How Immigration Changed America

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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The United States of America experienced major immigration boom between 1800 and 1920s. It is said in one article that “the first great wave of emigration to the United States brought 5 million immigrants”. This period was called colonial era, this gave many people opportunity to work and seek great opportunities and the biggest one was religious freedom. In 1800s there was enormous growth of population in Europe and many conflicts regarding social, political, and religious were going on which made many moves to country like United States in search of a better life.

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During this time there were quite a few economic opportunities in United States and that was one of the biggest reasons why many people took a decision to move to United States.

Immigrants were booming, and so does the immigration and citizenship become a huge question for the country and there are many problems they faced but found the solutions to it. Many Americans opposed the idea of letting immigrants come this easily because it minimized their opportunity to get work, they would desire. Americans view towards immigration changed drastically so much and that is explained in one of the articles, it states “The United States has been shaped by people from many nations”. This tells that immigration has been crucial part of this country and the way it is formed today. There has always been people like Alexander Hamilton, who was born in British West Indies, but he settled here and made the country proud and many people think he was born here, very few knows his actual born history.

Immigration became one of the hardest parts of life for some Americans. Few treated new immigrants with hostility and some hospitably, they started to fear their own space in their own country. This was the period when diplomatic tensions were started as well. In 1798 there was Alien and Sedition act signed. Citizenship due to that became easy and more immigrants entered United States. This bill extended period of residency required to obtain citizenship was anywhere between five to fourteen years. Whereas if you compare that to today it is five years if you have green card also known as alien card. Having new president Donald Trump, it has been in news that immigration and citizenship is going to get even tougher in upcoming days.

Nevertheless, this is what the ideal president would be for few Americans in 1965-1924 who hated the existence of immigration process. Walt Whitman once wrote a poem during this time and he said in it “All of you each and everywhere whom I specify not but include just the same!” . This was an emotional impact Whitman was trying to promote for the people who is trying to assimilate in the new culture where they are far away from people and also being hated by few citizens. They had no moral support because lot of immigrants who came, moved by themselves and called their family after they were settled and had a place to live and money for food and basic needs. These immigrants entered the United States through the means of ports. During this time, New York City was known as golden door since over fifty percent of immigrants entered through Manhattan. Ellis Island had held an immigration process center where people coming in would have to do their paper work. They had built a huge office and to some immigrants it almost felt that they have come to a place where there is nothing but diamonds. Another reason people entered from Ellis island, New York was because they could not afford first or second-class passage.

As soon as this immigration happened, religious freedom was being promoted as well. It became very convenient and independent to choose what religion they want to follow. Also, some immigrants started to follow a certain religion just for the sake of being accepted in certain group and to assimilate with the citizens. Germans and Irish immigrants in 1849 turned into “Know-Nothings”, this was a group “where they believed Native-born Americans were superior to the newly arrived immigrants group on the basis that Irish and German immigrants tended to be poorer and catholic”.

Immigration affected the in a way that Christian immigrants were more orthodox and catholic. Even though religion freedom was given to individual to practice in their own way, but it was only getting tougher for individuals around them who were trying to adopt a whole new change. New York had become a huge hub for immigrants not just because it was easy to get in from there but along with that New York provided houses where they can worship any religion they would want, for example there were worship houses for Quakers, Lutherans, Catholics, Moravians, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Jews. Especially for Jews who migrated from Europe, The United States became a heaven where they were promised to have religious liberty. Despite of being this open, it is said in a history that religion diversity being participated within certain areas of destination always have negative correlation.

Industrialization rising in America is one of the biggest factors behind the booming immigration. During late 1800s many immigrants moved to the United States because in their home country they did not had enough jobs for everyone, taxes were being raised high, they were not able to grow enough crops due to that there was increase rate in food, and crop failures gave no financial stability to farmers. Whereas economic opportunities were sustainably more in United States.

Immigrants were always looking for work here, it is said in one of the articles that “there were never enough jobs, and employers often took advantage of the immigrants.” This tells us how owners of companies took advantage of those immigrants and paid them the equal amount or less and simultaneously made them work twice more than normal employees. The war that took place between England and France made tougher for people to live there due to trading became impossible with Europe, the place where they used to get lot of their goods to survive from and along with that British Passenger Act was passed which stated that there needs to be improved conditions related to hygiene, food and comfort for people travelling to North America, due to this act there were limited numbers of people that were carried by emigrant ships.

The Civil War in 1860s caused a boom in immigration. Foreigners entered United States and helped in playing several roles in Civil War and also reconstructing the South. There was lot of violence between the North and the South due to immigration. Despite of that “immigration increased more than 500 percent…, with about three million immigrants coming to the United States” This statistic shows that United States had various roles for immigrants to help out in war. There were new companies formed where they were taught basic skills and along with that military camps were also established to teach them tactics. Many Irish soldiers were able to help in the war. Ending of the Civil War brought the United States as a united nation and stronger national government. It also brought the end of slavery and legalized citizenship for some former slaves. This was a huge comeback as nation that shower powerfulness of it and it attracted many people to come and start their lives here.

The 14th amendment which was ratified in 1868 stated that U.S. citizenship would include all children born on U.S. soil with some exceptions, but this made immigrants have more children and which increased population even bigger. World War 2 can also be taken into account which played major role in immigration. The difference was it was restricting immigration unlike Civil War. Congress made few acts which restricted immigration and along with that Immigration Act of 1924 which is also knows as The Johnson Reed Act, limited the number of immigrants that are allowed in the United States. There was a nations quota set to where two percent of total number of people of each nationality will be allowed in the United States.

Along with that it also excluded complete immigration from Asia. This was done by Chinese exclusion act of 1882. It banned Chinese immigration for 10 years. This was the first time in history that an ethnic working group was stopped from entering a nation. This act also made new laws for existing Chinese population in the United States, they were asked to have certifications to re-enter, they were refused courts and right to grant citizenship to Chinese resident aliens. Also, even after having all these requirements done, they were not guaranteed permanent stay and so, state and federal courts decisions can deport them any time . Though, few Asians did enter the United States through Filipinos and to Hawaii in the early 1900s.

During 1876, congress called for a joint congressional committee and look upon Chinese immigration in particular. The majority took the decision to legislate “Asiatic Immigration”, which is also known as literacy act. This law imposed literacy tests on immigrants and created new categories of people who can be admitted in the United States. The United States was transforming into industrial economy center from rural agrarian society. This is where some American citizens went against immigration because most of them were still living in big isolated agricultural households and whereas new immigrants moving were getting work and facilities they never had back home.

As Immigrants were coming in, new diseases were getting spread. It had become a real threat to citizens. There was huge demand for housing which were built by poor’s and they had not provided any hygiene facilities and the workers did not have any personal hygiene. Immigrant workers used to work in place where they had no running water and toilets either. States like “New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC fell prey to a rash of infectious diseases.” This tells us that east coast sides where the immigration was high were the places that were affected the most. Diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and malaria were the most spread diseases.

The newcomers came in and settled and lived a happy life ever after. The United States had become a land of safety and that forced immigrants to move in. Private companies encouraged new immigrants by giving workers a work they would desire. The economic opportunities were booming in the United States and that gave many people financial stability for the families who at the back home could not afford to live even a simple life.

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How Immigration Changed America. (2021, Jun 16). Retrieved from