Importance of Immigration in the Development of the U S Culture

During the early part of the 20th Century, the U.S. experienced a surge of immigration where more than 25 million people came to America, again mostly from Europe but a majority of this wave consisted of people from the Southern and Eastern regions of the continent such as Italy and Poland. The immigrants had jobs and could build their new life and America benefited because this endless source of labor streaming into Ellis Island made it the most industrialized and economically successful country in the world. At the time this influx represented approximately 25 percent of the total U.S. population as opposed to the current migration, mostly from Mexico which is much less than that. The panic of the previous century Americans could be understood if not justified as opposed to the current hysteria displayed by many legal citizens.During the turn of the 20th century, the fear of immigrants reached a fever pitch. The roots of this new racism were from ‘old world’ anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic mind-sets. The ideology that grew from immigrant racism is the belief that the Western and Northern European Anglo-Saxon heritage was a superior ‘race’ to Eastern and Southern Europeans. (Higham, 1988) These widespread beliefs had an effect on immigration policy in the U.S. which, in the early 1900s, moved to limit the numbers and types of people allowed to immigrate. The anti-foreigner sentiment crossed all segments of society, from the Protestant farmers in the furthest reaches of the rural regions to Ivy League elitists. A Harvard-educated man formed the Immigration Restriction League in 1894 which made recommendations to the government. They advocated testing the literacy of refugees as a prerequisite to entering the country or gaining citizenship. This was intended to slow the number of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe which had been, sending an alarming number of illiterates, paupers, criminals, and madmen who endangered American character and citizenship. (Hirschman, 2006)As many millions of people were immigrating to America, the country seemed to be becoming increasingly congested.