It does seem strange that a nation of immigrants has so often attempted to place restrictions on immigration. With today’s rules around immigration in flux, Angelica Quintero has provided a look at the enormously varied ways the U.S. has determined who can become an American throughout history. Her article in the Los Angeles Times explains some of the problems your ancestors may have faced when attempting to immigrate to America.
“In the 1800s, the Irish were a favorite target, and newspaper wants ads commonly included the phrase “No Irish need apply.” Later in the 19th century, anti-immigration sentiment was codified in federal laws that singled out Asians. Later federal laws targeted Italians and Southern Europeans.”
Irish, northern Europeans, southern Europeans, Hispanics, and Asians have suffered more than discrimination. In some cases, they were even murdered by mobs who resented their presence in the USA.
“The poor, the sick and those espousing certain political beliefs were barred from entry into the U.S. under other new laws. Laws discouraging immigration from Southern Europe — mainly from Italy — reflected widespread anti-Catholic sentiment. Italians were frequent targets of abuse and one of the most infamous mass lynchings in U.S. history occurred in New Orleans, where 11 Italians were attacked and killed by a mob in 1891.”
You can read a lot more about the history of immigration to the USA in the article by Angelica Quintero at: http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-na-immigration-trends.