Broad Patterns in American Immirgation

Broad Eras in American History

French and Spaniards


The French and Spaniards began to build colonies in the 1500s on the east coast of America. Those colonies would later become the United States in 1607.

America vs the British


By 1630 tensions began start between the British and America.

Slaves came


During the 16-17 hundreds African Slaves began to arrive in America.

Boston Tea and war

1740 - 1785

The American revolution had been won by the Americans and the Boston tea act was also committed showing Americans what freedom is.



The second war against the British for the Americans.

Irish rush

1870 - 1920

Over 7 million Irish came to America between 1870 and 1920

Irish, Germans, and Asians


-Between this time most most of the people came from Ireland, Germany, and England. Most people that came from Asia during this timeframe came entered the country through the west coast but 70% of immigrants came in from New York and settled close or in New York.

Beginning of Progressive Era


American started to become more wealthy with work wages going up and the automobile industry began to rise in America.

The Great Depression


When the American stock market crashed in October 1929 it causes the loss of over one fourth of American jobs.

Dragged out of Depression.


Even though war had been started the war also brought America's economy out of the depression when many Americans joined the military and factory jobs to support the war effort.

Pearl Harbor


America tried to avoid the war that had started in Europe and Asian in the late 1930s but was dragged in quickly when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941.

People Demanding Rights


As the American economy was still being boosted many racial groups like African Americans and Hispanics began to demand the rights given to them in the constitution. Also women began to demand equality and rights for them as well.

Europeans and Cubans


-During the WW2 immigration to the US dropped but after the war the US began to allow refugees from Europe and the Soviet Union. This didn’t just bring another flow of immigrants from Europe but a great amount of Cubans. This later sparked the Cuban-American conflict in 1959.

Cold War


The Cold War was started with Russia in 1948.

American intervention in Vietnam

1960 - 1969

When America intervened in Vietnam it began to breakdown the Cold war consensus.

Immigration today

1990 - Present

Today the US has tightened on immigration laws and the flow of immigrants from Europe has stop due to the ending of the world wars. So today many immigrants come from Latin America and Asia.

Immigration Law

The Naturalization Act


The Naturalization Act was passed, which gives immigrants the ability to apply for citizenship under the conditions that they are a free white person, have a good character, and have lived in the United States for 2 years or more.

Alien and Sedition Acts


A new law called the Alien and Sedition Acts was passed that changed naturalization laws such that it requires 14 years of US residency. Deportation of dangerous aliens was also a provision of this new law.

Documented Immigration


Federal legislation now requires that immigration is documented and also sets rules for US passengers going to Europe.

Contract Labor Law


Congress passed the Contract Labor Law, which provisions for the recruitment of labor from foreign countries.

Henderson v. Mayor of New York


The decision of Henderson v. Mayor of New York invalidated all state laws regarding immigration and gave Congress the power to regulate “foreign commerce”. Congress used this power to prevent the immigration of foreign convicts and prostitutes.

The Chinese Exclusion Act


The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, which barred the immigration of Chinese people for 10 years and prevented Chinese people from getting U.S. citizenship. Convicts, lunatics, and people unable to care for themselves were not allowed to immigrate. A 50 cent tax was also imposed on every immigrant.

The Contract Labor Law


The Contract Labor Law made it illegal to use unskilled immigrants as laborers. This regulation did not apply to immigrants crossing over land borders.

The Office of Immigration


The U.S. Treasury Department created the Office of Immigration. New immigration laws include barring people who need monetary assistance for their transit and the obligation of steamships to return ineligible immigrants.

The Chinese Exclusion Act


Congress renewed the Chinese Exclusion Act indefinitely.

Immigration Head Tax


The tax for immigrants is raised again, and entry is denied to people with mental defects, tuberculosis, and unaccompanied children.

The Immigration Act


A new Immigration Act required literacy tests for immigrants older than 16 and excluded all immigrants from Asia.

The Quota Act


The Quota Act was passed, which limited immigration to 350,000 people annually.

