Where did immigrants come at different periods of US history? What were the major push and pull factors for the different waves of immigrants? How did natives react towards the different waves of...

Where did immigrants come at different periods of US history? What were the major push and pull factors for the different waves of immigrants? How did natives react towards the different waves of immigrants?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There have been three major waves of immigration to the United States if we look from the beginning of the country to the present day.  The first wave came in the 1840s.  The next wave came beginning around 1890 and ending with WWI.  The final wave of immigration is the one in which we are currently living.  It has been going on for roughly the last 30 years.

The first wave of immigration featured people from Ireland and Germany.  The push factors were economic in the case of the Irish and mostly political in the case of the Germans.  It was during this decade that a terrible potato famine devastated Ireland’s farms.  Huge numbers of Irish fled the country in order to avoid starvation.  In the late 1840s, Germany was hit by political upheaval.  A democratic revolution occurred but failed.  This pushed out many Germans who feared that the government would retaliate against them for having participated in the revolution.

The second wave of immigration mainly consisted of people from Southern and Eastern Europe.  These were Italians, Greeks, Poles, and others.  The push factors for these people were both economic and political/religious.  The Southern Europeans generally came for economic reasons as they lived in very poor countries.  Many of the Eastern Europeans were forced out of their countries largely because they were being persecuted for being Jewish.

The final wave of immigration has come from Asia and Latin America.  This wave has been motivated almost completely by economic factors.  However, some of the immigrants have been pushed out by political factors.  Examples of this would include some of the immigrants from China and many of the immigrants from Vietnam, particularly in the time after the Vietnam War.

In all cases, there have been two major pull factors.  First, the United States has been seen as the land of opportunity.  People have believed that they would be able to find jobs in the US.  Second, the US has been seen as the “land of the free,” a place where immigrants of all sorts could fit in and become part of the country, regardless of ethnicity or religion.  These factors have attracted people to the US at all points in our history.

All waves of immigrants have been treated with a mixture of welcome and hostility.  Some Americans have welcomed them because of their potential to help our economy.  Others have opposed immigration on the grounds that immigrants were unwilling to assimilate, that they brought health risks, that they were likely to commit crimes, that they were politically undesirable, and that they were the wrong religion.  Such attitudes have sprung up among such groups as the Know-Nothings in the 1850s and the KKK in the 1920s, and in support for anti-immigrant politicians today.

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