Historical Immigration into the United States
Table of Contents
- Part 1
- 1790 Naturalization Law
- Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
- Price for a
- Executive Order 9066
- Immigration Act of 1924
- 1903 Oxnard Strike
- 1907 Gentlemen’s Agreement
- Ozawa v. United States
- Chinese Six Companies: Chinese Exclusion Act
- Part 2
- Irish in Boston
- Chinese in California
- The Role of Race and Ethnicity
- Related Free History Essays
1790 Naturalization Law
This was a law that established the first rules of naturalization in the United States and determined who would be citizens of the United States of America. Only free white persons with good character who have been living in the U.S. for a period of two years qualified for naturalization. The rest of the immigrants were excluded from applying for citizenship. Alba, Raboteau, and DeWind (2009) affirm that the immigrants who were denied citizenship were blacks, American Indians, and Asians. This Act served two main purposes. One was to prevent slave rebellion from occurring, and the other aimed to discourage the resistance of the First Nations against the white infringement of their land.
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Vigdor (2010) opines that this is a peace agreement that ended the Mexican-American War of 1846–1848. It is the oldest pact still in force between the two states. The impact of the agreement was larger in Mexico than in the U.S. because of the loss of valuable territory leaving Mexico underdeveloped. Mexico gave the U.S. the Rio Grande area as a boundary for Texas which subsequently gave the U.S. the ownership of California. Consequently, the treaty established a pattern of inequality between the two nations, which influenced the Mexican-American relations ever since.
Executive Order 9066
This was a U.S. presidential executive order that was issued by the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt following the advice of officials from all levels of government. The order authorized the U.S. Secretary of War to delegate the right to the military commander to designate certain areas as military zones. Hunsicker (2008) confirms that the executive order resulted in the removal of many Americans of Japanese, German, and Italian descent from their homes and their further imprisonment in internment camps. The Japanese were the most affected group during the enforcement of this executive order when they were evicted from their homes on the West Coast. This order was the direct violation of the U.S. Constitution because of its infringement on civil freedom and was only made in a fit of war madness.
Immigration Act of 1924
Gerber (2011) holds that the Immigration Act also known as the Johnson-Reed Act was a U.S. law that confined the number of immigrants who were allowed the entry into the U.S. by creating a permanent national origins quota system. It limited and controlled the number of foreigners who could migrate into the U.S. Gerber (2011) is of the view that the annual number of immigrants that could be admitted into the U.S. from a certain country was limited to 2 percent of the total number of people already living in the U.S. The purpose of the law was to protect the American homogeneity. The act denied entry into the U.S. to immigrants from Asia, but it did not exclude those from the Western Hemisphere since the U.S. needed its closest neighbors to provide it with services, especially in its labor-short farms.
1903 Oxnard Strike
This was a labor dispute that took place in Oxnard, California, involving local landowners and their Japanese and Mexican farm laborers. The latter were opposing the Western Agricultural Contracting Company (WACC) method of treating the laborers and thus demanded better wages and working conditions (Barkan, 2012). Vigdor (2010) asserts that WACC attempted to secure contracts with local beet farmers forcing the laborers to subcontract and pay double commissions. In addition, they artificially suppressed wages and subjected the laborers to buy goods at inflated prices in their stores. The Japanese and Mexican laborers formed the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association (JMLA) which recruited a large number of members who then partook in the strike that harmed the sugar industry.
1907 Gentlemen’s Agreement
This was an informal agreement between the U.S. and Japan. The provisions of the agreement were born from the negotiations of the San Francisco authorities and Japan. Vigdor (2010) indicates that, in the agreement, the U.S. agreed not to impose restrictions on Japanese immigration, while Japan agreed not to allow further emigration to the U.S. The tension between the two countries after the Japanese victory against Russia granted Japan’s demand to be treated as an equal, but the immediate cause for the agreement was the anti-Japanese natives in California. For instance, the San Francisco Education Board decision to segregate Japanese students from attending public schools caused tension between the two nations.
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Ozawa v. United States
This was a case in the United States in which the Supreme Court denied the Japanese man Takao Ozawa American citizenship by finding him ineligible for naturalization. Alba, Raboteau, and DeWind (2009) confirm that Ozawa filed for naturalization under the Naturalization Act of 1906 that allowed only white persons and people of African descent to naturalize. The Supreme Court established that the Japanese did not fall in any of the two categories specified; they were neither Africans nor whites as they were not Europeans, and therefore lacked the provisions in the Naturalization Act. Ozawa hence attempted to have the Japanese categorized as whites.
Chinese Six Companies: Chinese Exclusion Act
Hunsicker (2008) indicates that the Chinese Exclusion Act was a law by the Congress to exclude the Chinese from the U.S. by denying them the right to become naturalized as the U.S. citizens. However, this policy of exclusion of the Chinese was not easily enforced because the Chinese immigrants resisted it. They did so by forming an internal organizational network which they called the Chinese Six Company. The Chinese Six Company provided critical leadership and support to the fight against the discrimination of Chinese immigrants as in the case of the Chinese Exclusion Act which was meant to curtail the immigration of the Chinese into the United States.
