Immigration and Urbanization

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What are the similarities between immigrants from the late 1800s and early 1900s and immigrants in present times?

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Both the immigrants of today and the immigrants from the late 1800s and early 1900s largely come from areas outside of Western Europe. The immigrants of the late 1800s and early 1900s came from Southern and Eastern Europe. They often experienced xenophobia for their Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Jewish beliefs....

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Both the immigrants of today and the immigrants from the late 1800s and early 1900s largely come from areas outside of Western Europe. The immigrants of the late 1800s and early 1900s came from Southern and Eastern Europe. They often experienced xenophobia for their Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Jewish beliefs. Many did not speak English. Many were poor, having escaped either extreme poverty or persecution in their homelands. Many were also associated with political beliefs that were "anti-American." Many Eastern and Southern Europeans were seen as either anarchists or socialists who wanted to destroy the American way of life. This was not true in most cases, but it did not stop the fear that white Protestant America had of these people. There was also the worry that immigrants would take jobs away from native-born Americans. Immigration became such an issue that the United States put a quota on the number of immigrants it would take. This strongly curtailed Eastern European immigration during the 1920s, at a time when these people were especially vulnerable.

The immigrants from today largely come from Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. Many do not yet speak English well. Many are escaping poverty or violence. Many are accused of taking jobs away from native-born Americans. Many are unfairly associated with violent groups; Middle Eastern immigrants are associated with terrorist groups, while Latin Americans are associated with gang violence. This is not true in most cases, but the accusations are used by some as a call to limit immigration similar to the accusations against Eastern European immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

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There are certainly important similarities between these two groups.  Among the most important of these are:

Both were from “suspect” ethnic groups.  In the late 1800s, immigrants were coming from Eastern and Southern Europe.  These were places that had not been a source of many migrants in the past and people were suspicious of the newcomers.  Today, immigrants are mainly Hispanic, which has not previously been a large group in this country.

Both tend to live in enclaves.  In both cases, the immigrants tended to live together in neighborhoods where they could speak their native languages and support one another.

There have been negative reactions to both.  In both cases, “native” Americans have feared that the immigrants would fail to assimilate and would change American culture for the worse.

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