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18 October, 2016


Filed under: Immigration in the USA — csa1 @ 6:34

1st wave of Caravan of from Honduras arrived in Mexico City

The United States as a Nation of Immigrants


The history of immigration in the USA

There were several waves of immigrants to the US from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.

  1. During colonization

  2. In the middle of the nineteenth century

  3. The beginning of the twentieth century

  4. After 1965

    Historians estimate that fewer than 1 million immigrants came to the United States from Europe between 1600 and 1799. The 1790 Act limited naturalization to “free white persons”; it was expanded to include blacks in the 1860s and Asians in the 1950s.In the early years of the United States, immigration was fewer than 8,000 people a year, including French refugees from the slave revolt in Haiti. After 1820, immigration gradually increased. From 1836 to 1914, over 30 million Europeans migrated to the United States. The death rate on these transatlantic voyages was high, during which one in seven travelers died.In 1875, the nation passed its first immigration law, the Page Act of 1875.

The American revolution started on April 19, 1775 and ended on  July 4, 1776  when the Declaration of independence was signed. It was  the end of the American Revolution. The first president became George Washington.

During its first hundred years, 1780–1875, the United States had a laissez-faire or open borders policy that allowed immigrants into the United States without restriction. At the time of the American Revolution, most colonists wanted more immigrants to help develop North America.

 For example, federal and state governments encouraged immigration through railroad and canal construction subsidies because the companies that built the railroads and canals needed to hire laborers, who were most easily found in Ireland and Germany. Federal and state militias enlisted foreigners—immigrants represented a third of the regular soldiers in the U.S. army in the 1840s.

Immigrants were generally welcomed in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Although there were fears, especially in the Federalist Party, that immigrants might alter the culture and customs of the United States, the match between Europeans seeking opportunity and an America in need of people left the immigration door wide open. The Naturalization Act of 1790 established the principle that an immigrant could acquire citizenship relatively easily.


Between 1783 and 1820, an estimated 250,000 immigrants came to America. After 1820, ship captains had to report on the immigrants they brought to the United States, and since then, 67 million immigrants have been admitted to the United States.

Immigration increased in the 1830s, but most were from Great Britain and Germany, and most were Protestants. The first major anti-immigrant reaction arose after the influx of Roman Catholic immigrants in the 1840s. The “Know-Nothing” movement, embodied by the Amer-ican Party, included Protestant clergymen, journalists, and other opinion leaders who formed the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner. While they urged the restriction of immigrants from non-Anglo-Saxon countries, members of the Know-Nothing movement were instructed to answer any inquiries about the Order with the words “I know nothing about it.” The American Party had considerable success: it was represented in northeastern state legislatures, and Know-Nothings won seventy House seats in the congressional election of 1854. However, Congress did not respond to the anti-immigrant feeling: one reason for inaction was the Civil War and reconstruction, which slowed immigration.


In the mid-19th century, while the United States was experiencing an era of tremendous growth, a fundamental economic difference existed between the country’s northern and southern regions. While in the North, manufacturing and industry was well established, and agriculture was mostly limited to small-scale farms, the South’s economy was based on a system of large-scale farming that depended on the labor of black slaves to grow certain crops, especially cotton and tobacco. Growing abolitionist sentiment in the North after the 1830s and northern opposition to slavery’s extension into the new western territories led many southerners to fear that the existence of slavery in america–and thus the backbone of their economy–was in danger.

Four years of brutal conflict

In the spring of 1861, decades of simmering tensions between the northern and southern United States over issues including states’ rights versus federal authority, westward expansion and slavery exploded into the American Civil War (1861-65). The election of the anti-slavery Republican Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860 caused seven southern states to secede from the Union to form the Confederate States of America; four more joined them after the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Qualitative restrictions

In 1875, qualitative restrictions barred the arrival of convicts and prostitutes. The Immigration Act of 1882 added to the list of those denied admission paupers and “mental defectives,” and for the first time barred immigrants from a particular country: the Chinese. In the early 1900s, there was a “gentleman’s agreement” with Japan—the United States agreed not to add Japanese to the excluded list, and Japan agreed not to issue passports to Japanese headed for the United States.

Many Americans wanted to keep out illiterate immigrants, and Congress approved literacy tests for arriving immigrants in 1896, 1913, and 1915 so that adult foreigners who could not read or write in any language would not be admitted. However, literacy tests were vetoed by three presidents, but the veto was overridden in 1917, so foreigners over the age of sixteen who could not read in any language were barred.

World War I virtually stopped transatlantic migration. When immigration revived in 1919 and 1920, the numbers were large, and the immigrants were still from the “wrong” part of Europe, the south and the east, which suggested that the literacy test did not achieve the goals.

Quantitative Restrictions: Since 1921

In 1921, Congress passed the Temporary Quota Act, which set numerical restrictions on immigrant admissions, and in 1924, this was set at 150,000 per year, plus accompanying wives and children.

When President John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960, he pledged to change the national origins system in a manner that would treat the nationals of all countries equally.

Immigration shifted from a mostly transatlantic movement from Europe to the United States to a Latin American and Asian phenomenon. Between 1955 and 1964, 50 percent of the immigrants were from Europe, 20 percent were from Latin America, and 8 percent were from Asia. Between 1975 and 1984, 13 percent of immigrants were from Europe, 44 percent were from Latin America, and 43 percent were from Asia.


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