The United States has been characterized by a series of immigrants since the time immemorial. Before Abraham Lincoln abolished the slave trade, migrants were being shipped from Africa to work as slaves for their white counterparts in the United States of America. Since then, America has over the years has experienced an influx of immigrants from virtually all the corners of the world. This essay, however, will focus on the immigration between the year 1860 and 1920 into the United States of America. Similarly, it will concentrate on the immigration policies put in place then and the public opinion with regards to the aforementioned.
The periods of 1860 to 1920 were characterized with rapid industrialization and urbanization. Industries were being set up at a high rate all over America. Similarly, many Americans were moving from rural areas to urban areas to work in these industries . Hence, there was rapid urbanization. The whole world knew America was becoming industrialized hence an estimated 20 million immigrants entered the United States within this period. Between 1860 and 1920, immigrants percentage of the entire U.S population fluctuated between 13.0 to 15.0 percent. The number rose with the migration of many Europeans into the United States between 1880 to 1920, clocking a 14.8 percent rise of immigrants into the United States. According to the Census Bureau, foreign-born immigrants represented a percentage of 6.2 of the whole United States population (Batalova, 2010).
The majority of the immigrants into the United States were from Southern, Eastern Europe, and partly Asia. The Southern Europe countries had immigrants from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece migrating to the United States. Eastern Europe comprised of immigrants from Russia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, and Ukraine. This was opposed to the immigrants from the north and west of Europe, who had settled in the United States prior to the year 1860. The industrial revolution led to massive jobs hence, workers were needed. This was a pull factor for immigrants coming to the United States. Lack or little economic opportunities were some of the push factors that led to migrants coming into the United States (Hari Krishnan, 2016).
The American native population was in quite a shock of the massive immigration during this period. When the European and Asian immigrants arrived around the year 1870, the already established native Americans were opposed to the idea of accommodating new population altogether. The immigrants spoke different languages from the natives, had varied culture and religions. Consequentially, the natives looked down up this set of new immigrants. The issue of Xenophobia was imminent. American native population had negative attitudes towards these immigrants. Similarly, the American population had the tendency of blaming the immigrants for each and every problem that befell them. Established groups and organizations, for example, The Ku Klux Clan, blamed immigrants for all the social and economic problems. In addition to that, the American population constantly accused the immigrants of virtually all the crimes in the United States, immoralities for example alcohol and substance abuse and robbing them of their deserved jobs as American citizens.
In 1882, the government passed one of its federal laws and legislation that restricted immigration into the United States. The government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was aimed at banning and restricting Chinese migrants laborers into the United States. American natives in California pushed for the enactment of this law since they accused the Chinese of settling for less wages hence an overall decline in wages to all laborers regardless of the citizenship status. Additionally, the government launched the Immigration Act of 1882 where a tax of 50 cents was to be levied on all immigrants landing to the United States through the U.S ports. In 1885, the government introduced the Alien Contract Labor Act that prohibited any individual or company from importing foreigners into the United States under the contract to provide labor. Exceptions were granted to immigrants who entered the United States to provide domestic services and skilled workforce that was required to facilitate a new industry or trade in the U.S. In 1906; the government enacted the Naturalization Act of 1906 where the knowledge of English was a requirement for citizenship. Similarly, this Act led to the establishment of Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, which was tasked with overseeing the national immigration procedures and policies. In 1917, Congress enacted a literacy requirement overriding the then President Woodrow Wilson veto. The aforementioned required immigrants to have the ability to read 40 or more words in a specific language. Similarly, it banned Asians from entering the United States as immigrants save for the Philippines and Japan.
During this period, assimilation of immigrants was very vital since industrial revolution was rising. Factories needed more labor than what the American population was providing hence doors were opened for immigrants. Assimilation of migrants in the United States would mean that there was a large labor force for the industries and factories. In relation to that, it also provided the factories with hard working migrants in search of a better life who in turn accepted fewer wages offered, unlike the Native Americans. In 1860, American factories and shops were producing an estimated 2,000 million dollars worth of commodities and goods. By 1890, America was producing 10,000 million dollars worth of goods and commodities. This is attributed to the influx of migrants into the country.
The onset of World War one led to intolerance to a group of immigrants specifically of the German descent. Prior to the war, German migrants were considered as crafty, hardworking citizens who toiled long and hard to make ends meet. The American citizens had much respect for them. Before long, news about Europe started to spread and in turn divide the country. Reports and propaganda that German soldiers were responsible for the atrocities against civilians in Belgium led to the uprising of anti-German sentiment in the United States. After President Woodrow Wilson declared war in 1917, all Germans were considered as alien enemies. The government banned them from staying near airports or military facilities. Apart from that, they were required by the state to disclose their property and Bank accounts to a custodian appointed by the then Attorney General. Besides the restriction of Germany, new laws restricting the rights of trade, speech or publications were passed. Example of the laws passed then included the Trading with the Enemy Act and the Espionage Act.
To conclude, America in the aforementioned period can be termed as a partly inclusionary and exclusionary state. On one hand, it is an inclusionary state because it allowed for migrants from Europe to settle in America in 1870. Additionally, in 1917 it allowed for Puerto Ricans to gain citizenship under conditions of joining the U.S military. On the other hand, it was an exclusionary state to nations such as China as depicted in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. In my opinion, the status of immigrants to America was determined by personal interests America had.
American History: Immigrants: America's Industrial Growth Depended on Them (VOA Special English 2005-10-19). (2016). Manythings.org. Retrieved 14 May 2016, from http://www.manythings.org/voa/history/135.htmlBatalova, J. (2010). Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States. migrationpolicy.org. Retrieved 14 May 2016, from http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested-statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states-1German-Americans during World War I. (2016). Immigrant Entrepreneurship. Retrieved 14 May 2016, from http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=214Open Collections Program: Immigration to the US, Timeline. (2016). Ocp.hul.harvard.edu. Retrieved 14 May 2016, from http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/timeline.htmlharikrishnan, k. (2016). Old Immigrants(1750's-1860's) VS. New Immigrants(1860's-1920's). prezi.com. Retrieved 14 May 2016, from https://prezi.com/hk4vn-m6v5ou/old-immigrants1750s-1860s-vs-new-immigrants1860s-1920s/
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