History From 1865 to the Present Day. Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

history from 1865 to the present day. To focus the research, select six subtopics (specific events or developments related to the topic, separated in time); three from before 1930 and three from after.


There are more than 50 million immigrants (legal and illegal) and their U.S.-born children (under 18) in the United States as of August 2012. As of the last decade, most immigrants come from the following countries: Honduras (85%), India (74%), Guatemala (73%), Peru (54%), El Salvador (49%), Ecuador (48%), and China (43%). Approximately, 28% of these immigrants are in the country illegally. Roughly half of Mexican and Central American and one-third of South American immigrants are here illegally.

The Center for Immigration Studies (Right Side news) finds that immigration has dramatically increased the population of low-income individuals in the United States, although many immigrants, the longer they live in the country, make significant progress. However, immigrants who live in America for at least 20 years are more likely to live in poverty, benefit from the welfare system, and lack health insurance than are native born Americans. Many of the immigrants arriving in this country also possess relatively little education (Right Side News; online). These factors explain the intensity of animosity and fear that the group stimulates amongst native-born Americans who not only accuse them of impoverishing their country but also of stealing jobs from Americans who need them. The animosity is all the greater amongst immigrants who settle in the country illegally.

Part One: 1865-1930

1. Xenophobia

Although America is erroneously known as the welcoming country to immigrants, in actual fact immigrants are often dissuaded from seeking hospitality, and these policies against immigrants are often formulated following periods of recession and national economic unrest.,

The 1860s saw Italians, Greeks, Hungarians, Poles, Jews, Germans, Irish and British reaching the U.S.A. en masse and setting up home and business there. The sight of all these foreign faces and foreign mannerisms frightened homegrown Americans particularly since many of them populated urban centers and filled the U.S. industry sector dominating steel, coal, automobile, textile, and garment production. Although their contributions led to American becoming one of the world's economic giants, many Americans by 1890 devised ways to reduce and drive out these foreigners.

As recently as 1865, quotas were put on immigrants primarily due to the fact that these immigrants differed from the existent population. The 1860s too was the time when states expanded their exclusionary policies with Orientals becoming an issue particularly in California. In 1893, groups such as Immigration Restriction League and others pressed Congress to curtail immigration. The Nativist/Know Nothing movement, child of the Republicans, opposed German and Irish entry on the grounds that the Catholics were empowered by the Pope to make America into a theocracy and efforts were only heightened by the settlement of 900,000 French Canadians into parts of American between 1840 and 1930. Pressure to curtail immigration finally caused the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 1875 that immigration was a federal responsibility (Bodnar, 1985).

The notorious Dillingham Commission passed in 1907 generalized between immigrant groups and concluded that immigration form southern and Eastern Europe was intimidating to the American future and should be severely curtailed. The Commissions' reading and writing test for entry was unjustly biased and absurd causing many hopeful immigrants to fail and be returned to their country of origin.

Dillingham's findings led to further 1920s immigration reduction acts such as the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 which favored people from northern and Western Europe and reduced immigration form other lands to an annual 3%. The Dillingham Commission too resulted in the National Origins Formula which barred immigration from Asia and only allowed entry of 150,000 immigrants annually (Pula, 1980)

In the meantime, anti-immigrant sentiments, such as those demonstrated by the Klu Klax Kahn became increasingly common coming to a height with the Second World War and civil unrest, declining in the post-depression era and particularly in the 1960s. Laws in the 1990s endeavored to deal with the problem of undocumented and illegal immigrants entering the country, especially in terms of employment, this would continue until and shortly after the Second World War with slightly more positive changes only reaching a height in 1997. Xenophobic constraints on immigration has frequently been linked to external threats such as terrorism and subversion, but opponents of immigration see immigration as an internal threat that undermines American security by introducing crime and poverty and destructing the conventional and social fabric on which America was built. That attitude lingers today, although American practical xenophobia reached its height between the 1860s and 1930s.

