take the lowest-paying jobs. Stayed longer than visas expired or just walk through the US borders without visas.
Some of the many reasons that caused people to want to immigrate over were because of the overgrowth of populations at their home countries, poverty being a main issue in these third world countries, and their governmental economy crashing. People especially came to the United States for its many economic opportunities, and it’s freedom of immigration.With faster transportations, such as jet aircrafts, and less complications for traveling with its low cost, immigrants had an easier time to make it over here. When these legal immigrants came into the US, they would settle in welcoming states such as:California FloridaTexasIllinois PennsylvaniaNew YorkNew JerseyBy 1986, the government had allowed more than 3 million immigrants with the Immigration Reform Act and it led to a decline of immigration in the early 90s, and a start of an anti-immigrant vibe came back. Going back to the huge surge of illegal immigrants that had increased during 1965, these illegal immigrants were perceived as stealing jobs and dangerous. Since it was so easy to illegally immigrating into America during the 80s and 90s, illegal immigration became a constant topic for political debates.
These immigrants were able to enter the United Stated just by traveling through the air, sea, and open land routes through the Canadian and Mexican borders. Because so many people were immigrating illegally, and to deal with the mass amount of illegal immigrants coming in, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) attempted to stop new illegal immigrants. This act allowed existing illegal immigrants, a chance to become legal residents of the United States. This act ended up giving all employers fines up to $10,000 for each illegal immigrant employed they had. Although the IRCA did succeeded in legalizing over two million immigrants, the creation of fake IDs made it difficult to catch the new illegal immigrants.
On Top of that, with insufficient funding given to Immigration and Naturalization Service, it made it so they couldn’t inspect workplaces. So basically, the IRCA didn’t stop employers from hiring illegal immigrants for cheap labor. As time passed by, people began to develop a stereotype, implying that all illegal immigrants were job stealers.
This led to anti – immigrant groups to start patrolling the southwestern borders, as well as increasing border security. With all this happening, it began to increase deportations, resulting in the stop of employers who hired illegal immigrants. The situations caused separations amongst family members and deprived businesses with low- payment jobs from continuing. Even though illegal immigrants were perceived as bad people, immigrants during this wave changed how america was looked at from other countries. Immigrants had turned old, depressing neighborhoods into thriving communities. They brought ethnic and religious diversity amongst all of the United States. America became worldly known as a “Rainbow Society”.
The perspective on immigrants and immigration as a whole, has always changed throughout centuries. It is most often preserved as a negative when it shouldn’t be. People need to understand that those who immigrate over to the United States, are coming for better lives and opportunities that they were not given in their country of origin. America is built on immigrants, and always has been. From each wave, you see that there is a constant flow of immigrants coming to the United States for tons of reasons, and it proves the point that America is home to a huge diversity of race, religion, and cultures.