This doesn't explain why the Irish had such a difficult time, but in America, religious differences are often the cause of intolerance as well. The truth is that without immigrants in the 19th, 20th, and 21st century -- and of course the two hundred years before this, this nation would not be where or what it is today and to remain true to our roots we must accept that immigrants will always be a vital part of the U.S.
Diner (2008) states that the National Origins Act of 1921 (and its final form in 1924) restricted the number of immigrants coming to the U.S. And also assigned slots according to quotas based on national origins (2008). "A complicated piece of legislation, it essential gave preference to immigrants from northern and Western Europe, severely limited the numbers from eastern and southern Europe, and declared potential immigrants from Asia to be unworthy of entry into the Unite States" (2008). Interestingly enough, this quota system excluded the Western Hemisphere and so the "1920s ushered in the penultimate era in U.S. immigration history" (2008). Immigrants could and did come from Mexico, the Caribbean, and other parts of Central and South America (2008). The quota system lasted until 1965, but during the 40 years that the quota system existed, the United States would allow certain immigrants -- on a case-by-case basis -- into the United States. Some of these immigrants were refugees from Nazi Germany before WWII, Cubans after the 1960 revolution and Hungarians seeking refuge after their uprising failed (2008).
In 1965 the Hart-Celler Act was passed, a sort of "by-product of the civil rights revolution and a jewel in the crown of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs" (Diner 2008). The act was never meant to "stimulate" immigration from Asia, Africa, or the Middle East (and other places in the developing world). The creators of the act thought that people would come from the more traditional places (like Italy),
places that labored under very small quotes in the 1924 law" (2008). After 1970, Diner (2008) notes that there was a major influx from places like Korea, China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines -- as well as some debate over the immigration issue. It seems that throughout history there has been major immigration issues when the United States is in economic trouble or is experiencing some kind of political turmoil. Especially with the economic downturn today, many people have spoken out about immigrants, worried that they will use resources like welfare and unemployment benefits and thus there will be none left for the native people. Congress restricted non-citizens' access to social services in 1996 over a fear that immigrants may be lured by the U.S.'s welfare benefits. However, people must accept that immigrants can't just go to a country and take -- they also have to give or consume. This is often an argument that proponents of immigration give. They create certain markets for all sorts of products, goods, and services.
There are many Americans who, though knowing that this is a country built of and by immigrants, there is still anxiety when it comes to immigrants in the U.S. Some hope that the differences in ethnicities, race and culture will teach people to become more tolerant, but others feel that the differences simply act as barriers and that we are becoming a nation of divided peoples.
It must be noted that immigrants add tremendously to our life in the United States -- legal or not. For the most part, undocumented working immigrants are often employed in low-wage jobs without any job security, without benefits, in positions that nobody else wants to have. Employing tactics like the ones the state of Arizona uses will not only harm the immigrants but it will hard the native citizens of the U.S. In the long run as well.
Diner, Hasia. (1983). Erin's daughters in America: Irish immigrant women in the nineteenth century. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University…
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