A Nation of Immigrants

“…’Give me your tired, your poor

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”

Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus,” 1883

~ inscribed on the base of the statue of Liberty.

More than any other, the United States is a nation of immigrants. From the first inhabitants of North America who came in a slow migration across a land bridge from Asia, people from around the globe have constantly joined those already here. Spanish explorers, Pilgrim settlers, French fur trappers, Africans brought as slaves, Irish fleeing hunger, Europeans heading for lives free from persecution, Latin Americans and Asians looking for economic opportunity – all have arrived.

After the first few centuries, when the entire continent was rural and land in the territories was “there for the taking,” most immigrants stopped where they entered. They usually crowded into cities along the coasts, joining family members or others with similar backgrounds.

By the mid-nineteenth century large groups of people began coming in waves. When the potato crop failed in Ireland. In1845, more than a million Irish landed over the next few years; in the 1850s, thousands of Chinese workers were recruited to help build the transcontinental railroad. As the Northeast became industrialized, many new arrivals went to towns with factories.

Before the end of the century, most immigrants were from northern Europe, but in the astonishing wave of 8 million that came in a single decade between 1900 and 1910, most were from southern and eastern Europe. More recently, many hail from Asia and Latin America.

Often more people want to come than the government feels the country can accommodate, so gaining entry has not always been easy. Over the years, laws controlling immigration placed quotas or outright exclusions on groups from a particular nation or geographic area. Although the exclusions have not always been fair, America has been a haven from persecution, whether economic, political, or religious. And it is a place where it is possible to start life anew as an American.

Questions ~

1.     Immigrants to North America, after Columbus, encountered which peoples?

2.     Nowadays, immigrants tend to come from which geographic areas?

3.     How can more immigrants be accommodated?

4.     Where is the Statue of Liberty?

5.     The Statue of Liberty is a gift from what country?

Más que cualquier otro, los Estados Unidos es un país de inmigrantes.