Immigration is a topic that has been in news headlines off and on for some years now. The topic of immigration has been ever changing, but today the major topic of many people seems to be whether or not to continue letting immigrants into America. There usually is a question behind a question. In this case that question is what would be what do immigrants bring to America? What would we lose if we closed boarders? It is something that has been going on for several centuries without the realization of many people. Immigration is an important part of America. It was a key point in building America today. Immigration also plays a key role in today’s America.
America exists as it does today because of human nature and the burning desire to want something better for one’s self or one’s family. In some cases the primary incentive was greed. America was developed by people who were fleeing from religious persecution, political persecution, and the desire for a better life. Some people came to the United States because they were fleeing from something much darker such as death, starvation and sickness. These are some of the reasons our fore-fathers settled here, why the Declaration of Independence exists and why we have immigration. These are some of the reasons that the United States is so rich in varied cultures and diverse thinking, religion, food and more. These are only some of the many reasons immigration played an important role in America’s development. With the onset of immigration came skilled workers, new trades and new ideas. Immigration also brought a better economy. Industries such as textiles and factories grew and diversified. Thirdly immigrants also
contributed to a better economy, jobs were filled, buildings and railroads built and America continued to grow. With immigration came new laws, people, and change.
Some might also not realize that immigration is a similar concept to migration. Webster’s definition of migration is “is to move from one country, place, or locality to another”, while the definition of immigration is “to come into a country of which one is not a native resident” (Meriam Webster, 2015). Migration would be the term used before immigration as many people, including Vikings and Native Americans, migrated with the weather, food supply, or to avoid enemies. Archeologists today are finding human remains throughout the Americas. The human remains found are associated with places in Europe, Asia and Africa. These would be the first signs of immigration. Native Americans represent another form of immigration or migration.
When one looks back on the history of America they can see these differences. It can also been seen how important of a role immigration played in building the America we know today. After years of exploration the Mayflower brought many Protestants from Europe such as England and Holland. These immigrants started the first civilized colonies in America. They were the first people to interact with Native Americans. From these interactions they learned how to trade, plant, hunt, trap, live and explore the land. They also shared their cultures with the Native Americans. About 100 years later and through the 17th and 19th centuries America became an established country. This evolving nation brought in a wave of people which included thousands of slaves. These mixtures of people were looking for freedom of religion, wealth, a better life, a government without political persecution. Slaves and indentured servants were brought to America to mainly work in the fields and to repay debts. Some slaves also household
work and coking. This time was not called migration or immigration; it had no name, but was something that was done as a large part of America being developed.
When America was being built there were many laws and acts were created to protect America and their citizens. Many of these laws and acts still exist today. Many people today worry that ratio of American born citizens to immigrants will be compromised. Another fear of today’s society is that immigration laws do not have enough requirements to become a citizen or to get a work visa. There are also laws created to minimize how many immigrants are allowed in to America. The earliest recorded United States immigration laws that were passed against immigration were four acts that were signed into law by John Adams in in 1798. These acts were called the Alien and Sedition Acts. The first of these four acts was called the Naturalization Act. The Naturalization Act was created to allow any person of Caucasian race to become an American Citizen. This act also states that as a requirement for an alien to become a United States Citizen they must be a resident for 5 years prior to application. This requirement was later changed to say you must be a resident for 14 years prior to application.
There have been many changes in the laws to become a naturalized citizen since the act was signed into law in 1798 during John Adams reign as president.. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services some of the current requirements state that you must be at least 18 years of age or older. You must be a green card holder of a minimum of five years and reside in the state in which you are applying for citizenship for at least three months. You must also be physically present in the United State for at least 30 months of the required five years with proof. You must be able to understand English including reading, writing, and speaking. Lastly you must be in good moral character, understand the constitutional rights, and
pass the naturalization test. There is also another list of requirements for those who are married to an American citizen, military or born outside of the U.S. to an American citizen.(9/26/13). Today there is also a fee associated with applying fora green card in anticipation of applying for citizenship. This is a fee for service and does not come out of tax money. The applicant is required to pay this fee at the time of applying for citizenship. For example the green card will cost the applicant $1,070 dollars. However, if the applicant is applying as a spouse to an American citizen the cost will be an additional $420 dollars. The second of these acts was the Alien Act. This act was created to enable the deportation, arrest, and detainment of all aliens that came from an enemy nation that was to be a threat. It gave the president the authority to deport during peacetime. The third act was the Alien Enemies Act. This act gave the president the authority to deport any alien with ties to a warring country. The last of these four acts was the Sedition Act. This act gave the president power to determine treasonable activity including any falsified, scandalous, or mean spirited writing. These acts were the basis of immigration laws of the future.
