History of Immigration in the US

2902 words (12 pages) Essay

23rd Sep 2019 History Reference this


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   The United States has been built by immigrants and led by immigrants for centuries yet immigrants get treated terribly by American society. In 1851, a devastating fungus destroyed Ireland’s potato crop. During these years starvation and diseases claimed millions of lives while perhaps twice that number of Irish immigrated to America thinking a better life would come. The Japanese and Italians were also searching for a better life. The Japanese began their journey to the United States in search of peace, prosperity and left an unstable homeland to provide a better future for their children and selves. By 1870, there were about 25,000 Italian immigrants in America many of them northern refugees. (Charles A. Willis) American society has repeatedly denied immigrants the right to assimilate due to their physical appearance, race/nationality, and religion. This affects an immigrants experience by making it twice as hard for them to assimilate in America. By making laws to push immigrants away and keep them below Americans.

According to (Why Did They Come by Charles A. Willis,) “In 1851 a fungus destroyed Ireland’s potato crop. During these years starvation and disease claimed millions of lives while perhaps twice that number of Irish immigrated-500,000 of them to the United States. Where they accounted for more than half of the immigrants in the 1840’s. Between 1820 and 1972, 4.2 million Irish settled in America.” The Irish seen more opportunities in America. It was hard for them to survive in Ireland with no food and little job opportunities, disease and starvation. So they look towards something that seemed like their only way out, America. More reasons for the Irish to come to America according to Linda AlchinIn the article (Push and Pull Factors of Irish Immigration) “1816 the ‘Year Without a Summer’ or the Poverty Year when heavy rains and freezing temperatures in Ireland caused the failure of wheat, oats, and potato crops and a terrible famine that led to disease. Irish immigrants fled to America to escape from the threat of more natural disasters, death, and poverty.” Irish immigrants had many reasons to believe America was their escape to get away from death and starvation. Nobody wants to live in a country where there is little to no food and everyone is dressed in rags. The Irish needed something, unlike Ireland. According to the text (Japanese Americans In the Columbia River Basin By Laura Mercier) “Japanese immigrants first came to the Pacific Northwest in the 1880s, when federal legislation that excluded further Chinese immigration created demands for new immigrant labor. Railroads in particular recruited Issei –or first-generation immigrants–from Hawaii and Japan. Thousands of Japanese workers helped construct the Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Oregon Short Line and other railroads in the Columbia River Basin. Soon Japanese immigrants spread throughout the Northwest to provide farm labor, hoping to eventually own their own farms. Like many Americans, many Issei saw independent farming as the way to move up the economic ladder. Most came from farming backgrounds in Japan. Often unable to purchase land because of discrimination.” As reported by Linda Alchin in Push and Pull Factors of Italian migration, “The Italians had poor education prospects. Adult literacy rate, poor medical facilities, Italy had organized crime and political corruption was a feature of politics and immigration to the United States exploded in the 1800s due to the second industrial revolution that centered on Steel, Oil, and Electricity and required unskilled labor in the factories. The Italians were used like the Irish for labor to improve America and not come apart of American society no matter how hard they tried.  

American society made it difficult for these people to assimilate because they feel as if the

Immigration has shown to be challenging to every migrant group that enters the United States. they have suffered oppression and discrimination from other groups of immigrants due to their differences that may not fit the standards of what an American should be at that time. Evidence has shown that immigrants are only good for their labor skills to improve the country which does not guarantee them a better life in return.

The Know Nothing Party and other nativists did not see immigrants as part of America, therefore, they discriminated against them based on their religion. They were forced to do dangerous labor. The Irish, for example, were used as replacement slaves and were thought of as worthless. In David Roediger’s book “Wages of Whiteness” he talks about how Irish workers were used as slaves and even described lower than African American slaves because they are “worth too much”. David Roediger’s book Wages of Whiteness reads, “Irish-Americans workers . . . [were sometimes] used as substitutes for slaves within the South. Gangs of Irish immigrants worked ditching and draining plantations, building levees and sometimes clearing land because of the danger of death to valuable slave property One Southerner explained the use of Irish labor on the grounds that: “n—–s are worth too much to be risked here; if the Paddies (Irish) are knocked overboard . . . nobody loses anything.” The Americans used the Irish to do dangerous labor because the Americans did not care for the Irish or seen them as people. Americans looked at Irish people as if they were no-good and useless. Americans knew the dangers of draining plantations and ditching but yet they still allowed the Irish to do it. A southerner even said the slaves they owned weren’t even going to be risked but the Americans view the Irish as worthless and disposable and that the Irish should be used to do hard dangerous labor to improve America because they are Catholic.

