Immigration in The Past
Lesson 18 addresses immigration to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From 1820 to 1880, the overwhelming majority of immigration to the United States came from Germany, Ireland, and England. Starting around 1880, immigration patterns in the United States shifted. Although immigrants still came from Germany and Great Britain, even more came from Eastern Europe, Russia, and Italy.
Between 1880 and 1915, 20 million immigrants came to the United States. The greatest number of immigrants came from Italy. Facing poverty, oppressive landowners, and rampant disease, many Italians left their homeland during this period. Approximately 25% of Italy’s population left the country and came either to the United States or South America.
Many of these immigrants went to work in industrial jobs, providing the labor needed for large-scale industrialization. These people came in search of economic opportunity, looking for the “American Dream.” Some were fleeing political or religious persecution, while others sought more economic opportunity.
Many did not speak English. Most were illiterate, poor, and either Jewish or Catholic. These people seemed very different from the German, British, and Irish immigrants who had flooded in the country in the “old immigration” of the 1840s. They often faced discrimination and segregation in the United States.
Most immigrants settled in large cities and went to work in factories, having a big impact on industrialization. Industry now had an abundant labor supply to exploit. These millions of new Americans played a vital role in the rapid industrialization experienced in the United States.
Much of what was true about immigration to the United States in the past seems true today. Thousands who do not speak English, are illiterate, and poor seek the economic opportunities and political freedoms that Americans enjoy.
Our nation’s contemporary immigration discourse appears, at the moment, to center on the merits of building a wall across our border with Mexico. The author of the article I would like you to read suggests the opposite; he wants to open the borders.
Why does the author believe open borders would be a good thing? Do you agree with the author? Why or why not?