History of Immigration in United States Essay

Total Length: 1035 words ( 3 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 8

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American immigration policy and population patterns have changed in response to labor demands and economic forces, as well as shifts in American identity and social norms. Global forces have also shaped immigration patterns over the past hundred years. Anti-immigration sentiments have also strongly influenced immigration policies, with the most notable examples from a century ago being the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Nativist movement of the 1920s (Young 1). Similar Nativist sentiments bubbled to the surface during the Trump administration, clouding constructive discourse on the role and status of immigrants in the United States, and the fundamental functions of immigration policy.



Although the United States was always a settler nation, immigration trends changed in the early 20th century. Immigrants from Southern Europe and Eastern Europe started to pour in before the First World War, pushed by economic uncertainties and outright poverty and pulled by the promise of readymade jobs in rapidly industrializing America (“Immigration in the Early 1900s” 1). American immigration policy favored these new immigrants to fill needed low-wage positions in industry. As Zolberg points out, the new immigrants were expected to assimilate into America’s “melting pot” ideal, rather than to create a multicultural nation but self-segregation of immigrant communities proved inevitable. Race-based immigration policies have also been part of the 20th century, with Chinese exclusion being only one example.

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Cutting off new Chinese immigrants meant that the United States would seek low-wage earners from elsewhere, particularly Mexico. Solicitation of Mexican agricultural and other itinerant or temporary workers was known as the “bracero” program (McCabe 1). The bracero program model continues to dominate immigration trends—not just in the United States but around the world (McCabe 1). By the 1920s, American immigration policy actively sought Mexican immigrants while still placing strict quotas or all-out bans on Asian immigrants (Zolberg). The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 was essentially a quota system dictating where immigrants could or could not hail from (Alvarez 1).



It is also important to point out that immigration policies have been gendered, too, particularly with regards to policies restricting female immigrants. Chinese male laborers were not permitted to reunite with their wives in America, essentially an overtly racist immigration policy that prevented Chinese laborers from enjoying the full privileges of American citizenship. The same racist and gendered policies applied to Indian applicants (Zolberg 1). However, the same kinds of gendered laws did not apply when the United States opened its doors more widely to Europeans. Even though Southern and Eastern Europeans were not considered as “white” as the original settler stock from Northern Europe and Great Britain, Eastern Europeans and Christians were deemed….....

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Works Cited

Alvarez, Priscilla. “A Brief History of America’s ‘Love-Hate Relationship’ With Immigration.” The Atlantic. 19 Feb, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/donald-trump-immigration/517119/

Brookings Immigration. “The New Geography of United States Immigration.” https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/07_immigration_geography_singer.pdf

Hirschman, Charles. “The Contributions of Immigrants to American Culture.” Daedalus, Vol. 143, No. 3, 0.1162/DAED_a_00217.
"Immigration in the early 1900s," EyeWitness to History, 2000. www.eyewitnesstohistory.com

McCabe, Kristen. “Immigration and the United States: Recession Affects Flows, Prospects for Reform.” Migration Policy Institute. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/immigration-and-united-states-recession-affects-flows-prospects-reform

Young, Julia G. “Making America 1920 Again? Nativism and US Immigration, Past and Present.” Journal on Migration and Human Security, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2017): 217-235.

Zeitz, Joshua. “The Real History of American Immigration.” Politico Magazine. 6 Aug, 2017. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/06/trump-history-of-american-immigration-215464

Zolberg, Aristide. Rethinking the last 200 years of U.S. immigration policy. Migration Policy Institute. 2006. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/rethinking-last-200-years-us-immigration-policy

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