The first recorded United States immigration law against a targeted group of immigrants was the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese Exclusion Act was created in 1882 for many reasons including the rapid growth of Chinese laborers in the United States and to keep the Caucasian race pure. The Chinese immigrated to America to find better work opportunities such as factory, agricultural, and entrepreneurial. The Chinese were also the primary laborers in the construction of the transcontinental railroad. At this time they only made up .002% of the nation’s population. It dramatically effected the Chinese who were already here working on the railroads. The only people it did not affect where those of diplomatic immunity. Later, in 1892,
the act was renewed again for another ten years before becoming permanent in 1902. During the Second World War in 1943 the act was repealed by the Magnuson Act. This act enabled the United States to use China as an ally against the Japanese. Even though this act repealed the previous one it still only allowed for 105 Chinese immigrants per year. It was not until the Immigration Act of 1965 that all previous acts against Chinese immigrants were lifted and they had the same rights of all other immigrants. After this Act there were several more immigration laws that restricted immigrants from entering the U.S. through a national origin quota system. This system was based on census data. Which is still done even to this day. Some of these laws remained while others were repealed over time.
After America was built, the economy was thriving, and immigration laws and acts were in place. More people from foreign countries had a desire to come to America. America was now considered the gold place. It was a place of freedom, prosperity and better life. Immigrants who came to America on boats had to pass through a process center. These two centers were Castle Gardens and Ellis Island. Castle Gardens is located in the southern tip of Manhattan in New York and is surrounded by water. Castle Gardens opened their doors August 1, 1855. where the Unites States processed and examined all incoming immigrants. During Castle Gardens’ operation approximately 8 million immigrants were processed. Castle Rock closed its doors on April 18, 1890. Records show that more than one in six Americans born on United States soil have ancestors who came through Castle Gardens. After the closure of Castle Gardens the first federal run and most well-known immigration center named Ellis Island was founded. Ellis Island opened its doors one year and eleven months after the closure of Castle Gardens on January 1, 1892. On opening day there is approximated to have been seven ships waiting to
dock. 700 Immigrants were processed that first day alone. From 1900-1914 between 5,000 and 10,000 Immigrants passed through Ellis Island daily. An estimated 80% of all people who arrived at Ellis Island made it through the legal and medical inspections; along with being tagged
with the information from their ships register list (Staff H). On June 15, 1897 a fire erupts and the roof collapsed. Although no lives were lost during this fire, all records from Ellis Island pre-dating this date including the Castle Garden records were destroyed (Staff H).Ellis Island closed its doors on November 12, 1954 after processing twelve million immigrants.
Today it is estimated at least 40% of the citizens of the United States can trace their ancestors through Ellis Island. It’s hard to say for sure, but with over 40 years of immigration records lost in the fire it is uncertain exactly how many people would actually be able to trace their ancestry through Ellis Island (Staff H). As of 2010 there was an estimated 39.9 million immigrants in America, 44% of those 39.9 million immigrants were naturalized citizens and 24% were legal permeant citizens.
This leads to immigration, today. There has been an ongoing debate about immigration for many years. One of these debates is that immigrants take jobs away from U.S. Citizens. Another important part of this debate is that is that immigrants also reduce the availability for jobs. It does quite the opposite. Immigration, today, helps boost our economy through new ideas and entrepreneurship. It brings to the United States’ economy the chance for local businesses to develop cliental in other countries. This is important to many businesses as they can trade and buy items they may need that are not native to America. It also helps to build allies in different countries. With this also comes new business partnerships and the development of new products. Immigrants also bring jobs to the U.S. by starting their own businesses and hiring people to work
for them. According to the White House Blog and the Small Business Administration. “18% of all small business owners in the U.S. are immigrants. Immigrants are also 30% more likely to start a business in the U.S. then non-immigrants.” Also from the White House Blog, “According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, small businesses owned by immigrants employed an estimated 4.7
million people in 2007, and according to the latest estimates, these small businesses generated more than $776 billion annually.” Also 7.5 of immigrants are self-employed while 6.6% U.S. born citizens are self-employed (Furman, J).
