Immigration in the United States
“Being tagged as “land of flowing milk and honey,” the United States is one among the favorite places of immigrants in the whole world. The combined location of the country and its natural resources, plus the stable economy and its democratic ideals attract people from all over the world to immigrate to the country.”
Immigration began in the United States after the “discovery” of the continent by explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492. The Spanish explorers were one of the first few to come and explore the continent. By exploring the continent it was followed by the coming of other Spaniards to settle in the newly found place. The English came to the continent in 1600s and established their mark in the place which later known as the thirteen colonies. With the discovery of the continent, numerous nationalities from many countries followed. Some of them were the Dutch, Irish, Germans, French, Swedes, and Scots. Immigration by the said nationalities to the continent led to the growth of their areas from simple settlements to cities. Also, their settlements were first concentrated to the coastal areas or other areas where there was access to the seas. It was only later after they have explored the inner area of the continent that they were able to expand and find new settlements in the area. The growth of the said areas led to the attraction of jobs from other countries. This event also resulted to the continuous arrival of people (Meinig, 1986, p17).
After independent immigrants continued to settle in the country because of the job opportunities present in the land the next great exodus of immigrants took place during the middle of the 19th century (Hoxie, 1997, p127). The industrialization period was beginning to take root, and because of this, the need for additional workers led to the arrival of these people. Workers for railroad construction and mining, among others, became attractive to immigrants who mainly want to grab the economic opportunities being presented by the country. During this period, people from northern Europe became the primary group to enter the United States.
The 1900s saw another chapter of American immigration. The country is now established as being one of the worlds’ most powerful in terms of political and economical status. The maintenance of this kind of status would require the continuous expansion of the economy. Again, this led the people from South and Eastern Europe to find opportunities in the U.S. During the late 20th century, people from Latin American and Asia began to come to the country in great numbers. This became another chapter in the immigration history of the United States. Like the other groups who came earlier, the desire for work and the experience of the American way of life led them to immigrate to the country. In addition to this, these people want to abandon and escape from their countries because of political and economic conflicts. Lack of democracy, freedom of expression, economic hardships and very low cost of living added to these people’s desire to come to the United States, it being the main democratic country in the world (chinaview.cn, 2006).
This continuity in immigration also led the country to find ways to control it and at the same time prevent the over-immigration of different nationalities. The American government began to fear that immigration can lead to the imbalance of people in the country, in particular the stability of people and the jobs that are available for them. Also, the increasing number of illegal immigrants entering the country added to this fear. These events lead to the enactment of immigration laws which aims to control the immigration explosion in the U.S. The first immigration law was passed in 1875 and from this numerous other laws were made through time to control immigration (Will, 2010,):
· Page Act of 1875 (Asian Exclusion Act) – prohibits the entry of immigrants who were to serve as sex workers and/or are convicts in their own country.
· Emergency Quota Act (Emergency Immigration Act of 1921) – this limited the number of immigrants allowed to enter from any country to 3 percent. (Divine, 2007)
· Immigration Act of 1924 (Johnson-Reed Act) – aimed at limiting the number of immigrants from any country further at 2 percent (Powell, 2006)
· National Origins Formula – established in 1927, this formula enabled the government to restrict the number of immigrants that can enter the country each year. It was restricted at 150,000 beginning in 1927
· Mexican Repatriation – government policy made from 1929-1939 in which more than one million people of Mexican origin was forced to leave the country (Thernstrom, 1980)
· Operation Wetback – made in 1954, the government deported illegal immigrants back to Mexico. This was due to the illegal immigration of Mexicans who cross the Rio Grande River to find work.
· Immigration Act of 1990 – increased the number of immigrants to enter the country. It also amended such provisions for requirement like homosexuality and exemptions to the English testing process
Throughout history, the United States became one of the premier destinations for immigrants. With the ever continuing influx of immigrants, the United States government initiated measures to regulate the number of people coming to the country to balance it with the opportunities being given by the country both to its citizens and immigrants.
Divine, Robert A. (2007) “America, Past and Present 8th ed.” New York: Pearson Longman
Donald William Meinig. (1986) The Shaping of America: Atlantic America, 1492-1800 Greene and Pole
Hoxie, Frederic E. ed. (1997) Encyclopedia of North American Indians Houghton Mifflin
Johnson, Kevin (2005). “The Forgotten “Repatriation” of Persons of Mexican Ancestry and Lessons for the “War on Terror””. Davis, California: Pace Law Review.
Powell, Michael (2006) “Old fears over new faces” The Seattle Times (website) http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003265600_impghistory20.html
Thernstrom, Stephen A. (1980) Harvard Guide to American Ethnic Groups
“U.S. population hits 300 million” chinaview.cn 2006-10-17 (website) http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-10/17/content_5215770.htm
Will, George P. (2010). “The real immigration scare tactics”. Washington, DC: Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/30/AR2010043001667.html.