Immigration and Ethnicity
September 29, 2013
The United States of Immigrants
The United States of America is known as “the land of the free”. We are a nation full of immigrants who have traveled from across the globe. Being the most diverse country on Earth, America is where they want to go. But why? Why do people consistently choose America as their destination to live? America was founded on freedom which attracts people from different cuts of life. We take in individuals and give them a chance to thrive. Whether it is with work opportunities, freedom of religion, a better economy or shelter from war and discrimination, the United States of America is the place to be.
Job opportunities have continuously been one of the greatest push/pull factors in bringing people to America. Since the birth of America, up until very recently, jobs were in high demand because of the rapid growth of our nation. When people in other countries did not have work, they came to America, the land of opportunity. During the 1830’s to the 1880’s, it was dubbed “Old Immigration” when numerous immigrants originating from Northwest and Eastern Europe came to America. From the 1840’s through the 1850’s, mass quantities of Irish immigrants arrived at port cities like New York and Boston for work. Since work was scarce in their home countries, they had agreed to work very hard for long hours with little pay here in America. This provided them with job security since employers would rather hire new immigrants who were willing to work for less. Alongside the Irish in the 1840’s, a significant amount of Germans came to the United States seeking labor. Germany had a recent crop failure which not only wiped out a great amount of jobs, but damaged the overall quality of life as well. Since food prices skyrocketed and employment began to go downhill, people decided to leave Germany in hopes that America will provide them with a more suitable life. Numerous amounts of German farmers settled in the Midwest cities like Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, where, again, employers gave the jobs to these immigrants who agreed to cheap labor.
The 1850’s Gold Rush opened up plentiful work opportunities in the western United States. Due to the bountiful amounts of uncovered land promising gold, many immigrants came for the chance to strike it rich. This especially attracted Chinese immigrants as well. These immigrants were willing to work long and hard to mine gold, even though it was not a guaranteed form of income. Not long after the Gold Rush was the building of railroads. By building these railroads, it would allow an easier way of traveling from the eastern side of America to the west. Lots of Chinese immigrants saw this as an opportunity and took a huge part in the construction of the railroads. The majority of the work done on the railroad was done by the Chinese Immigrants. This work was extensive and difficult with meager pay and even though the job was also in poor conditions, it was nonetheless a work opportunity.
Another main reason Immigrants came here throughout America’s lifespan was for a better economy. From 1885 to 1910 was a time period labeled “New Immigration.” Most of the immigrants during this time derived from Central, Southern and Eastern Europe. Italians and Sicilians came in large numbers in order to escape the poor economy and overpopulation where they resided. Although, at first, they were despised when traveling, it was worth the suffering since the conditions were better than living back in their home country. Slavs, Eastern Europeans that have a similar language and customs as Jews, also came to the United States for a better economy and political freedom. America was still a young country with plenty of work opportunities and a rising economy.
America, where there was plenty job opportunities, a rising economy, and a democracy, had more to offer. We offered a place to come and practice religion without discrimination. Stated in the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. The issue of religious freedom has been a large role in the history of the United States. Since very early on in America’s lifetime, we have had people that had fled their countries from religious problems until today. Many members of various faiths including Jews, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists came to the U.S. in massive waves from 1840 to 1920. From the foundation of America until the 1900’s, Europeans came to America to escape religious oppression and forced beliefs by state-affiliated Christian churches like The Roman Catholic Church and The Church of England. Jews have been discriminated against throughout history. Eastern Jews fled their countries because of the overwhelming discrimination and poverty. From 1885 throughout 1910, these Jews were not allowed to own land, move or work in their home countries. America was, and still is, one of the few places that tolerated Jews by law, and so we became a very popular destination. In a more recent case of escaping religious persecution, a large mass of Bahi’s fled Iran in the 1980’s to come to the land of the free. Despite America seeming like a decent destination for a lot of immigrants, this wasn’t always the case. War has pushed people to move since the beginning of civilization. Sometimes moving to the United States wasn’t a desired option; it was the only option. The 19th Century was home to a great number of wars in Europe leaving them in poor economic shape. Europeans started to flee the wars and inevitable economic downfall of their countries to America from the 1820’s until a huge boom of immigrants in the 1830’s until the 1850’s. In the 20th century, millions escaped war finding shelter in America in the 1980’s coming from Afghanistan, Iran, Uganda, Southeastern Asia, and Central America. Even today, people still come to America to find shelter from war in the Middle East. America has proved to be the most diverse country on the planet. We have people from all across the globe with different religious beliefs and lifestyles. The job opportunities, religious freedom, a rising economy, and a shelter from war and discrimination are all aspects that built the America we see today. These universal factors are the reasons why immigrants choose America as their place to settle. As long as these issues still exist in the world, ultimately the United States of America will always be the place to be.
Bryant, Joyce. "Immigration in the United States." Immigration in the United States. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.
Byrne, Julie. "Roman Catholics and Immigration in Nineteenth-Century America, The Nineteenth Century, Divining America: Religion in American History, TeacherServe, National Humanities Center." Roman Catholics and Immigration in Nineteenth-Century America, The Nineteenth Century, Divining America: Religion in American History, TeacherServe, National Humanities Center. Dept. of Religion, Duke University, Nov. 2000. Web. 28 Sept. 2013.
United States. Bill of Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2013. .