New Immigrants Lesson 15-1. The Main Idea A new wave of immigrants came to the United States in the late 1800s, settling in cities and troubling some native-born Americans. Reading Focus How did patterns of immigration change at the turn of the century?
10 million immigrants came between 1800 and 1900. Known as the old immigrants, they came from Northern and Western Europe.
Most were Protestant Christians, and their cultures were similar to the original settlers.
They came to have a voice in their government, to escape political turmoil, for religious freedom, or fleeing poverty and starvation.
Most immigrants came for economic opportunity, attracted to the open farm land in the United States.
Chinese immigrants had been lured by the gold rush and jobs building railroads.
The new immigrants
From 1880 to 1910, a new wave brought 18 million people to America.
Most came from Southern and Eastern Europe.
They were Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews. Arabs, Armenians, and French Canadians came as well.
Smaller numbers came from East Asia. Severe immigration laws reduced Chinese immigration, but 90,000 people of Chinese descent lived in the U.S. by 1900. Japanese immigrants arrived by way of Hawaii.
The makeup of the American population had changed. By 1910 about 1 in 12 Americans were foreign-born.Changing Patterns of Immigration
Most immigrants were seeking a new life, but they left their homelands for many reasons, including religious persecution, poverty, and little economic opportunity. If you were willing to work hard in America, prosperity was possible.
The journey to America
The decision to come involved the entire family. Usually the father went first and sent for the rest of the family later. Travelers made their way to a port city by train, wagon, or foot to wait for a departing ship. They had to pass an inspection to board, and prove they had some money. Most traveled cheaply, in steerage (below deck), and they still had to make it through the immigration station. Many were birds of passage who planned to make money and return home.
Opening in 1892 as an immigration station, 112 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island. Immigrants had to pass inspection before they were allowed to enter.Coming to America
West Coast immigrants were processed in San Francisco at Angel Island. Many Chinese immigrants were detained in prison-like conditions while awaiting a ruling. Poverty and discrimination awaited many newcomers.
Many new immigrants lived in poor housing in teeming slums near the factories where they found work. In the Northeast and Midwest, immigrants settled near others from their homeland. Cities became a patchwork of ethnic clusters. Residents established churches and synagogues to practice their religious faith. They formed benevolent societies, aid organizations to help new immigrants obtain jobs, health care, and education.
Building urban communities
Some native-born Americans saw immigrants as threats to society. Nativists felt they brought crime and poverty and accepted jobs for lower wages, keeping wages low for everyone. They wanted to close America’s doors to immigration.
Threat to society
Chinese workers were tolerated during good times, but with a worsening economy Denis Kearney led an active opposition to their presence. Chinese workers were not allowed state jobs, and local governments could ban them from communities or restrict them to certain areas. The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882, banning Chinese immigration for 10 years. None of the Chinese in the U.S. would be allowed citizenship. The law was renewed in 1892, and Chinese immigration was banned indefinitely in 1902.
Nativists also resented the Japanese. Japanese students in San Francisco were segregated from other children.
Theodore Roosevelt negotiated a Gentlemen’s Agreement with Japan.
No unskilled workers from Japan, and in return Japanese children could attend schools with other children.
Nativists opposed immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe.
They claimed these folks were poor, illiterate, and non-Protestant and could not blend into American society.
They called for a literacy test to see if test takers could read English.
The Literacy Test Act was passed in 1917, over President Wilson’s veto.Limits to Immigration
Americanization occurred in many places. Newcomers were taught American ways to help them assimilate. They learned English literacy skills and American history and government.