Changing Patterns of Immigration
Millions of immigrants came to the United States from northern Europe in the mid-1800s. They came mainly from Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, and the countries of Scandinavia. Except for the Irish, who were Roman Catholics, most were Protestants. Many were skilled workers.
Others settled in rural areas and became farmers.
By the late 1800s immigrants from northern Europe were known as old immigrants. A newer and larger wave of immigration from different parts of the world was arriving in the United States. New Immigrants
During the 1880s more than 5 million immigrants arrived in the United States about the same number of people as had arrived during the six decades from 1800 to 1860 combined. The majority of these new immigrants were from southern and eastern Europe. Thousands of Czechs, Greeks, Hungarians, Italians, Poles, Russians, and Slovaks came to the United States to find new opportunities and better lives. A young woman from Russia spoke for many of her fellow immigrants when she said she hoped “for all manner of miracles in a strange, wonderful land!” New immigrants came from many different cultural and religious backgrounds. They included Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, and Jews. Some were escaping political or religious persecution.
They were eager for the job opportunities created by the U. S. industrial boom of the late 1800s. Arriving in a New Land
Immigrants usually faced a difficult journey by ship to America. Most traveled in steerage an area below a ship’s deck where steering mechanisms were located. Steerage tickets were inexpensive, but the cabins were hot, cramped, and foul-smelling. Many passengers were seasick for the entire journey.
Some even died of diseases contracted along the way.
Once in the United States, new arrivals were processed through government-run immigration centers. The busiest center on the East Coast was Ellis Island, which opened in New York Harbor in 1892. The first immigrant processed through Ellis Island was Annie Moore Schayer, a 14 year old from Ireland. Over the next 40 years, millions of European immigrants came through Ellis Island. At immigration centers officials inter-viewed and examined immigrants to decide whether to let them enter the country. People with contagious diseases or legal problems could be turned away. “There was this terrible anxiety that one of us might be rejected,” remembered one immigrant traveling with his family.
“And if one of us was, what would the rest of the family do?”
This rarely happened, however.
Less than 2 percent of the people who arrived at Ellis Island were not allowed into the country. On the West Coast, many Chinese immigrants entered the United States through Angel Island, which opened near San Francisco in 1910. Because laws limited immigration from China, only people whose fathers were U. S. citizens were allowed into the country. Chinese immigrants were often kept at Angel Island for weeks or months while officials investigated their families. Mexican immigrants also came to the United States in large numbers in the late 1800s. The main processing center for immigrants from Mexico was in El Paso, Texas. Most settled in the Southwest.
They found work in construction, steel mills, and mines, and on large commercial farms. Adjusting to a New Life
Once they entered the United States, immigrants began the hard work of adjusting to life in a new country. They needed to find homes and jobs.
They had to learn a new language and get used to new customs. This was all part of building a new life.
Many immigrants moved into neighborhoods with others from the same country. In these neighborhoods, they could speak their native language and eat foods that reminded them of home. Immigrants could also practice the customs that their families had passed down from generation to generation. An Italian immigrant remembered that...
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