In an essay written in Forbes magazine, Paul Maidment discusses how immigrants today and in the early 1900s may not have sought permanent residence in the U.S. We often hear about immigrants coming to the U.S., but we don’t hear much about what happens after they arrive. Do they always establish lives on American soil and stay? Maidment addresses how people immigrate to the U.S. for political or religious reasons, but mostly he claims they seek to make money and support their families. He also talks about how a lot of early immigrants came to the U.S. to make money, and once they had collected their fill, returned to their home countries. Has this trend continued to modern day? Do immigrants view America as a permanent home or just a temporary residence? Are those immigrants that have stayed in America motivated by other reasons–such as religious freedom or democracy?
Maidment also acknowledges, “There is little new in the distrust generated by each incoming wave of immigrants,” suggesting an underlying suspicion with which immigrants are regarded. Yet it seems most Americans in general regard immigrants positively. Are some immigrants treated differently than others, depending on the countries from which they’re from? Could this distrust be contributing to immigrants’ desire to return home? Perhaps some immigrants arrive with the intention to return to their home countries, but certainly others consider the possibility of staying permanently. In a Gallup poll ranking countries on their Potential Net Migration Index (PNMI), or the percentage of immigrants who move out of their country compared to the number who choose to move to that country, America scores a 60%. This means there is a strong desire for immigrants to come the U.S., but it is definitely not the highest. In fact, countries like New Zealand and Australia boast PNMIs over 150%. Perhaps immigrating to America is not all that desirable today as it was in the early 1900s. We must ask the question then, do immigrants seeking the American Dream find it, or are they disappointed by what they find in the U.S. and return home?
The PNMI of the U.S. is 60%, whereas other countries score significantly higher, some even above 150%.
http://www.gallup.com/poll/124193/potential-net-migration-change-developed-nations.aspx (PNMI data)
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.
1,000+ immigrant women from the Baltic arriving at Ellis Island
The Washington Post wrote an article in 1907 on the arrival of 1,000+ women from European countries that came to America seeking husbands. This drew considerable attention from young American men, who waited at the pier for the arrival of their ship the Baltic, so as to catch a glimpse of these women and consider these potential suitors. The article also asks women aboard the ship where in America they will settle as they search for husbands and what kind of men they are looking for. Some seek “rich Americans,” others like “tall men and blonds,” but some will marry “if [they] can find anybody to have [them].” The article concludes with the statement, “it is thought that the proposals will come thick and fast,” demonstrating a general positivity toward immigrants coming to America, specifically women. Not only were European women seeking husbands in America, the men favorably accepted their arrival. This emphasizes the favorable regard with which Americans accepted immigrants in the early 1900s, especially when they arrived from European countries, such as England. In addition, if such immigrants were seeking a better life in America and were willing to assimilate into the culture, in this case by marrying an American man, then Americans gladly welcomed their stay.
Today there is talk of foreign women marrying American men to achieve green cards so that they can live legally in America. If such a large volume of women arrived in the U.S. today seeking marriage, would they be equally as welcome? It seems marriage between immigrants and Americans was accepted publicly in the early 1900s, but do we carry the same opinions today?
Woman on the Baltic seeking marriage in America
Original Article from The Washington Post (1907)
Article within the page of The Washington Post (1907)
sources: Bain’s New York: The City in News Pictures 1900-1925 (article images)
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3a21815/ (first image)
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3a30000/3a31000/3a31100/3a31189r.jpg (second image)
NPR reports: Congress is calling for more drones to patrol the U.S./Mexico border in new immigration reform bills. These drones contain highly specialized technology, equipped with a “night camera, day camera, low-light camera, and laser target illumination,” some of the same devices used in drones patrolling Iraq and Afghanistan. What does this push for more drone usage along the border say about America’s opinion of illegal immigrants? These drones have highly specialized equipment, yet are not armed, but they might as well be. Such tactics to try to control illegal immigration seem extreme–using these drones to locate people so that ground officers can apprehend them is aggressive and excessive. What’s more, Congress is calling for drones to patrol the border 24/7, an increase from the 16 hours they are doing right now. What does this say about the way we view immigrants trying desperately to come to America? Yes, some of them may be involved in illegal activities, but some are just searching for a better life and opportunities they can’t find at home; crossing the border illegally may be the only method they can afford. Employing extreme measures in dealing with these illegal immigrants seems heavy-handed and even unnecessary, as NPR reports,
“[Some] say the emphasis should shift from border security to interior enforcement, such as employer verification. That, they say, would catch those crossing illegally, the people employing them, and those who entered legally and overstayed their visas.”
This extreme method of controlling our borders seems disproportionate to the means and the cost. Not only does the use of drones seem aggressive and excessive, it sends a powerful message that America is severely restricting its borders. Are we still open to receiving immigrants nowadays? It our increasing border control simply our method of curbing illegal immigration? Or is there something deeper happening here–are we acting out of fear?
