Since 1877, the US had experienced several waves of immigration that shaped its policy and contributed to the creation of the different society characterized by great diversity and power. Nevertheless, there are still some opponents, who tend to believe that the policy of openness is unprofitable and it should be stopped for the sake of the future of the country. Thus, nowadays it is essential to analyze the precedents that took place in the past so that the society could have some insights on what to expect from the following generations and be open to the changes.
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The Great Wave of Immigration
America saw a significant influx of immigrants in 1920s. The predominant number of people were from eastern and southern Europe. While Industrial Revolution had brought about only the rise of unemployed and affected social life, in the United States it gave individuals an opportunity to work and prosper. With an active mechanization of the production, many people lost their jobs without any chance to find a new one. The demand for the private handicraftsman fell as well when the factories suggested their cheap materials and service. In fact, a swell in the population in the 1920s had made a job-search even harder. Although economic issues might play the fundamental role in making the decision to immigrate, there were social aspects that motivated people. European governmental system may be characterized as oppressive at those times. After a wave of unsuccessful revolutionary attempts to make it more liberal, many citizens intended to strive for a better life in the young and modern USA. Therefore, the deterioration of the economy, the lack of freedom, the absence of work – all of this contributed to the will to abandon the home for America.
Many came to the United States with their hopes and aspirations, however bright they might have been, people apparently faced challenges. Apart from hard work and stress after moving, foreigners had to confront with natives or people who came before, and thought the flow of new citizens would deteriorate the social and economic life in the United States. Nativists were the group that was created to defend American virtues and values from the harmful impact caused by the immigrants. In 1924, they found the support in Congress, and the Johnson-Reed Act, limiting the number of incomers, was released. Moreover, the so-called clash of cultures provoked the Ku Klux Klan revival. Although, one may say that their only target were black people, by the time of Roaring twenties Klansmen demonstrated their animosity toward newly arrived foreigners as well. Thus, even though the government was quite welcoming toward the newcomers from the overseas, the natives and immigrants who came before acted relatively bellicose.
Throughout the United States and Overseas
Another significant inflow of people was seen at the beginning of 1939. With the growth of Nazi movement and the aggravation of discrimination, Europeans were bound to seek a better place to live. By that time, the power of Hitler had considerably increased. However, the foreigners did not receive accolades and invitations from the Americans. Between 1933 and 1939, German Jews were seeking for a shelter so they asked USA for help. Unfortunately, the officials that managed all the Immigration Department were forced to deny commemorating their respect to Germany. During these years, about 300 thousand of Jews applied for visa and only 70 thousand acquired it. One could suggest that such actions were motivated by the will to defend the boarders of the country from the foreigners; however, it is possible to speculate that such tactic was aimed to support the friendship with Germany. One of such immigrants and probably one of the most famous was Albert Einstein. He moved to the USA in 1933 after Princeton suggested him a place in the lineup. In his speech (1940), he addressed all the Americans with an appeal to accept new people and consider all the benefits that immigration could bring to the society. One could contemplate that the egalitarian speech, though not that popular, reflects the way foreigners were perceived and the kind of the burdens that possibly followed them.
Between 1959 and 1962, thousands of Cubans moved to the USA regarding moving this country to be the best way to escape from the riot and its consequences. At first, it was connected with the corrupted regime of the notorious Fulfencia Batistita. Many representatives of high and middle class decided to leave the country before the system would break down completely. Meanwhile, there appeared an alternative shift for Batistita – Fidel Castro. He and the advocates of his ideas saw the revolution as the way to restart Cuban economy and ideology. However, the censorship of the mass media, tight measurements for the food stamps and Marx propaganda did not bring about any positive change, but on the opposite, gave the Cubans more reasons for immigration. In fact, many people moving from the island believed that they would come back soon (Garcia, 1996). The United States had a series of interventions in Cuban life before, so people expected the same this time. Most of the immigrants from there crossed the border using their tourist or student visa. Finally, the huge influx of foreigners in 1959 was the result of the social, economic and political instability in the country.
The Immigration Act of 1965
The United States witnessed a second surge of immigrants after the World War ll. Nearly 260 thousand of foreigners crossed the border. The main reason for this is that before 1965 part of the world was deprived of the possibility to become an American citizen. The quota system established in the 1920s imposed a measurement on the number of immigrants of a particular nationality. It gave an access to the Western and Northern Europeans and at the same time closed the boarders for Asia, Africa and South America. The main argument for this was that the USA was always populated with people from the European continent and foreigners from other countries could detrimentally influence the United States. The advocates of civil rights underscored that the current policy was degrading and could serve only as a depiction of discrimination. After the implementation of a Hart-Celler Act (1965), the immigration policy shifted into more oriented on reuniting separated families and engaging a highly professional workforce to the US. Therefore, the system became more flexible and could contribute both to the economic state of the country and demographical variety.
The Difference between the Immigrant Waves
From the overall perspective, each wave of immigration somehow contributed to the formation of the American nation and its economy. Talking about the wave that took place in the 1920s, one could suppose that the influx of foreigners accelerated the evolution of Industrial Revolution, as the labor force that it provided become a key factor for its success. Meanwhile, the role of pre-war period inflow of people is hard to overestimate. Europeans being frightened of the Nazi regime at the time so different, represented a solid group of like-minded fellows, who finally did not hesitate to defend their thoughts and rights no matter on behalf of which country. Furthermore, precisely at this period the economic performance of the United States considerably improved mostly due to the work of the people whose residence was negotiated so many times. Compared to the other migration groups, Cubans could be deemed different, as they
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became the source of the highly professional individuals with skills for business. It is true that their excellent profiles became beneficial for the development of highly profitable industries on the territory of America. Finally, yet importantly, an adoption of Immigration Act in 1956 may be considered as a huge step towards the egalitarian system, which had always been the priority of the country, however, had never really existed before.
To sum up, the immigration experience of the United States formulates its identity. Comparing the four events, one could justify that each one them is different in its impact on the country, date, and premises. It would be hard to disagree that
learning from past precedents would broaden people’s understanding of immigration process and give the perspective of what influences it would have in the future. Learning from the past, humanity precludes itself from making the same mistakes as it did before.
86th Congress of the United States of America (1924). Immigration Act of 1924. House of Representatives, 1924.
89th Congress. (1965). Immigration and Nationality Act of 1956, a.k.a. the Hart-Celler Act. Web.
Garcia M.C. (1996). Havana USA: Cuban Exiles and Cuban Americans in South Florida, 1959-1994. California, USA: University of California Press.
Nativism. (2017). European Exhibitions. Web.