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Irish in Boston
The Irish migration to Boston began in the early 17th century. They migrated to the U.S. as merchants, servants, and sailors. According to Hunsicker (2008), the migration into the U.S. started around 1718. The decision to increase their numbers was influenced by the Irish potato famine of 1845-1852 which weakened the economy of Ireland. Emigration from Ireland consists of several phases. Barkan (2012) reiterates that the first phase was between 1815 and 1845 with a million people migrating; phase two happened between 1846 and 1855 with 2.5 million people leaving the country of origin; and finally, phase three occurred between 1856 and 1914 with 4 million persons immigrating to the United States.
Boston was a choice of settlement because of its close proximity to the port, which was the immigrants’ landing upon arrival to America. Barkan (2012) agrees that the Irish settlement in Boston was tough and rough. The immigrants and their families settled near the Boston waterfront in Battery march, Broad Streets in East Boston, and the North End section. The living conditions in these areas were very poor and unsanitary. A house would be subdivided a few times and house several families. In the end, it led to the growth of slums as the number of immigrants increased.
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The economic status of the Irish was average or slightly above average. The economic integration of the immigrants was not easy. Upon their arrival in Boston, they happened to be the lowest rank of society; as a result, they could only be employed as unskilled laborers. Therefore, the main economic opportunities available to the immigrants included factory work, domestic work, or physical labor. Unfortunately, these unskilled jobs were also limited; hence, a big number of the immigrants lacked a source of living.
Chinese in California
Chinese immigrant left China for the U.S. in three major migration phases. The first phase began in the 19th century when they migrated into the U.S. as merchants. Alba, Raboteau, and DeWind (2009) emphasize that they arrived in the U.S. around 1820 and were subsequently followed by others from 1820s to 1840s. The second stage of migration occurred after the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which allowed Chinese nationals in the U.S. to be naturalized and removed limitations on new arrivals. The final phase started in 1980 and has lasted up to the present. Currently, the Chinese migrate to the U.S. as students and professionals.
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The process of immigration involved seeking passage on ships to the U.S. Many migrants borrowed money to secure passage on these ships. Once they arrived in the U.S., the entry on the American border was not complicated.
The Chinese migrants integrated themselves in the economy by conducting a number of economic activities. Firstly, they tried their luck in the gold rush in California. Secondly, they provided labor to the Transcontinental Railroad. Hunsicker (2008) holds that, when the railroad was completed, the migrants offered their services to agriculture which had started growing at a fast rate in California. Another economic activity was fishing. They caught fish along the Californian coast in their small boats. When the U.S. inhabitants’ animosity towards them increased, they were forced to take low skilled jobs.
The migrants settled in a clustered area called Chinatown. When the Californian gold started to dwindle, many Chinese immigrants were driven from their homes in Chinatown and forced to settle in enclaves.
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Both Irish and Chinese immigrants left their countries of birth to seek a better life. This is because the poor economic status of their nations could not give them the life that they desired.
Secondly, both immigrant groups suffered racial and ethnic discrimination in the new country. They were discriminated for their faith, culture, and on the labor market.
Gerber (2011) is of the view that both immigrant groups had poor living quarters. The Irish settlements were characterized with congestion, as well as the Chinese places of habitation, and poor sanitation.
While the Chinese economic integration was not easy, it can still be said to have been better compared to the Irish integration. The latter were exposed to very low skilled jobs like physical laborers or domestic workers. Chinese immigrants had better conditions as they worked in sectors such as fishing and agriculture. Moreover, they mined gold for themselves during the Californian gold rush.
The Role of Race and Ethnicity
Barkan (2012) explains that race and ethnicity played a critical role in the economic integration of both Irish and Chinese immigrants. Both groups were discriminated because of their race and given low skilled jobs since the high skilled and better paid jobs were reserved for the indigenous whites.
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In addition, race and ethnicity were also significant in the settlement adaptation of the immigrants. The indigenous white public did not like the newly arrived immigrants as they perceived them as a degraded race, and the land was reserved for whites only. As a result, the Chinese immigrants were referred to as a yellow peril by the white public. The Irish immigrants were perceived by the Americans as old-fashioned and outdated. Because of these reasons the immigrants could not be allowed to settle together with the whites. Instead, they settled in overcrowded areas with poor living conditions and sanitation.
There were several acts of resistance and community formation by both the immigrants and the indigenous white public. For instance, when the hostility of the whites towards the Chinese immigrants grew deeper, the U.S. Congress passed an act known as the Chinese Exclusion Act that denied Chinese immigrants a chance of naturalization. Moreover, it prevented further migration of the Chinese to America. Hunsicker (2008) asserts that the Chinese resisted this exclusion by forming an internal organizational network called the Chinese Six Company to protect Chinese immigrants by challenging the validity of the act in the courts of the United States.
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The situation of the American-born second generation is considerably better compared to that of the immigrants. Today, the descendants born in the United States receive higher income and education up to the college level, while many are the home owners. Moreover, the number of them living in poverty is less. The same could not be said about their predecessors who were exposed to poverty and hardships and worked at low skilled jobs, earning very little wages. The descendants of the immigrants have almost the same rights and privileges as other American-born citizens.
In conclusion, the process of migration into the United States was not easy. Even after migrating to the country of destination, the migrants faced different hardships such as hostility from the indigenous citizens who passed a number of laws and acts to protect themselves. However, these actions were resisted by immigrants who formed organizations and associations to protect themselves from such enactments.