This represented a sharp turn in public beliefs, and it represented a new type of America that no longer welcomed immigrants with open arms, and that has continued unchecked to the present day.
This shift in public thought and government legislation resulted in the first immigration law to exclude immigrants because of their race and class, and laws continued to tighten until after World War II ended in 1945. Potential immigrants were screened for health problems, but they were also interviewed, tracked, and monitored, something new to immigrants in the country. They began being treated as if they were second-class citizens, and they started settling in specific areas of a city or town, and keeping to themselves, attempting to hold on to their culture and way of life for as long as possible (Lee). This regulation resulted in many more laws governing who could immigrate and why, and led to refusal of many immigrants who hoped to move to this country. The Chinese Exclusion Act began these reforms, and it was the first document to define illegal immigration and define punishment for illegal immigration, so it was a large step for the country to take.
Today, immigration is still hotly debated, and illegal immigration is a very controversial topic. Some people want a program that will eventually offer amnesty for illegal immigrants living and working in this country, while others want to deport them, and both groups are extremely vocal. However, they do not seem to realize that this country has its roots in immigration, and that immigration can be extremely good for the country. The first immigrants who came here from Great Britain found some of the country's greatest cities and towns. The immigrants in the nineteenth-century helped populate these cities and towns, but they worked in the new factories springing up in the North, they raised their families, gave back to communities, and some rose to lead their people and their communities as politicians, community organizers, and social workers.
The benefits of immigration go on. Immigrants make the country's food to Mexican food and Italian food, there is hardly a city or town in the country that does not have restaurants like these, and many more ethnic restaurants open up every day. Food is one minor aspect of the benefits immigrants bring to the country. A country that accepts and welcomes immigrants is more open to cultural diversity and understanding, and is more tolerant of other beliefs and values. A country that is closed to immigration and diversity is less tolerant and belligerent, and that is what America has turned into since the policies on immigration changed.
Another benefit is that immigrants bring their cultures and beliefs with them, and add to religious and social diversity. Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, and a host of other religions are represented in America today because the people who immigrated here brought them with them, and they represent a rich cultural diversity that makes America what it is today, a nation of all colors. Immigration made the country stronger, and immigrants fought in just about every war, from the Revolution to the current war in Iraq. They also form the backbone of the working community, doing a host of jobs, such as agricultural fieldwork that few other Americans would ever consider.
In conclusion, immigration formed this country, helped it grow, and provides a solid workforce that is culturally diverse. Immigration brings benefits every day, from the work that gets done in local communities to the understanding and tolerance it breeds in countries who openly accept immigrants. Americans are looking seriously at immigration reform and even more controls, when they should be looking back at the country's history and realizing what a benefit immigration really has been to this country.
Katzenstein, Krissy A. "Reinventing American Immigration Policy for the 21st Century." Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 41.1 (2008): 269+.
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