Currently the United States houses over 26 million immigrants from various countries and their presence has a profound impact on the country’s current state. These individuals predominantly reside within the country’s metropolitan areas for a variety of reasons. Their population continues to shape the political status of the country as well as create diversity within the US culture. This population of diverse individuals has migrated from a various countries and for a myriad of individual or economic reasons; however all are searching to improve their current living conditions.
A question that many ask is why these individuals decide to migrate from their country of origin and begin a new life outside of their cultural beliefs. The answer to this question varies, as reasons exist on both a micro and macro level. Looking at the micro-level of reasoning we find that many flee to avoid political persecution or to join family or friends that have migrated previously. The most common reason is to rise above poverty by relocating in an area where jobs are fruitful and families can support themselves adequately.
Relocation also takes place on a macro-level as well. Individuals and families relocate due to wars and civil upheavals within their country of origin with hopes of finding peace and serenity in a country that preaches freedom and liberty for its citizens. Immigrants also relocate on this level to again, search for work that will adequately support their family financially; therefore, improving the lifestyle they leave behind. Many immigrants do not immigrate permanently and travel from place to place working in various jobs that provide income for their families. This constant migration takes place within as well as outside national borders.
Other reasons for leaving their country of origin is due to the fact that families and friends who have relocated to the United States have offered promises of employment, various opportunities such as business ventures as well as housing. This particular purpose is called a chain of migration and the immigrants travel to a specific area of the United States to join their loved ones.
This history of immigrant populations within the United States has taken place is three waves. The first wave took place between 1860 and 1890. This particular wave consisted of immigrants from Northern European counties, Germany, the United Kingdom and, though a lower number than the others, Scandinavia. These individuals were predominantly white, were Protestants and their cultures were similar to the current citizens of the United States. Their most distinctive feature was the fact that their English speaking language carried an accent of some sort. For example, a person from the United Kingdom spoke English with a slightly different sound.
During the first wave of immigration individuals relocated in both urban and rural areas within the United States. In the urban areas the immigrants would take up some type of craftsman trade that allowed them to stand out from the current citizens and make their way in a unique fashion. Immigrants settling in the rural areas would most likely become farmers and make their way by raising crops or animals.
The Second wave took place between 1900 and 1920 another wave of individuals immigrated to the United States. This group of people came from various countries, mostly Hungary, Italy, Austria and Russia. These individuals spoke a number of languages and their religion was predominantly Catholic, Jewish or Easton Orthodox. This second wave of immigrants brought individuals into the country whose cultural differences were more apparent from the native born Americans.
At this stage the immigrants began to become more isolated in certain areas of the United States. No longer would these people spread equally within the country, they found that employment opportunities were far greater in the industrialized areas. The industries with rapid growth during this time period were mainly coal mines and steel mills searching for individuals willing to work hard to earn their living.
The third wave of immigrants began in 1965 and continues currently. Fifty percent of these individuals are of Latin decent and most migrate from Mexico. Another thirty percent come from Asian countries such as Vietnam, China and the Philippines. Another population of immigrants with significant numbers of individuals residing in the United States comes from the country of India.
The cultural differences of the current population of immigrants are far more apparent than the earlier waves. These people are predominantly from third world countries and a large number do not speak English. Their race and ethnicity differences are far more visible than prior waves and their cultural habits stand apart from the current commonalities between native born citizens.
People native to the United States have varied reactions when looking at the current number of individuals immigrating to the United States. Immigrants that enter the country during times of rapid growth and expansion are mostly welcomed and considered valuable to the labor force in various industries. If the country has met a time of recession, most often these individuals are met with animosity. The press has gone so far as to describe these individuals as economic competitors and declare that their social, moral, political and religious habits make them questionable people.
These laws have changed over time and began with the Alien Sedition Act of 1798 during the first wave of immigration. This particular law mandated that immigrants must reside within the United States for 14 year before they received the privilege to vote in any type of election. It also stated that the president could legally expel anyone that posed a threat to this country’s welfare. During this particular wave of immigration many individuals were hostile towards people of Irish and German decent as well as Catholic Immigrants.
The second wave brought animosity between the native born Americans and the immigrants settling within the borders of the United States. This negative reaction was due to the fact that these two groups were in direct competition within the workforce. At this stage a quota system was developed and the number of immigrants allowed into the country was restricted due to personal characteristics and their country of origin. To determine the number of individuals allowed to settle within the borders of the United States the government took into account the current population of each nationality and then decided how many individuals of each would be allowed to enter. At this time the highest population of immigrants was from the British Isles; therefore, this population was given the highest quota. The idea behind this quota system was to lessen the number of immigrants by 20% and to regulate the current stream of immigrants allowed to settle in what they considered to be the land of opportunity.
The laws established during the first two waves of immigration set the stage for the contemporary legislation used to govern immigration and in 1965 these laws would undergo a profound change. This bill raised the number of immigrants allowed into the United States yearly, abolished the quota system and reestablished the preference towards certain types of individuals allowed to settle. Certain criteria is given preference such as immigrants who currently have family that reside within the country’s borders, individuals who possess certain occupational specialties and people who are certifiable refugees.
Since 1965 the United States has seen a profound increase in the number of immigrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America. It has also seen an increase in individuals who posses some type of college or advanced degree that offers some type of service to citizens that is lacking within the United States; however some unskilled workers are allowed to enter the country.
United States policy on immigration has undergone a drastic change mostly due to the public’s reaction to newcomers. As stated earlier many native born Americans despise any type of competition within the workforce. They feel that the available jobs should be offered to those born in America, rather than giving everyone equal opportunity. Many political groups feel that they experience some type of gain if newcomers are not allowed to settle in the US and attempt to inhibit immigration by manipulating public opinion. Many immigrant populations are depicted to the public as undesirable and these populations are suddenly stereotyped as undesirable due to various reasons that most often surround their cultural beliefs. Immigrants are also blamed for social problems that in fact are not the cause of individuals of foreign origin.
Immigration has also been shown to influence the current foreign policy. The treatment of immigrants is often decided by the political relationship between the United States and the individual’s country of origin. This relationship also affects how the immigrant is labeled. For example, if a person migrates to the United States from a country that is considered unfriendly to the US, this person is labeled a refugee. If the country of origin has a friendly relationship with the United States government this individual is labeled an economic immigrant.
Refugees have an advantage over the economic immigrant and are granted privileges that would not be allowed to others under normal circumstances. The refugees migrating from unfriendly areas of origin are allowed to enter the United States much faster than others. These individuals are also granted financial assistance that provides housing, food and medical treatment during the relocation period. The economic immigrant has a longer waiting period and is expected to earn his or her own way when relocating.
Immigration to the United States began in the 1800s and has undergone much change over the years. These individuals are relocating for various reasons; however their over all purpose of finding a new life with freedoms and liberties they were not allowed prior to coming is the same. Laws regulating immigration are necessary; however the public’s negative portrayal of these individuals is not appropriate, as everyone is searching for a life that provides them a peaceful existence.