The Know Nothing Party did not like the Irish being Catholic because they felt overawed by the Irish being Catholic. According to Ohio History Central, “The know nothing party was a united state political party during the late 1840s and the early 1850s. The American Party originated in 1849. Its membersstrongly opposed immigrants and followers of the Catholic Church” The know nothing party accused and claimed the people of the Catholic church were against America. The Know-Nothing American party says, “They HATE the Bible, and would blot it out of existence if they could! The Priests HATE married life, and yet by them is fulfilled the, They HATE Protestants, and are sworn to exterminate them from our country and the earth. They HATE the name of WASHINGTON because he was a Republican and Protestant. They HATE all rulers that do not swear allegiance to the Pope of Rome. They HATE to be ruled by Americans, WE WILL NOT BE RULED BY THEM!” The Know-Nothing Party believed immigrants hate the structure of America and all of it is a lie. The American political Know-Nothing party did not like the Irish due to their own interpretations of them they assume Catholics people full of hatred. But this is just their interpretation of what they believe Irish Catholics are. These assumptions are formed for no practical reason besides the fact that American society excludes and rejects others due to religious beliefs.

Nativists also discriminated against immigrants based on their physical appearance and race. On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor military base in Hawaii. Which made president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, authorizing military authorities to exclude Japanese civilians from any area without trial or hearing. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced Japanese Americans into camps to exclude them from American society. These camps were not someplace anyone would want to live in. They underwent terrible living conditions and were wronged by military guards. The article Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066 by History editors reads, “U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military, in turn, defined the entire West Coast, home to the majority of Americans of Japanese ancestry or citizenship, as a military area. By June, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were relocated to remote internment camps built by the U.S. military in scattered locations around the country. For the next two and a half years, many of these Japanese Americans endured extremely difficult living conditions and poor treatment by their military guards.” Japanese American immigrants that had nothing to do with the Pearl Harbor attack and had been placed in internment camps because the Americans were fearful due to their physical appearance. The Japanese Americans had been in America and most likely never done anything to cripple America but since most of society were afraid of them because they were Japanese they had unreasonably been placed in camps.

Before the Pearl Harbor attack happened there was unsympathetic action happening The FBI arrested many without an actual reason or evidence. This unethical and illegal actions taken upon Japanese Americans shows that Americans truly did not see them as American citizens. They were considered enemies and prisoners at this point for no reason at all.

On December 7, 1941, just hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the FBI rounded-up 1,291 Japanese community and religious leaders, arresting them without evidence and freezing their assets. In January, the arrestees were transferred to facilities in Montana, New Mexico, and North Dakota, many unable to inform their families and most remaining for the duration of the war. Concurrently, the FBI searched the private homes of thousands of Japanese residents on the West Coast, seizing items considered contraband. One-third of Hawaii’s population was of Japanese descent. In a panic, some politicians called for their mass incarceration. Japanese-owned fishing boats were impounded. Some Japanese residents were arrested and 1,500 people—one percent of the Japanese population in Hawaii—were sent to camps on the U.S. mainland. (Japanese Internment Camps by History editors)

