How did the immigration of people of color to the west differ from the immigration and internal migration of people of European ancestry? Discuss how the demographics have shifted in this country during the 1900-1920? What were some of the causes of fear and prejudice towards immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century?
Immigration has posed both cultural integration and economic challenges to the United States and Europe. In the United States there has been cultural diversity tolerance, however, the Americans overestimate the figure of immigrants into their country and they openly favour immigration in lower levels. Immigration was considered an economic need during the industrial boom era; however the effects being felt in the respective regions now warrantee cultural assimilation and selective immigration policies of immigrants.
Immigration in Europe
The immigration status in America is very different from the immigration status in Europe. America is considered as a land of cultural diversity due to the fact that majority of the population (natives excluded) are all immigrants. In fact immigration is always considered as America’s founding myth. Politicians and presidents alike have furthered this notion too. To legally immigrate to the United States of America one faced many challenges due to the immigration policies that were in place before 1960 (Most of these policies were based on ethnic prejudice).
Europe, however, has got a different story. The continent did not rely on immigration to build or construct their national identities. The European nations use ethnic terms to describe and define themselves. Demographically, a fact especially as regards to Germany is that Germany has got a large population that is foreign born. The ethnic minority –even those present in Germany- do fit into the political system and hence this strengthens the saying that ‘Germany is not a country of immigration’ (Hansen, 2007).
The immigration experienced in Europe particularly after the World Wars was triggered or was a market driven economy. The European countries brought in ‘guest workers’ from their colonies in order to provide the much needed labour. European countries soon afterwards however, pursued zero immigration policies –after the mid-1970s oil shock- and they also attempted to lessen population that was foreign born through voluntary and even forced returns. This had a devastating effect on them because in the 1990s the booming American economy created a shortage of skilled labour in the European market. The European countries now started approaching immigration from a different angle. The European relaxed their immigration policies and they approached immigrants through solicitising high-tech and professional workers. Demographically, a more positive orientation in the direction of immigration was considered. What the European continent came to realise was that the declining population rate on their continent could be solved by immigration. Furthermore, apart from experiencing low birth rates beyond the replacement levels the increased longevity meant that there was a possibility of shortfalls in the required resources for the funding of entrenched political programs.
Push and Pull factors
Migration motives are as a result of two factors: the pull factors and the push factors.
Push factors are present in countries that do encourage outflows. Some of the reasons given fro such outflows are the limitation in economic opportunities especially amongst the developing world. Low wages, unemployment and poor investment opportunities coupled with inadequacy in accessing credit and insurance systems.
Most of the immigrants to the American west especially from the Asian continent and most of the developing world were pushed from their countries due to lack of employment or entrepreneurial opportunities. Taking the example of China, their industrial capabilities were being suppressed by dubious government policies. Policies that did not cater for the huge population of China but rather concentrated on keeping the country unique at the expense of the normal civilian. As a result there was a huge exodus to other parts of the world where they could access gainful employment. Oppressive political conditions especially in countries where communism was practised drove the people away as the elements of democracy were openly abused. Warfare and its consequences particularly after the World Wars –especially amongst Japanese- saw them leave their countries. Japan for instance had to take a long time to recover from the nuclear booms attacks it suffered.
The pull factors –those that encourage inflow- were present in the American west. Political freedom was guaranteed especially with regards to the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, the USA was considered as a country of ‘immigrants’ as it formed its nationhood by the use of immigrants. Better job opportunities due to the industrial boom and stronger economy meant that immigrants would gain access to better living standards. Furthermore, the presence of subsidised education and health services encouraged an influx of immigrants to the American west.
Chinese Immigration to the United States
The Chinese were motivated by the same incentives as other immigrants; they wanted better economic opportunities. Their immigration has not been smooth and they have suffered the same stereotype suffered by other immigrants into the American west. Takaki in his book ‘A Different Mirror’ observes that the Americans still cuts the Chinese off and consider them as no good. This is so even for Chinese who are American citizens by birth. Yet the Chinese have made significant steps in improving America’s economy (Takaki, 2009).
The Chinese immigration can be traced back to the California Gold Rush. Since then they have migrated in two other periods. The immigrants were recruited to work in the construction of the railway road networks and in mineral and mine fields. Additionally, they worked in building irrigation systems, developing the fishing industry, manufacturing industry and worked as agricultural labourers. They had immense contribution as they supplied labour for the American growing industries. They provided a quarter of California labour force and they replaced the freed slaves. Chinese were highly sought because they provided the American west with very cheap labour. In fact the abolishment of slave trade was aided by the fact that the Chinese provided very cheap labour. Their contribution to the development of the transport system is significant due to their contribution in building the Transcontinental railroad. They helped build several other railroads in the USA which helped in opening up resources that were untapped in most of the American states. Their farming culture was evident when they turned most of the lands they later owned into rich farm lands. Consequently they helped in maintaining the food balance in the USA by supplying fruits and vegetables in great quantity.
Revolution in transport and Technology: Effects on “New” American Worker
The technology revolution that has been experienced has been a blessing in making life easier but at the same time it is regarded as a curse. During the industrial period, America boasted of a high employment rate because of the industrial boom. However with advancement of technology, many of the human work resource is slowly been eradicated by machines in every aspect of production. The ‘new’ American is now faced with the highest form of unemployment as they have been eliminated from the economic process. In fact the current situation is highest since the great depression of the 1930s. The promise of high tech automated productions, unprecedented material abundance and booming global commerce are some of the reasons being given by corporate leaders and mainstream economist for the current trend. The Fortune Magazine in US explains that corporations are lying off more than 2 million jobs every year. The ‘new’ American has to be contended that with the advancement of technology underemployment and low paying temporary are going to be the order of the day.
Hansen, R. ‘The Free Economy and the Jacobin State, or How Europe can Cope with the Coming Immigration Wave’, in C. Swain (ed.), Debating Immigration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 223–36. 2007. Print.
Takaki, R. A Different Mirror. Little, Brown and Company, 2009. Print.
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