The challenges faced by immigrants to the United States in the early part of the Twentieth Century are impossible to imagine. In poverty while in Europe, they crossed the great expanses of the Atlantic Ocean for a greater opportunity. They entered a strange world with different languages and customs. The challenges of the immigrants included, but were not limited to:
- Being forced to work low-paying jobs that were very dangerous and impersonal with long hours.
- Immigrants lived in poverty, usually in tenements that were very unsanitary, overcrowded, and dangerous.
- The new immigrants faced ethnic discrimination and hardship by nativists and hate groups. They were not valued as highly as the native population.
- Immigrants had to learn a new language and the intricacies of a new culture and homeland. They greatly missed their homeland and the people that they left behind.
Despite the challenges of leaving their homeland, the United States offered advantages for the new immigrants. The positives of the move to America included:
- It was almost impossible to not find a job in manufacturing. While the jobs did not pay very well, it was enough to provide basic sustenance for your family. In Europe, many people starved to death and had lost their land.
- Economic opportunities for wealth existed in America. It was a land of prosperity. There are many examples of immigrants coming to America and starting at the bottom. The end result of their hard work and innovation was the acquisition of unimagined wealth. Andrew Carnegie's ascendancy is a great model to apply in this context.
- Immigrants realized more religious and political freedoms in the United States. Many escaped religious persecution in Europe and could practice their religions in the United States with people of similar ethnicities without persecution.
An immigrant coming to the United States may face both positive and negative experiences. One positive experience is the immigrant will have freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our country. Many immigrants have come to our country to escape political or religious persecution. In their homeland, people were not able to express their opinions or practice their religion without punishment.
One negative experience is the immigrant may experience discrimination. Throughout our history, immigrants have been stereotyped and have faced discrimination. Irish immigrants often found it difficult to get jobs when they came here. Signs stating, “No Irish need apply” were common. Chinese immigrants faced the same concern. People were afraid they were taking jobs from American workers. Because of stereotyping and discrimination, immigrants may find their opportunities could be limited.
Another positive experience is that immigrants may be able to improve their economic condition in our country. In the United States, people have opportunities to make a lot of money by working hard and taking advantage of opportunities that exist. Many immigrants left their countries because the opportunity for improvement didn’t exist or was nearly impossible to attain. Many immigrants improved their economic standing and standard of living once they arrived in the United States.