2. Immigrant Experience, the Horrors and the Resilience: Example the Chinese.

Chinese immigration to the U.S.A. was done in four distinct periods. By 1860, Chinese had already arrived in hordes in San Francisco seeking their fortune as merchants or prospectors and working on the transcontinental railway or in factories. During each of the immigration currents, and particularly during the early ones, Chinese immigrants tended to band together maintaining their clan- and dialect-based community bonds. The Asian had difficulty 'melting ' themselves in the pot and tended to retain their own customs which only aggravated the discrimination against them. In the late 1900s, the Chinese Six Companies, known later as the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, was formed to help Chinese immigrants adjust to their new life. The organization provided immigrants with social services, protection and dispute resolution, and served as unofficial ambassadors of China.

San Francisco became the main center for newly arriving Chinese with many, during the second and third wave, becoming entrepreneurs, opening curio stores and ethnic grocery stores as well as launderers and restaurateurs. Chinese also became prominent in the railroad industry, constructing its tracks and running its operations to the extent that "at the peak of construction, Central Pacific would employ more than ten thousand Chinese men." (Chang 2003, 57). A series of anti-immigration laws in the 1870s attempted to curb Chinese immigration and Chinese success. In 1870, for instance, the Sidewalk Ordinance prohibited the Chinese fashion of carrying loads on poles on sidewalks. The California School Law of 1870 segregated public schools by race, and public officials were allowed to close down even segregated schools for Chinese students. This late part of the 19th century was a difficult time for Chinese immigrants who suffered from the resentment caused by Western depression and high unemployment. Many Chinese left in 1880; the Chinese Exclusion Act was introduced in 1881, and Chinese laborers (both skilled and unskilled) were excluded from the U.S. For a decade (Chan 1988, 99). This later extended to all persons of Chinese descent. A movement led by a party in the White House coined the term "Chinese must go!" And did whatever they could to impede Chinese efforts and trade. Many Chinese found refuge in Chinatowns on the coast where they banded together and isolated themselves form the larger population.

The Chinese people more than adequately exemplify the resilience, hardiness, and trauma that immigrant groups suffered from the White majority population during the 1860s to the 1930s.

3. The Melting Pot

America's endeavor -- and that of many of the immigrants too -- was to assimilate into American society as indiscernibly and as rapidly as they could so that they become a 'normal' American and part of that great nation. The term was used hand-in-hand with other metaphors of America being a "city upon a hill" and the ideal republic and actually dates from Zangwill's play The Melting Pot.

'The Melting Pot" has always been equated with Americanization, or cultural socialization and American educators, social workers, and the government, amongst others, went all out to ensure that immigrants and children of immigrants become 'American' as soon as possible by faultlessly adopting American dress, speech, mannerisms, rituals, and so forth. School ceremonies structured their schedule around Protestant celebrations, such as Christmas, and compelled Protestant religious services. Swearing the Oath of Allegiance was a daily obligation.

On the other hand, and paradoxically enough, assimilation and class differences were more pronounced then than they were once multiculturalism became the norm. African-American always remained separated, whilst other minority groups such as Jews were disallowed in numerous universities and rejected from clubs and Asians were forced into ghettos. The 'Melting Pot' therefore existed up to a limit.

The immigration debate of the 20th century approached the 'Melting Pot' issue from two directions. Politicians wondered whether immigrants should be poured into one mold, albeit that fashioned into the likes of Henry Ford and Woodrow Wilson, or should the huge clump of immigrants coming from countries such as Africa, Sicily, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Asia and comprised of different ethnicities rub off against one another, emerging into a new compound (Hollinger, 2003).

Nativists too wanted to cool the temperature of the melting pot and the ingredients that plopped into it, afraid that some of these ingredients (i.e. immigrants) would contaminate the 'soup' with too many undesirables. Their petitions were met with the ferocious anti-immigration…

Sources Used in Documents:


Pula, James S. "American Immigration Policy and the Dillingham Commission," Polish-American Studies (1980) 37#1 pp 5-31

Yakushko, O et al. (2008) Stress and Coping in the Lives of Recent Immigrants and Refugees: Considerations for Counseling International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 30, 3, 167-178

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