Immigrants do not take jobs from American citizens they, in fact, perform the jobs that are not desirable by U.S. citizens. They even bring jobs to America. They also do the jobs that might not otherwise be fillable due to educational requirements. Immigrants, in fact, help boost the earnings of workers by .7%. Some of the jobs that immigrants fill are the jobs that are not desirable by Americans or that are hard to fill. An example of this would be landscaping. Landscaping is a learned trade that involves lower wages and longer days outside in varying weather. Another seasonal and undesirable, but much needed job is agricultural work. Most agricultural jobs are seasonal. They require long days and weekends in hot or humid weather. These jobs usually pay minimum wage unless being paid under the table then they are paid even less. Immigrants also fill other jobs that require training such as pool making, construction, flooring, roofing and much more. Immigrants also join the work force on the higher end of the spectrum. Many immigrants that come to America are able to work as doctors, dentists, computer programmers, and much more. They are able to fill the positions due to their educational backgrounds. Many countries in the world require more education than America. This enables those immigrant doctors, dentists, or computer programmers to come to the U.S.
and fill those jobs that we might remain open due to the time it takes to get the appropriate level of training and U.S. education. For example if the U.S. was unable have the programmers or technical knowledge brought from Asia and other parts of the world Silicon Valley may not be what it is today.
Immigrants not only play a huge part in filling jobs and helping the government. Immigrants also help to boost the populations in place are lacking. Immigrants help decrease foreclosure rates, raise home values and once again, add more jobs. One form this is done though is the buying or building of homes. This is also done by bringing people in to small town communities or factory towns that could use the boost to their economy. Immigrants also help boost consumer goods by spending their money by buying items. This is an important aspect to America’s economy
One of the most common concerns or misconceptions with immigration is that incoming immigrants are not paying taxes. Some can also argue that they are also taking more from the government then they are paying in. Some examples of this are social security, food stamps, and health care.
Immigrants, both legal and illegal, do in fact pay yearly taxes. According to American Progress “A 2011 study by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy showed that undocumented immigrants paid $11.2 billion dollars in state and local taxes. They also contribute a lot to taxes, welfare and social security. Many will either not see these funds or will get a very small amount in return. For example, in According to Immigrants in America immigrants are paying 90 billion dollars in taxes and 5 billion dollars in welfare. “Without their contributions to the public treasury, “the economy would suffer enormous losses” said The
Bureau Office” (Xu, S). . Immigrants by law are not eligible to gain from state help such as food stamps or health insurance. To be eligible for this you have to be an American citizen. This in turns leaves more money in the welfare system for American Citizens. Immigrants are also a key factor in keeping the Social Security Trust Fund solvent. “According to the National Foundation
for American Policy, immigrants will add a net of $611 billion dollars into social security over the next 75 years. This would then increase the social security shortfall by 30%” (Fitz).
Immigration, today, brings a rich and varied culture and diversity. Some might argue that these changes will affect all Americans. That can in fact only be done by the person or persons earning and willing to accept these changes. Immigrants do bring over new ideas and concepts that were are not used to. This plays in to the larger part of the ever changing world. This also enables America to keep up with the changes in other countries. It helps Americans evolve, grow, know and understand what is going on in the world outside of their own.
In conclusion the following are only some of the many ways immigration played an important role in America’s development. With immigration came skilled workers, new trades and new ideas. Immigration also contributed to a growing economy. Industries such as textiles and factories grew rapidly. The economy benefitted as jobs were filled, buildings and railroads built and America continued to grow. With immigration came new laws, people, and changes.
History has also shown us that American immigrants have proven to play a part in building todays America. Through time America has been long played as the “Golden Country”. It will continue to be that through the allowance of immigration. Our allies in foreign countries will continue to grow and prosper. Immigrants have proven through time that they are a great asset to America in numerous ways that range from boosting the economy to bringing new ideas. If those are not enough reasons America should continue to welcome immigrants for the added positive benefit of increased cultural diversity that continues to serve all of America.
A History of Immigration in the USA. (2015, May 21). Retrieved May 27, 2015, from https://www.hstry.co/timelines/a-history-of-immigration-in-the-usa
Early American Immigration Policies. (2013, September 26). Retrieved April 16, 2015, from http://www.uscis.gov/history-and-genealogy/our-history/agency-history/early-american-immigration-poli http://www.endillegalimmigration.com/Illegal_Immigration_Laws/cies
History of U.S Immigration Laws. (2008, January 1). Retrieved April 16, 2015, from http://www.fairus.org/facts/us_laws
History of Immigration Laws in the US. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2015, from http://connection.ebscohost.com/us/immigration-restrictions/history-immigration-laws-us
Historical Overview of Immigration Policy. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2015, from h Homeland Security. (2015, March 30). Retrieved April 17, 2015, from http://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statisticsttp://ci/s.org/ImmigrationHistoryOverview
Allena Radford. 8/14/2015