In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality act was passed, subsequently changing the United State’s immigration policy in a major way. Since then, almost 59 million immigrants have been allowed to enter the nation.
The Last Wave
A look at what some of the consequences of demographic shifts have been in the past:
The United States of America is not called “a nation of immigrants” for nothing. The first wave of immigrants to arrive after the Native Americans, the first “settlers,” originated from Northern and Western Europe. In 1850, the most prominent immigrant group came over from Ireland, mostly due to widespread famine. Xenophobia is not a new occurrence by any means. The Irish were met with discrimination, largely due to the fact that many of them were Catholic. A nativist group called the American Party, (also known as the “Know-Nothing Party”) was formed in order to defend Protestantism and to ensure that those elected to office were native-born. They also wanted to require immigrants to achieve twenty-one years of residency before they could gain citizenship. After the Irish fought in the civil war, sentiments towards them were more accepting[2. “Know-Nothing Party.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.]
By 1880, there were only a small number of Asians living in the United States, mostly in the West. However, they too were met with nativist backlash. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed in order to prevent the Chinese from entering the United States 1 Because of their exclusion, the next immigration wave did not occur until the early twentieth century. Immigrants from this period consisted mostly of the Italians and the Polish. The resistance these groups from Southern and Eastern Europe faced was the passage of the Immigration Quota Act, which was passed in 1921. These quotas were based on 2% of the residents from each nation that were residing in the United States in the year 1890, and because there were not many immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe during that time, their quotas were significantly smaller than the quotas for British immigrants[4.“Milestones: 1921–1936 – Office of the Historian.” U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.]
This last wave has also been met with nativist sentiments. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 50% of people surveyed in 2015 believed that immigrants are making the economy, and crime worse, while 49% say immigrants are making improvements in food, music, and the arts.
It seems that Asian and European immigrants are viewed in a more positive light than immigrants from Latin America and the Middle East. With 37% of those surveyed saying that the impact of Latin American immigrants has been mostly negative, and 39% saying the same for Middle Eastern immigrants.
For now, the newest nativist sentiments seem to be the taunts such as “build the wall” heard at at political rallies, a push to deport “the illegals,” and a fear of the nation accepting refugees from the Middle East. It seems like instead of learning from our mean-spirited mistakes, history just repeats itself.
With this project, I aim to humanize those from Latin America that have been subjected to this latest wave of nativist sentiments.
Sea to Shining Sea
Personal and the Political
History.com Staff. “Alien and Sedition Acts.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.
History.com Staff. “Chinese Exclusion Act.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.
“Know-Nothing Party.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.
“Milestones: 1921–1936 – Office of the Historian.” U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.
“Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S., Driving Population Growth and Change Through 2065.” Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project. 28 Sept. 2015. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.