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“Old” Immigrants vs. “New” Immigrants
Millions of people from around the world have immigrated to America in hopes of a better life. The country’s reputation for political freedom, religious freedom, and abundant economic opportunities has attracted many immigrants in the last couple of centuries. In the mid-1800s, hundreds of thousands of immigrants poured into America coming from mostly northern and western Europe. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, another wave of “new” immigrants came to America from mostly southern and western Europe. The “new” immigrants (1890s-1920s) were similar to the “old” immigrants (1890s-1920s) in that they both encountered discrimination from native-born Americans; however, their overall acceptance into American society differed. One similarity between the old immigrants and the new immigrants was that they both faced discrimination from American-born citizens. The old immigrants in the mid-1800s faced strong opposition from the nativists- those who reacted most strongly against the foreigners. The nativists were Protestant and opposed the Irish and German immigrants’ practice of Roman Catholicism. This strong opposition led to heavy rioting and the organization of an antiforeigner society known as the Supreme Order of the Star-Spangled Banner. This society eventually formed a political party in the 1850s: the Know-Nothing party. The new immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s faced similar discrimination. Federal laws imposed discriminatory restrictions on immigration. The first immigrant restriction law passed by Congress was known as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This law banned all new immigrants from China. Soon after, restrictions were placed on immigrants considered to be “undesirable” due to criminal acts or mental instabilities. Yet another immigration law passed in 1885 restricted contract labor, which was intended to protect American-born workers. The stringent laws restricting immigrants in the late 1800s and...
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