Considering today is Independence Day, I want to examine the American notion of the “melting pot” and how it is regarded today, considering the tremendous changes going on in our country with immigration. This examination will be posted in a series of entries, by which I will find some understanding to immigration in the United States and the need to ENLARGE the melting pot, by which we currently reside. Our nation has always been a nation of salvation. A place where “anyone” searching protection or opportunities from, religion persecution, social mobility, political persecution, economical hardships, etc. (1) Primarily the New World, represented to the world, opportunity. So they arrived from around the world. Each having their own distinct ordeal of their arrival in this new world. Some came willing fully, some came contracted and horribly some were forcibly brought here. And it is here where they exist, as the frame makers of our nations foundation constructed the terms by which the United States came to be. The various newly arrived emigrates existed carrying with them, their individual cultures and values. This factor is interesting, seeming some type of cultural transfusion is inevitable. And from this inevitable experience, a new ideology forms, consisting of the various contributing components. This is my primary reason for being so proud of being AMERICAN. America is “THE” melting pot of the world.
Before 1790 the diversity of newly formed nation was as follows. English: 1,900,000, African: 750,000, Scotch-Irish: 320,000, German: 280,000, Irish: 200,000, Scottish: 160,000, Welsh: 120,000, Dutch: 100,000, French: 80,000, Native Am. : 50,000, Spanish: 20,000, Swedish and other 20,000. (2) Imagine the cultural exchange among these varied nationalities. Their varied religions, rituals, customers, values, food, dress and ethics. This entire occurrence is proof enough to me that, we as a human race (regardless of individual characteristics) have a common bond. As this posting evolves that common bond will become apparent. Immigration in the United States, can be divided into 4 waves. The first wave of immigration occurred between 1600 – 1775. The second immigration wave occurred between 1820 – 1870. The third immigration wave occurred between 1880 – 1920. The fourth immigration wave occurred between 1965 to current. various events and legislation began in each wave, that constitutes our current immigration policies. The first immigration station open in Garden City 1885 in New York City.
Ellis Island opened in 1892. Before these stations opened, anti-immigration sentiments had already begun among “Americans” who themselves where just a few generations for emigration themselves. 1850 The American Party began demanding stricter immigration laws to restrict immigration. It was during this second wave of immigration that hostilities began to arise. In 1875, the United States first restrictive immigration law was passed, that prevented convicts and prostitutes from entering the country. As the hostilities and competition increased, racial assaults developed. In 1882 Congress passed The Chinese Exclusion Act. During the 3rd wave the United States passed the 1924 Immigration Act, which limited the number of total emigrants allowed in the United States. The third wave also witness the formation of the Boarder Patrol in the United States.
From 1924 to current the following measures have been enacted, The War Bride Act of 1945, The Immigration and Nationality Act 1952, The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 and the Refugee Relief Act of 1953, The 1965 Amendments to The Immigration and Nationality Act 1952, The Immigration Reform Act of 1986, The Patriot Act of 2001, The Real Id Act of 2005, and most recently Arizona’s SB 1070. (3)
From a glance at the above, it appears that the ideological notion of the Melting Pot has been buried beneath bureaucracy. Our nation from it’s raw beginnings, whereby all emigrated for opportunity, seems to have restricted the very essence of it’s origin. In future posting I will examine these restriction for they will be the coming legislation that will change the fabric of our nation. We are embarking on some serious reconstruction concerning immigration. As stated earlier, the resentment that raised in the early 19th century among the varied arriving cultures, are still a factor and now involves native American born citizens as they might start to question assimilation verse lost of culture.
If we have evolved as a new culture termed, American. How can we even think to bind it, restrict it, discriminate against it. I believe it goes against the very nature of our original beginnings. For example, beside Arizona’s SB 1070, the state is now looking towards legislation which will deny birth citizenship to persons born in this country by illegal emigrants. The proposed bill titled ‘anchor baby’ has several Constitutional issues that will void it enactment, but the thought and sentiments aroused by it’s creation will remain and influence the judgment, actions and voting of the public.
It is my belief that all those who desire the “OPPORTUNITIES” available in the United States, should be welcomed. I am a believer in the Melting Pot and enlarging it. But due to circumstance of our political arena these days, many factors exist now, that have changed the welcome arms our nation has always made available to the world. Whereas economical competition began the hostilities of the early 18th and 19th century. Terrorism now is a reality which heavily influence attitudes and perception of immigration. Will this be the century, that dissolve the melting pot?
1.) A GENEALOGICAL STUDYOF OUR FAMILIES ROLEIN HISTORY by: http://www.frontiernet.net/~dfforrest/
2.) “Immigration: Finding Immigration Origins,” revised edition, edited by Kory L. Meyerink and Loretto Dennis Szucs http://www.ellisislandimmigrants.org/ellis_island_immigrants.htm
3.) Immigration in the United States by Joyce Bryant http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1999/3/99.03.01.x.html