Immigration in the US


The United States is an immigration nation continues to face the challenge of integrating new demographic groups into their culture and society. Throughout the nation’s history, there have been numerous debates to define what or who is an American. There have been successive waves of immigration that have diversified the country of its origin; white, Protestantism and Anglo-Saxon. The old immigrants were the ones arriving in the country between 1620 and 1840 and were mostly from Western Europe. The New Immigrants arrived in 1840 to 1920 from a variety of nations. Early in the period saw the Chinese and Japanese arrival. The Eastern Europeans immigrants began to arrive from Russia and Poland. Immigration is among the most important issues America faces. There are misconceptions on the aspects of immigrant population, and how they affect the economy and workforce. Immigration, even as it is seen to have caused a lot of problems, such as fear and hostility, it surely has brought with it numerous social, economic and political benefits that can be witnessed today in America.

German and Irish Immigration

The Germans and the Irish were the two largest groups that migrated to the US from the 1820s to 1840s. Immigration began in the 1820s to the 1840s, having most of the immigrants from Germany, England, and Ireland. The Irish were the largest group among the others. Approximately 60,000 Irish immigrated to the US in the 1820s. The number continued to grow and increased to 235,000, in 1830 and 1840s due to potato famine that was being experienced in Ireland. The number continued to skyrocket to almost 845,000 due to the great Irish famine (US History, 2017). The five-year blight that affected potatoes led to the Irish people dying of starvation, while others opted to flee the country. Conversely, the years: 1820s and 1840s also saw German immigrants coming to the US, who were the second largest group after the Irish. Germans came to the nation to seek religious and political freedom, as well as other greater economic opportunities that were not found in Europe (US History, 2017). Germans became among the largest groups to migrate to the US following the revolutions that erupted in 1848

Jewish and Italian immigrants

Italians and Jews (immigrants) were the third largest wave of immigrants, who came from Europe. The group made the “New Immigration,” while the Old immigration consisted of German, British and Irish, and Scandinavians. In the years between 1900 and 1915, millions of Italians migrated to America. The group was comprised of peasants and artisans from all religions of Italy. Poverty was the main reason for Italians to migrate. Equally, political hardship and also the dream to go back to Italy, with money to acquire land, made them seek greater opportunities in America. Many Italians dreamed of owning land in Italy. Hence, this was the main reason they moved to America and worked hard to earn money and repatriate to their country. 1913 was the year with a high record of Italian citizens, who migrated to the US. Due to their large numbers, they became a vital constituent of an organized labor supply in the US (US History, 2017). They were the segment that offered labor force in mining, clothing and textile manufacturing. The Italians did not have much experience in textile and mining. Therefore, they worked as farm laborers.

Jews also migrated to America in the 1900s. The migration was due to economic, demographic and political developments. The main reason for them wanting to live in America was religious persecution in the Christian-dominated Europe countries. Religious persecution and much political turmoil the Jews experienced from the high autocratic monarchies led to revolutions, social and violent chaos. Other reasons were to escape famine, dire poverty, and disease for the home country. The Jewish immigration to America was to escape oppression, get safety and new opportunities.

Chinese in the 1800s

Chinese workers in the 1850s migrated to the US to take agricultural jobs, factory work, such as the garment industry and most importantly, get jobs in the gold mines. Chinese immigrants became instrumental in the construction of railroads in the west. As a result, the Chinese laborers became successful, and a number of them were able to become entrepreneurs. As the Chinese laborers increased, so did the anti-Chinese sentiments among the workers in the US. It resulted in legislations that were aimed to limit future immigration of Chinese workers to America (Arnold, 2011).

Vietnamese in the 1960s and 1970s

Due to the Vietnam War, there were two waves of immigrants going to the United States.  The fall of Saigon that occurred in 1975 led to the first of immigrants, who fled to America. They were immigrants, who worked with the American military and had prominent positions in the Vietnamese government. These people feared persecution by the Northern Vietnamese power. As a consequence, the wave faced a chaotic evacuation, separating these men from their families. Once in America, they were placed in processing camps. The second wave of Vietnamese immigrants came years later from the 1970s to 1980s (LeMay, 2013). The emigrants left Vietnam because of the new communist regime that was changing all aspects of the country of Vietnam. The immigrants were thought to be a threat to the regime of communist philosophy and were, therefore, taken to re-education camps that were in essence hard labor camps. The second wave also comprised of citizens, who threatened the communist philosophy with their economic or religious status.

Immigration and its Role in the US

How does immigration impact the US today?

The United States has always been the nation of immigrants. Nonetheless, the immigrants have not been welcomed, and they have been met with hostility and resentment in the country. Most Americans are concerned about the effects of immigration regarding the economy. A big number of Americans are opposed to large-scale immigration. The main reason is the economic consequences. Each new wave of immigration received some degree of hostility. There were fears that they would not conform to the American way of life. The hostility of the old-line Americans accelerated both in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There was a racial ideology, known as anti-Semitism, which is as an American consciousness movement (Papademetriou & Sumption, 2011). The fear of foreigners and the rise of nativism had deep roots in fear of foreign radicals, as well as anti-Catholicism. The beliefs and immigration restriction got widespread support from the elite.

The period between 1924 and 1965 had a highly restrictive immigration policy in place.  The high levels of immigration characterized most of the 18th and 19th centuries and the first two decades of the 20th century. The reaction of people already there was hostile. The Old immigrants were not happy with the new wave of immigrants. It led to a rise of membership of the nativist, who carried the anti-immigrant activities (US History, 2017). These old immigrants felt that the new ones may take their jobs. They never complained when he Asian immigrants were constructing a railroad. But when the completed the same, there was an emergence of anti-Asian sentiment.

What are attempts made to stop immigration?

There are attempts in America for immigration reduction. The steps advocated to reduce the number of immigrants are stronger actions to prevent illegal immigration and entry and reducing temporary work visas. People are advocating for tight requirements for legal immigration to reduce the numbers entering the United States. Another strategy is to move legal immigrants away from family reunification (Arnold, 2011). There have been discernible groups in the various ties of US history, who pushed for immigration restrictions. The reasons for wanting an immigration reduction are overpopulation and environmental issues.

Americans claim that the population growth of immigrant resulted in high demand for housing. As a consequence, they impact the prices of housing, thus conflicting with the goals of affordable housing. More so, higher levels of immigration provide a steady source of cheap labor. It has been detrimental to the wage levels in the US (Arnold, 2011). Many labor unions have found this factor threatening as they try to present their workers since they could be easily replaced with illegal or cheap labor. Conversely, mass migration has always been blamed for interfering with the employment of minorities as well as African Americans. Some people believe that the high levels of immigration, whether legal or illegal, are too high to assimilate them into the American culture.

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  1. Arnold, K. R. (2011). Anti-immigration in the United States: A historical encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood Press.
  2. LeMay, M. C. (2013). Transforming America: Perspectives on U.S. immigration. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger.
  3. Papademetriou, D. G., & Sumption, M. (2011). The Role of immigration in fostering competitiveness in the United States. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.
  4. US History (2017).  Irish and German Immigration. Retrieved From:
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