The United States is a society
of immigrants. Since its early
days, the country has admitted more than 50 million newcomers, a
larger number of immigrants than in any other country in history.
Most people came, and still come today, for wealth, land
1. The first immigrants
Stories of the New World's gold
attracted the first Spanish
, who in 1500s established outposts in what is now
The British, who were the first to colonise on larger
scale, came for profit and also for
religious freedom. English Puritans, Protestants
who disagreed with the teaching of the Church of England,
established settlements in the north eastern region. When they
settled in the New World, many immigrants tried to preserve the
traditions, religion, and language of their particular culture.
But the American society was predominantly English
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP).
2. The major immigration wave
Between 1840 and 1880
, the United States received the
greatest influx of immigrants. During this period, 10 million
people came to America. By the middle of the century the United
States, with over 23 million inhabitants
, had a
larger population than any single
European country. The proportion
of newcomers increased rapidly so that by 1860 about 13 of every
100 persons in the U.S. were recent immigrants.
Up until 1880, the overwhelming majority of immigrants, however, came
from northern and western Europe. Many left Europe to escape poor harvests, famines and political
unrest. Between 1845 and 1860, a serious blight
(maladie de la pomme de terre) on the potato crop (récolte) in
Ireland sent hundreds of thousands of Irish people to
the U.S. to escape starvation. In one year
only (1847) 118. 120 Irish people settled in the U.S.
3. The new
A new wave
of immigration began in the late
1880's. The new
immigrants were Latin
, and Jewish peoples
southern and eastern Europe. Among these new
arrivals were Italians
. This new wave
of immigration was so important
that in the peak years of unlimited immigration between
1900 and 1920 the number of immigrants
rose to as many as a million a year.
4. Immigration today
The Americans continue to debate the issue of immigration
which is still important. New groups of immigrants have come and
go on coming, specially from Asia and Latin America
integration depends above all on their cultural background.
Some groups in favour
of tightening immigration restrictions
argue that overpopulation is a threat.
Today, the paradox between the myth of the "Open Door"and
the reality of xenophobia is striking.