 The FBI arrested Japanese American citizens without reason and searched the homes of many without permission. Then proceeded to place the Japanese Americans in camps which they could not contact their family members. This unfair treatment shows how American society looks down upon people because of physical appearance. If the Japanese immigrants looked like what an American is considered to be during that time period this probably wouldn’t have happened the government wouldn’t be afraid of their own citizens. Physical appearance plays an essential role in how immigrants get handled in America. The Japanese Americans were treated like immigrants and looked at as if they did not belong in America. These acts were committed before the bombing of Pearl Harbor which is extremely irrational. These people could not even contact their families for the remainder of the war. Some may disagree with the fact that immigrants were treated unfairly by American society due to physical appearance, race and social class. For example, People may say immigrants had job opportunities, education and were more free in America. According to Michel Martin in Drive To ‘Create Stuff’ Brings Immigrant Success, “Well, I’m an immigrant to this country. I was able to get a great education thanks to my mom’s hard work and the lucky sort of draw of the straw. We landed in Connecticut at a good time when public education worked, and my drive really was to create stuff and – in business and in journalism, and eventually, I found myself with the Internet and I was one of the first creators, I guess, of Internet companies in the ’90s. From an immigrant’s perspective, they got a good education in America and made a life for themselves with free education and an excellent work drive.” This evidence is irrelevant even though education and job opportunities were offered immigrants were still treated poorly by American society. In 1883 an offensive cartoon was made by Frederick Burr Opper titled “The Irish declaration of independence that we are all familiar with” and published in the Puck magazine. The image shows an American woman and an Irish woman in a kitchen but the Irish woman was drawn large and what American society would most likely consider ugly. Also, it looked as if the Irish woman threw something out of the Americans woman hands or appeared as if she was overpowering the American Woman in a wild manner. Frederick Burr Opper and Puck magazine wanted to influence American citizens to believe that Irish immigrants were savages and like wild animals, the Irish woman in the picture was drawn to look like an ape, not feminine or not normal to degrade them. Americans did this to immigrants to shove immigrants away from American society and make them feel worthless. Others still believe that immigrants weren’t disrespected or pushed away from American society but that is simply not true. Immigrants were belittled and made to look like beasts who could not be apart of society and follow rules.

 In a passage from Jacob Riis book How the Other Half Lives a small excerpt speaks on Italian immigrants living conditions but also brings up Irish and Chinese immigrants. The text reads,” The Italian comes in at the bottom, and in the generation that came over the sea he stays there. In the slums he is welcomed as a tenant who “makes less trouble” than the contentious Irishman or the order-loving German, that is to say: is content to live in a pig-sty and submits to robbery at the hands of the rent-collector without murmur” Riis goes on to say, “Ordinarily he is easily enough governed by authority—always excepting Sunday, when he settles down to a game of cards and lets loose all his bad passions. Like the Chinese, the Italian is a born gambler. His soul is in the game from the moment the cards are on the table, and very frequently his knife is in it too before the game is ended.” Jacob Riis is an American citizen and influential author who is known for using pictures to dramatize his lectures and books (Britannica). But Jacob added his own bias in his work which passed onto others and influenced society to look down on immigrants. Jacob says “Like the Chinese, the Italian is a born gambler. His soul is in the game from the moment the cards are on the table, and very frequently his knife is in it too before the game is ended.” Riis claims that Chinese and Italian immigrants that live in the slums are criminals and speaks on them as if he knows that is actually true. Jacob Riis created stereotypes against immigrants to influence the American community to believe they were corrupt people who do not deserve to be apart of American society. With Riis platform, he could have helped make society accept immigrants and show their pains but instead, he showed that American society discriminates against immigrants and was not fair towards them. When Italian immigrants came to America they were cramped in small tenements which was an inhumane place that caused diseases to spread. Immigrants get unfair treatment from nativist because of their nationality. According to Tenements and Toil the text reads “usually grossly overcrowded by their landlords. Cramped, poorly lit, under-ventilated, and usually without indoor plumbing, the tenements were hotbeds of vermin and disease and were frequently swept by cholera, typhus, and tuberculosis.” Immigrants were made to live in slums and unfortunate areas. Since they were immigrants and Italian nativist and landlords decided they could be put wherever they want because they’re not apart of American society. Nativist looked down on immigrants because of their nationality and no other reason.

American society has always looked down on immigrants because of race, physical appearance, and religion, It shouldn’t of had been that way. Immigrants work hard to assimilate into new countries and get tormented by citizens and the government

 Willis , Charles A. “When Did They Come?” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/destinationamerica/usim_wn_noflash.html.

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