Immigration Conditions Then and Now

Frank B. Lenz’s 1916 article “The Great War’s Effect on Immigration” examines the effect World War I could have on immigration. He notes that immigration into the U.S. from countries in Europe has declined over the course of the war, but he speculates that it will increase dramatically after the war concludes and peace is restored.  Considering there is war occurring today, it is enlightening to consider claims made in this article and compare them to current worldly conditions. For example, Lenz asserts, “The economic conditions in the United States have always been superior to those in the countries of emigration.” It seems a lot of immigrants come to the U.S. under this premise. They think there are better jobs and more money to be made than in the U.S. and so immigrate under any conditions in order to obtain those. But is this really true? The economic conditions in the U.S. are not superior to other countries today, but it seems there is a prevailing idea that the U.S. is always better off economically than the rest of the world. 

Another statement Lenz makes still rings true today. He notes an “attractive force” driving immigration, mainly the “belief and hope that the new land offers opportunities to relieve the uncomfortableness that is felt at home,” or worse conditions in one’s home country. Immigrants in the past have come to the U.S. to seek new opportunities and a better quality of life and continue to do so today. In addition, Lenz proposes that immigration is one of the “biggest, most difficult problems this nation has to deal with,” but is this still true ? It would seem that immigration legislation has been put on the back burner lately as the U.S. deals with more pressing problems, even if the public thinks it is more of a priority than Congress does.

Finally, Lenz thinks the U.S. should focus on the assimilation of immigrants into life in the U.S. by instituting programs to “Americaniz[e]… the immigrant.” Although some may think this is still a prominent issue today, it is arguably less so than in the early 1900s. Immigrants today are left to learn English on their own before becoming citizens, often without the help of the government. Considering there are similar conditions in the world today as there were at the time of the Great War, mainly political and economic turmoil among many countries, some of the same problems surrounding immigration are still in place. It’s interesting to note that some of the same language and calls to action are in place to day as they were in the past, suggesting concerns about immigration were the same in the past as they are now.Great WarGreat WarGreat War



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