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Drone, equipped with specialized cameras to catch illegal immigrants
sources: http://www.npr.org/2013/06/11/190741527/border-drones-fly-into-fight-over-immigration (article)
Green Card Sample
A necessary aspect of immigration is applying for citizenship, the first legal step an individual can take to assimilate into American culture. There are currently three types of visas for immigrants intending to take up permanent address in the U.S.; they can be found on the government website, here. In addition to the more typical application-driven paths of obtaining a legal visa, there is another popular option: the “Diversity Visa Program.” Also known as the “Green Card Lottery,” this program randomly selects names from a pool applicants to whom visas are then issued. According to the government website, this program has “strict eligibility requirements,” but upon investigation of the site, I found that the only real requirement an applicant must have is based on work or education–individuals must have at least a high school education or “two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years- training or experience.”
I think the very fact that this sort of program exists suggests America’s acceptance of immigrants and desire to achieve diversity within its borders. Not all foreigners wishing to enter the country and stay have family or a spouse that live in the U.S., so I think it’s only fair that there is a method to becoming a citizen that places entrants on an equal level. Yet many people claim that randomly allowing people to migrate here could give rise to crime and terrorism. As such, many people, including certain government officials think that such a program is a burden for many reasons (taken from a 2004 report from the Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims):
1. It requires work that the government could be investing elsewhere to process the large volume of entires.
2. It allows and perhaps encourages illegal immigration by giving illegal immigrants a method of legally obtaining citizenship (if they wait long enough for their entry to be chosen).
3. It increases fraud.
4. It promotes terrorism, or at least provides a means for terrorists to enter and stay in the country.
5. It serves no higher purpose, as “There is no humanitarian reason to admit people based on luck.”
This last statement in particular suggests strong modern-day prejudices some Americans harbor regarding immigration. I think it also highlights the idea of American Exceptionalism, in which some Americans believe that America is unique from other countries and can act accordingly. This way of thinking promotes the idea that America has no duty to admit foreigners, no matter what they they may have to offer the country nor should they because to do so would disrupt the current fabric of America.
Does the Diversity Visa Program/Green Card Lottery promote acceptance of immigrants or promote prejudice? Should we keep this popular program or get rid of it and thus restrict our borders even more?
sources: http://judiciary.house.gov/legacy/camarota042904.pdf (report)
This Gallup poll from 2002 addresses the accepted paradigm of America as a “Melting Pot” and specifically addresses the specific cultures and countries of origin that compose the nation. Gallup asked people on their opinions regarding the immigration of people from Arab, Latin American, Asian, African, and European countries, specifically whether too many people are immigrating from these areas. The results revealed that Americans were more favorable from those immigrating from European countries and least favorable toward those from Arab countries; this particular poll reveals the changing public opinion of Arab immigrants following the 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers, so perhaps this specific shift is not so surprising. In addition, the fact that Americans view European immigrants more favorably relates to an earlier post of mine when in 1904, the prevailing opinion of European immigrants was favorable; this trend has not changed in the last century. What is interesting is the fact that compared to a 1993 survey, Americans in 2002 were more accepting of immigration in general, indicating that the number of people originating from Europe, Africa, and Asia were “about right.”
If a similar poll were conducted today, addressing public opinion based on immigrants’ countries of origin, would there be similar results? Would the results indicate that Americans are more accepting of immigrants, no matter where they come from, or would they show disfavor toward specific countries?
People were asked the question: “Do you think the number of immigrants now entering the U.S. from each of the following areas is too many, too few, or about the right amount – how about immigrants from – [insert countries]”
Opposite Ellis Island on the East Coast of the United States, the West Coast harbored Angel Island, another immigration station, in San Francisco’s North Bay. Here, immigrants from countries across the Pacific, such as China, Japan, and the Philippines, arrived and were processed before assuming life in the United States. Angel Island ushered in only 300,000 immigrants, whereas Ellis Island’s numbers reached about 12 million, yet more immigrants that passed through Angel Island were deported at a rate of 11-30%, compared to those from Ellis Island, of which only 1-2% were deported.
Whereas Ellis Island’s history of welcoming European immigrants to the U.S. carries a positive connotation, Angel Island’s history is decidedly more depressing; it served as a station in which many arriving immigrants were detained upon arrival. During this time, these immigrants wrote poetry upon the walls documenting their feelings regarding their imprisonment, contrasting with their hopeful attitudes toward their immigration to America. All of these poems carry a depressing tone tinged with feelings of hope and almost-regret, as the writers wondered if they would ever be released and given the freedom they so desperately sought in making the long voyage to America. In addition to the poem showcased below, more poetry from Angel Island can be found here.