America’s Love-Hate Relationship with Immigrants

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.

Quintero writes:

“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.

9 Comments

And Russians (meaning all USSR-born including me) are in this place, too, at least after late 1940s. See: “Red Scare”, “Russian Mafia”, “Russian Hackers who stole USA Elections” and so on.

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And during WW I anyone with German ancestry, newly immigrant or not, was severely discriminated against even to burning haystack and barns of German ancestry farmers. My father and his family spoke German at home, only learning English when old enough to attend school, and attended a German speaking church until then when it was outlawed.

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In today’s America, the distrust of our citizens is due to and fear of the 100’s of thousands of unvetted persons who were brought in and placed without our knowledge and when we did learn the last 8 years of Administration had it well entrenched. Add that to the vast number of jobs lost when companies first outsourced call centers and then moved out of the country to avoid taxes and the problem escalated. When people are legal immigrants who come to America and follow the Naturalization process that shows their determination to become productive citizens and they add to “our melting pot”. It’s the unvetted and those who have no inclination to be a part of our culture but wish to change it to what they left behind that the overall citizenry opposes. There are reasons for quotas-for the good of our people, resources and future.

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    Ironically, those are almost exactly the same arguments made by the people who wanted to keep out the Irish famine refugees of the 1840s and 1850s.

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    You said it better than I could have, Bill. I wonder how many of those who today vigorously defend the illegal aliens are willing to finance them and have them as guests. I do not believe there is animosity, generally, towards those who have entered our country legally. I have tutored a legal immigrant in the English language with no reimbursement expected.

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    It wasn’t the Obama administration that created the issue. Illegal immigration has been going on for decades and increased dramatically in the 1990s and 2000s. Both Reagan and Bush II did executive orders to try to deal with, as did Obama. Bush and Obama tried to pass immigration reform and the backward members of Congress would not agree on a humane process.
    Call centers have nothing to do with immigration–that’s on the corporations that outsource.
    And studies have shown immigrants, illegal or legal, do not take jobs away from locals. It’s pure prejudice and bigotry, sad to say. We don’t have a good history of dealing with the Other.

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In the mile around my house, we have a large Muslim community, a large Orthodox Jewish community, and lots of immigrants from Asia (India, Pakistan, Vietnam, China), Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria), Europe (Russia, Greece), and North America (Mexico and Central America). Guess what, people get along fine and we have a strong, vibrant, healthy community. Once we get past stereotypes and bigotry, we all have a lot on common. We all want better lives and have much to contribute to our country.

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When I went to Ellis Island this year, I was amazed at the long history of pro- vs anti-immigrant sentiment throughout our history.

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Their have been culture clashes in the past and present, but the main explanation of anti-immigrant sentiment today is economic. Ancestry has an interesting article regarding more recent immigration, “Debunking the American Dream: Immigrants Did Better in 1900 Than in 2000”:
https://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/04/16/debunking-the-american-dream-immigrants-did-better-in-1900-than-in-2000/
The average Immigrant from 1900 had a better salary than the average native-born resident. In contrast, the average immigrant from 2000 had a significantly lower salary than the average native-born resident. Unfortunately, statistics show their children are unlikely to catch up.

Economic self-sufficiency was valued by our earlier American ancestors. Even from early American colonial days, English “poor laws” required that those needing aid who move to a new community return to their original location. In much of the 1800s, if a family could no longer support their children due to the father’s death for example, the children were bound out to other families who could afford to take care of them.

Economic self-sufficiency was valued by our earlier American ancestors, and continues to be a value held by many Americans today. Culture clashes are easier to reconcile when incoming immigrants arrive with salaries at least on parity with the average native-born American, as they did in years past.

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