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Often times history textbooks will refer to "New Immigrants" as those moving to the US between 1880 - 1920. "Old Immigrants" are those moving to the US between 1810 and 1850.
These immigrants are similar in that they mostly came to America for the same reason: economic opportunity. Some worked in or started businesses in the major cities. Others, most of them, wanted to move west into the new territory we controlled and start their own farms. Since both new and old immigrants were mostly from Europe, all the land there had been owned for hundreds of years, and ordinary peasants had no chance. Come to America, and they do.
The main difference is which part of Europe they came from, and the numbers of immigrants. There were many, many more "New Immigrants'" than old, 20 million people between 1880 - 1920. And the New Immigrants came mostly from southern and Eastern Europe, which meant they were almost all Catholics. You'll notice by 1910 there is much more anti-Catholic sentiment in the US, and that's one reason. New Immigrants included Jews for the first time too. Lastly, more of the Old Immigrants came for land than New, as many of those immigrants stayed in the cities and never moved west.
In addition to post #2, there were a lot of Irish Catholic "old immigrants" who came to America because of the Great Potato Famine. The famine caused a great a great deal of starvation and disease. For this reason, almost one million people from Ireland came to America in hopes of a better life but they found that they were in for some very tough times. They had little or no money and they were not socially accepted. They had to fight for survival on a daily basis and many did not succeed in this fight. Many of the old immigrants settled in Boston and New York.
There were more new immigrants that came to America than old immigrants. They also lived near factories and tended to stay away from the frontier.
It seems to me that the basic elements of push and pull factors that drive immigration are still present. People leave one nation in search of a better life in another. This has not changed to that great of an extend. Where I think that there might be some level of difference is that there is more of an understanding of what nations are like. The preponderance of information through satellite dishes or others forms of information technology has helped to create a more informed view of why people feel the need to leave and to where they are emigrating. For example, when immigrants landed on Ellis Island, they believed that America was an almost mystical place where "the streets were paved with gold." Such Romanticism might not be as much present as it was because there is a greater understanding of nations with the increase of information and methods to transmit it.
If you are talking about immigrants now compared to immigrants in the old days, here are some answers.
They are alike because of the following things.
- Many of them come to the US in search of better economic opportunities.
- They tend to settle among others from their own countries because they feel more comfortable there.
- They are seen by many as unAmerican because they supposedly do not want to assimilate.
You can argue that they are different than previous immigrants because:
- Most of them are not white.
- A much larger percentage come from just one country (Mexico) than ever before.
- They have way more ways of staying in touch with back home so they will not end up assimilating the way earlier immigrant groups did.
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