Between 1870 and 1900 nearly 12 million immigrants arrived in the United States from countries like Germany, Ireland, and England (America Past and Present, 2013). Much like the first colonist these immigrants made the long journey across the Atlantic in search of religious freedom, the opportunity to create a better life, and to be a part Of a government that provided a choice and a vote. In the late 1 800s crowded in packed cities immigrants lived in small apartments many times with multiple generations along with tenants that rented any extra space.
An immigrant’s life was not asy with wages being low and living space being both cramped and in most cases very dirty. Like everyone who immigrated to this country though they fought through turmoil and hoped a better life would soon be a reality. Even today immigration is hot button issue with both politicians and citizens. With the government spending upwards of 18 billion dollars in fiscal year 201 2 (Immigration Enforcement in the United States, 2013), Americans have grown tired of the excessive budget for preventing illegal immigration.
The preventative budget is not the largest issue because immigrants that cross nto this country illegally are not obligated to pay taxes or be a productive member of society. The fact most Americans forget is this country was built on immigration and even though we are hemorrhaging money to prevent illegal immigration, their culture and the culture provided by the millions who have made their way to America is essential to our country’s foundation. On July 4th 1 776 the thirteen colonies approved and declared the United States of America free from British control.
The mass immigration of Europeans unhappy with their way of life had already begun, but once America had declared independence the idea of being an American was bright and attracted many diligent and hard working individuals. From 1815 to 1 91 5 about 30 million Europeans decided to immigrate to the Unites States (Destination America Chuck Willis, 2007). At this time the American dream was exactly that, mostly because these individuals left their current way of life for mere rumors of a country where a new life is just waiting for all who seek it. The reality Obviously was not as grand as the dream had been.
Yet, individuals from England, Germany, Ireland, Poland, France, Spain left their countries and in ome situations their families just for the chance of success in America. Ironically enough the current residents of America despised immigrants for many reasons forgetting the fact they themselves or their family not far removed was once or currently is still an immigrant. This country was built on the back of people who were not born in America and their culture along with the developed American culture is what we now celebrate as our countries history.
Thirty million new Americans in the 18005 had traveled to the East coast either through one of the main ports or Ellis Island near the end of the entury. All the immigrants were looking for a new life and coincidently brought their own culture to the melting pot that was and is America now. If Americans look at what is held dear with regard to traditions, Americans would actually find they mostly originate in other countries. For example, Halloween is a Gaelic holiday adopted by Christians and eventually turned into a day of “trick or treaters” in America.
Another popular example is Cinco de Mayo which is the day the Mexican Army had beaten the French in The Battle of Puebla. As one can see, many of our common traditions have been dopted from other countries because of our vast mixture of cultures, all from people that had immigrated for a better life. Without immigration we would not have many things that we hold dear as Americans. It was British colonists who emigrated from England to the Americas and eventually fought for religious freedom and no taxation without representation eventually declaring our freedom.
In the revolutionary war, immigrants decided the ideals of America and being free was worth the risk of fighting the then, more than formidable English Army and Navy. Immigration was also one of the ost important factors during industrialization since the massive amount of immigrants allowed for quick and aggressive industrial expansion. All of these factors show many things, one of which is It shows that without the Illustrious history of strong willed, free thinking immigrants this country would not function as it has today.
Also, it shows an understanding of the historical significance of immigration in reference to American history which Will only facilitate a better understanding of what and how an immigrant’s life functions. Industrialization was defined by many items. However, the two most mportant items being mass immigration and the railroads. When entrepreneurs like Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller took the country by storm with their shrewd business tactics and incredible business plan they needed transportation and cheap labor (America Past and Present, 2013).
With the trunk line spanning the countries vast lands and the immigration of millions they had all essential pieces. The immigrants of the late 1800’s had come in search of a better life and more opportunity, but unfortunately most Of them only found poor living conditions and low wages. The exploitation Of mmigrants was an excepted fact in the culture of the time. Although the actually living conditions were probably not well known by all of the upper class they were happy with not knowing. Not all of the exploited workers were fresh immigrants, but a majority of the workers had immigrated to America between 1850 to 1900.
Most of these workers worked at least 10 hours a day for 6 days a week. To call their wages meager would be an understatement. A skilled white male worker in this time would make 20 cents while an unskilled worker would make only half of that (America past and Present 201 3 p. 28). Yearly they would make approximately 400 to 500 dollars. Since the head of the household did not make enough many immigrants children and women had to work as well and their pay was even lower than an unskilled worker. The jobs were not only paid poorly, but they were also very dangerous and accidents while working were very common.
