(The general theme of physical and psychological barriers to US immigration in a historical context continues.)
Listen up! Is that low rumble in the distance the first indication of a structural crack in that formidable immigration wall?
In the history textbooks, the ordinary citizen will typically find the term “immigration” linked to the term “nativism” and not in a positive way. In truth, the terms are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The phrase “nativism backlash” refers to citizens who are ardent opponents of immigration. To these citizens, it’s about those already here, and preserving their way of life, rather than continuing
tradition of affording the same opportunities to new immigrants. Perhaps, these citizens have forgotten where they came from and that they were once immigrants, too.
There’s another strange big word floating around out there in this realm: xenophobia. Quite simply, xenophobia is the fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. When it comes to the laws of human nature and
immigration policy in particular, the terms nativism, nativism backlash and xenophobia are unfortunately all
in the mix.
The Industrial Revolution portended the next great wave of immigration, from southern and eastern Europe, as contrasted with the earlier wave from
Western Europe. Ethnic groups like the Polish, Italians,
Greeks and, increasingly, the Jews, were different
than prior immigrants. Not only were
they unskilled, but they also looked
different, spoke different languages and had vastly different cultures than the
new “native” Americans, who had earlier pushed aside the true native American
culture. T.R. had marveled in his time at
both the numbers and energy of the American immigrant factory worker, without
whom there would have been no industrialization and upon whom the base of the
new industrial economy rested.
But nativism backlash once again reared its ugly head, slamming the golden door shut. First, in 1882 Congress suspended Chinese immigration for a period of 10 years. The law also drastically restricted the rights of the Chinese already in the
many of whom were employed in the construction of the newly completed
trans-continental railroad. By the
1920s, Congress passed a series of additional laws, limiting immigration to 3%
and then 2% of each nationality residing in America.
“Closing the door” on immigration became a substantial contributing cause of the Great Depression. Politicians at the time failed to see that the overall lack of demand was partly the result of shutting off the lucrative immigrant market for such things as housing and durable goods. Unfortunately, as with many of the other contributing factors to the Great Depression, this was not identified and understood until later.
In the late 18th century, the #1 occupation in the
US had been
farming. In the late 19th
century, manufacturing grew to become first.
But by the late 20th century, the service industry had become
the primary US
occupation. At the same time, Congress
passed the Immigration Act of 1965. This
law ended the immigration-limiting European quota system of the 1920s, opening
the floodgates of immigration to other countries, many from the so called “third
world” which embodied people of color.
Some say the new law was designed to bring in more whites to the country. In reality, it had the opposite, unintended effect. Today, 1 in 5 immigrants is Mexican, fulfilling a critical need to perform a whole host of new occupations in the proliferating service industries, while 1 in 4 immigrants is Asian. The law is consequently understood to be one of the high water marks of late 20th-century American liberalism, although not perhaps what the liberals had intended.
According to the US Census Bureau, in 2009 the total fertility rate in the
estimated to be 2.01 children per woman, which is statistically below the sub-replacement fertility threshold of 2.1. However, the US US population growth rate is among the highest in the
industrialized countries, since the has higher levels of
On the other hand, European countries such as
have population rates which are relatively stagnant, since both have
below-replacement fertility rates in combination with highly restrictive
immigration policies. As a result, they
are struggling to retain their cultures, developed over the centuries, as a
matter of survival in the face of changing demographics. Germany
Latin Americans, or Latinos as they are sometimes called, are the fastest growing ethnic group in the
today. Some look to be white, others
black. And they are also all shades of
color in between. Defying simple
generalization, they are mainly identified as, first, Spanish-speaking and,
second, Roman Catholic. Latinos make up
about 13% of the US
population. It is estimated to be fully
50% by the year 2050. Most recently, US immigration numbers have
finally surpassed those from the Industrial Revolution era. This places today’s era at the apex in terms
of immigrants as a percentage of the total US population.
As a result, the
US is becoming
the first advanced, industrial nation, in which every resident will be a member of a minority group. Although the number one
ethnicity in the US remains
white (German American) according to the most recent census,
each demographic statistic today portends the
changing face of America. Immigration, and specifically Latino immigration, is transforming American society
for the better, since we are shifting from a bi-racial (i.e.: black and white)
to a multi-racial society.