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The Immigrant Experience. Emma Lazarus. An American Jew who witnessed other Jews who came to America fleeing a religious massacre in Russia. She was inspired by their suffering a wrote a poem that is at the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants.

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emma lazarus
Emma Lazarus
  • An American Jew who witnessed other Jews who came to America fleeing a religious massacre in Russia.
  • She was inspired by their suffering a wrote a poem that is at the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants
Between 1880-1920; 40 yr period over 23 million immigrants came to the U.S.
  • By 1920, the urban population outnumbered the rural population
once in the u s newcomers
Once in the U.S., newcomers:
  • Flocked to the cities where industries were booming and jobs were plentiful
  • They often clustered in growing ethnic neighborhoods.
  • They brought with them their languages, customs, music, and food – making America much more DIVERSE
  • In both New York and San Francisco “Little Italy” districts grew up along side “Chinatowns”
  • A refugee is someone who leaves or escapes their country due to violence or poverty.
  • Many refugees who came to America during this period tended to be poorer, less educated, and less likely to speak English
  • Many were Jews and Catholics – a major change for a country that had always been largely Protestant (non-Catholic)


A process to become “Americanized” – to talk, dress, and act like their native-born neighbors.

many immigrants did not have a choice

Many immigrants did not have a choice!

Public schools taught English, most stores only sold American-style clothing, food and other goods. Many employers demanded that immigrants speak English on the jobs!

vital contributions of immigrants to american industrialization
Vital Contributions of Immigrants to American Industrialization
  • Helped build the railroads
  • Worked in the oilfields; in gold, silver, and coal mines; and in rubber and steel mills
  • They labored in meat-packing plants, manufacturing plants, and clothing factories
  • Without the immigrants’ skills and labor, the nation’s cities and industries would not have grown nearly as fast as they did!
Came to America to escape POVERTY
  • Usually made the ocean-passage in steerage (deepest part of ship for those paying the lowest fares)
  • Usually arriving at Ellis Island New York
  • Usually held unskilled labor jobs; many made money then went back to Italy
  • Stayed together in Ethnic groups
  • Often treated poorly
Fleeing religious persecution mostly in Russia
  • Between 1881-1912 some 2.4 million came to the U.S.
  • Came by ship, many in steerage, some in better accommodations to Ellis Island in New York
  • Many arrived with skills: were vendors, cobblers, butchers, carpenters, and watch makers, many worked in garment factories
  • Life was better in America for the Jews even though they faced prejudice and discrimination like other immigrants.
Chinese arrived at Angel Island in S.F., California
  • Many came in search of gold, and other to work on the railroads
  • As more Chinese came to America the U.S. passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which banned Chinese laborers from immigrating to the U.S.
  • Formed Chinatowns, worked in laundry service, restaurants, stores, newspaper, and herbal medicine
Between 1910-1920 Mexicans entered the U.S. at the border by foot w/o passports or money during the Mexican Revolution
  • Later, railroad lines linked Mexican and American cities
  • With the Chinese Exclusion Act, many jobs on railroad and large-scale ranches and farms available; mostly agricultural jobs
  • Those who stayed in America were met with prejudice and earned lower wages than white American workers.


Nativism typically means opposition to immigration and efforts to lower the political or legal status of specific ethnic groups.

the melting pot
The Melting Pot
  • America has always been a nation of immigrants, yet time and again nativism has sparked actions and policies directed against immigrants.
  • Reasons: job competition, cultural differences, religion. EX: Catholics were a threat to democracy because Catholic immigrants had more loyalty to the Pope in Rome than the U.S. government!
politicians respond
Politicians Respond
  • 1882: Chinese Exclusion Act – banned further immigration by Chinese laborers
  • 1907: Japanese immigrants forbidden to enter the U.S.
  • 1917: Congress required immigrants to prove they could read and write in at least one language before they were allowed into the U.S.
  • 1921 Quota System - only a certain # of immigrants allowed to come into the U.S.
  • Mexicans now needed passports and visas to enter the U.S.. Visas allow people from other nations to stay in the U.S. for a limited period of time.