With no voice the newly immigrated people and even the poor class that had been in America for two or more generations did not have any way of improving their conditions until later when unions began to become common place. After a long hard day of ork these workers, usually newly immigrated peoples, would come home to tenement apartments. These dumbbell shaped apartments fit thirty fourroom apartments on a lot Only 25 by 100 feet (America past and present, 2013). While dealing with cramped apartments, the poor which were mainly immigrants also had to deal with poor sewage removal of both human and animal.
The immigrants of this time lived a life of poverty, but without them industrialization would not have progressed as quickly and America would not have been put into the position of becoming a world power. Since the immigration surge in the 1800s, immigration laws have slowly become more and more strict. From The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 to the McCarran-Walter Act in 1 952 a foreigners ability to get into America has become more and more difficult. This has not stopped people from coming to this country it has just gone from being legal to illegal.
Both politically and socially, immigration has become an issue that has reached across the country. In 2012 nearly 41 million immigrants lived in the United States (Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States, 2014). Nearly 46 percent of those immigrants have been naturalized, but the remaining 54 percent are either awaiting naturalization, or living on green cards, or residing in this country illegally (Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States, 2014).
This has become an issue socially because the perception is these illegal immigrants are not paying taxes and are taking jobs from Americans who need the work. When in actuality illegal immigrants pay taxes. Annually immigrants pay between 90 to 140 billion dollars (Top 10 Myths About Immigration 2010) which is a significant amount Of money that goes unnoticed because the facts are not being sought out. While paying taxes, privately owned companies also help stimulate local economies by creating over 19. 5 billion in sales and over 73,00 job in 2000 and that was only Chinese and Indian immigrants alone (Top 10 Myths About Immigration 2010).
Although the perception of both legal and illegal immigrants being a strain on society exists, the facts do not back up that notion. The facts demonstrate legal and illegal immigrants can help or hinder our economy depending on the policies and willingness to allow people to immigrate here. In 1986 President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act and since then America has spent 187 billion dollars and in the last eight years that number has tripled and it will continue to increase because of political pressures to stop illegal immigration.
The economic issues that seem apparent are not from the immigrants themselves, but the amount of money we are spending on keeping them out rather than welcoming them in and helping them become a part of our great society. The idea of closing our borders has some good reasoning behind it such as keeping out criminals and ensuring that immigrants are contributing but the riminals are getting in anyway and we are creating an industry for smuggling people in that is killing many every year. The facts illustrate if given a chance most immigrants will produce and contribute. Statistics show 23. percent Of American’s received welfare in 2011 (Welfare Indicators and Risk Factors Thirteenth Report to Congress 2011) and unemployment was just under ten percent (Bureau of Labor and Statistics 2014) so if illegal immigrants are finding jobs and paying for their own food then it seems to be an issue with Americans willingness to work instead of having a meager living handed to hem. Much like the immigrants of the late 1800s, current legal and illegal immigrants live a tough life with very little pay and continue to work for what is necessary to survive by whatever means they have to.
American perception of immigration has not changed much over the last 150 years. Technology has changed, society has evolved and life has grown much more streamlined, but the perception immigrants are taking what Americans believe they are entitled to have not. The late 1 800s were a hard time to live in with very short life expectancy and dealing with a transition from farming o city life. Working tough jobs for little pay in crowded apartments, immigrants struggled to make a living.
Their perseverance through family loss, starvation and sickness is not only honorable, but also is the foundation of America. 12 million immigrants traveled to this country in a matter of 30 years and without them industrialization would have been a slower more arduous process and may not have sling-shotted us into a world power. America was built on the backs of immigrants and with their blood. Children, women and men all lost their lives in factories owned by rich millionaires that ad no appreciation for their sacrifice. Unfortunately, their loss was necessary for America to progress.
Like all great countries, America built its empire with death, greed and power. Since that time much has changed in the world in which we live. Technology has pushed us into an era with very little personal space and without limit to who you can communicate with and where you can travel. Medical science has increased life expectancy astronomically and families can live comfortably with very little worries. However, one thing hasn’t changed and that is the treatment of the poor more specifically the immigrants. Illegal or legal an American Immigrant has a hard life.
Tying to juggle both communication barriers and naturalization they have to work harder and longer in order to live the life of which they dream. America spends close to 18 billion dollars annually on preventing illegal immigration while illegal immigrants contribute close to 19. 5 billion to local communities. Instead of preventing freethinking individuals from gaining access to what America has to offer maybe the solution is something different. Instead of spending money on prevention perhaps the government could spend money on improving the immigration process to revent criminals and the unwanted from entering.
Also, Americans and the government could aim to improve the speed of the immigration process in order to get individuals working who could improve and contribute to American life. Ultimately, education of the public is the most important issue when dealing with immigration. If more Americans knew about and understood other cultures, acceptance of immigrants would be much more prevalent. Although Americans throughout history have not been accepting of immigrants for many reasons if the process is changed and sensitivity is aught the future could be much brighter in America.