Since the 1800s, America has experienced three great waves of mass immigration. The first great wave of immigration came from Europe between the 1820s-1880s (Healey and Stepnick 60). The second mass immigration came from the 1880s to the 1920s, and the current wave has been continuing since 1965. Each of these immigration waves differed from the other and had a diverse effect on the economy and other issues in the United States.
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The language acculturation by generation characterizes the first wave of immigrants. Immigrants moved to America to assimilate there and seek jobs, flee from religious persecution or the police, establish farming businesses, and start a better life there. The first wave of mass immigration contributed to industrialization, stimulating the industrial revolution (Healey and Stepnick 64). People moved from Northern and Western Europe to America and did not speak English up to the end of their lives. However, their children learned English in school and were bilingual. Finally, the third generation of immigrants spoke English as their native language and did not know their grandparents’ language. In such a way, by the third or fourth generation, the English language replaced the native language of the immigrants who came from Europe.
A smoother process of acculturation characterizes the second wave of immigration. Those who moved from Southern and Eastern Europe later integrated and attained equality faster than their predecessors. The Jewish immigrants came to the United States and established their enclave economy there. Still, many immigrant groups wanted to recreate their old world in America, starting businesses, building churches, and supporting each other within their groups. Nevertheless, immigrant groups suffered from discrimination and prejudices during both waves of immigration.
In contrast, the current wave of mass immigration is characterized by better attitudes toward immigrants. For example, most Americans do not share anti-Semitic views and do not discriminate against Jewish immigrants in the same way as they did several decades ago (Healey and Stepnick 75). Moreover, the current wave of immigration is more diverse. Thus, in 2017, people came from 199 different countries – beginning with Afghanistan and Albania and ending with Zambia and Zimbabwe (Healey and Stepnick 401). The average immigration rate is almost two times higher than earlier. The number of legal immigrants has also increased significantly.
While most first and second-wave immigrants were uneducated, the third-wave immigrants tended to be more educated and skilled than other citizens of their native countries. Many of them come to the United States not only to survive and earn money but also to seek better opportunities for their children and run away from violence and corruption (Healey and Stepnick 403). Many high-skilled immigrants, especially from India, Egypt, Nigeria, and Iran, are fluent in English and have better chances of finding good jobs than their predecessors (Healey and Stepnick 421). Nevertheless, the government has limited the number of refugees and made the conditions for legal immigration stricter. Consequently, the number of unlegalized immigrants increased.
Having analyzed three waves of immigration to the United States, one can conclude that the current wave is more diverse and assimilative. During the first two waves, immigrants were uneducated and less willing to assimilate and integrate. Currently, those who arrive in America are fluent in English, more educated, and can easily integrate into American culture. At the same time, all three waves of immigration are characterized by discrimination and prejudices.
Healey, Joseph F., and Andi Stepnick. Diversity & Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender. 6th ed., Sage, 2020.
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