The Border Patrol


The Border Patrol was established to combat illegal immigration and smuggling of alcohol.

The National Origins Act


Asian immigrants were barred again and reduced the immigration limit to 150,000 people through the National Origins Act.

Repealing of the Chinese Exclusion Act


The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed for the purpose of our alliance in WW2, but it only allowed for 105 aliens per year.

Military Immigration


Procedures were adopted that allowed the immigration of foreign spouses and children of members of the military.

The Displaced Persons Act


The Displaced Persons Act was introduced during WW2 to allow 400,000 refugees into the US. These refugees were admitted as part of the quota. Jews and Catholics were discriminated against by this act.



The ability of the government to deport and exclude aliens is expanded, and immigrants are required to report their address to the government annually.

The Immigration and Nationality Act


Race was removed as a bar for immigration by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Expansion of Refugees


The law passed in 1948 that allowed for refugees was expanded to admit an additional 200,000 people.

The Hart-Celler Act


The quotas for separate countries were abolished by the Hart-Celler Act, which created caps for the eastern hemisphere (170,000 people) and western hemisphere (120,000). Immigrants with critical skills, artistic excellence, and refugee status were preferred.

Global Immigration Limit


A global cap for immigrants of 290,000 people was established.

The Refugee Act


Refugees were processed separately from immigrants with the Refugee Act, and the global cap on immigrants is reduced to 270,000 people annually.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act


President Ronald Reagan endorsed and passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which allowed undocumented immigrants an opportunity to gain legal immigration status. This also gave 3 million undocumented immigrants amnesty.

The Immigration Act


The Immigration Act limits immigration of unskilled workers to a maximum of 10,000 people annually. This also created a lottery system of “diversity” to encourage less people from represented countries to immigrate. The cap for immigrants was raised to 700,000 people annually.

The Department of Homeland Security


After terrorist attacks on the US, the Department of Homeland Security was created and bore the responsibilities of customs and immigration.

The Secure Fence Act


Over 1,000 km of fencing along the US-Mexico border is authorized by the Secure Fence Act.

President Obama's Executive Order


President Barack Obama signed an executive order that allowed several hundred thousand undocumented immigrants to remain in the country without worrying about deportation.

Waves of Immigration

First Wave

1790 - 1820
  • Immigrants came to US because of different political, religious, and economic reasons. Also slavery was a big reason why immigrants migrated to the US.
  • Immigrants were English, Scots, Scots-Irish, Germans (made way to Pennsylvania for freedom of religion), Dutch, French, Spanish (made way to southwest and Florida for Christian converts), Puritans (went to Massachusetts in order to create a community that was restricted to only people of their faith).
  • Disease, starvation, and shipwreck resulted in 1 of 10 immigrants to die before they reached America.
  • English immigrants took up 60% of the US citizens in 1790.

Second Wave

1820 - 1860
  • Immigrants came to US because they wanted new opportunities that they were not receiving in Europe because peasants displaced from agriculture and artisans were losing their jobs due to the industrial revolution.
  • Some immigrants would receive “American Letters” which were letters from friends and family encouraging them to join them in America.
  • Immigrants that came to the US were German (escaping economic issues and looking for political freedom), British, Irish (emigration was encouraged due to poverty and famine).
  • In 1845-1850, 500,000 Irish immigrated to the US because of a potato famine killing one million.
  • In 1849, the first abundance of Chinese immigrants began to immigrate due to the California Gold Rush.
  • In 1850, in the US the Roman Catholic church became the single largest religion.
  • In 1860 people from Poland and Russia began to immigrate because of Poland's religious and economic standing. By 1914, two million people had immigrated because of this.
  • In 1868, Japanese workers began to migrate to Hawaii to do labor in sugar cane fields.
  • Railroad and steamships started to enlist immigrants as customers.
  • Around 40% of immigrants in the second wave emigrated from Ireland.

Third Wave

1880 - 1914
  • Immigrants came to US for jobs and religious freedom.
  • Immigrants were Chinese, Japanese, and from other asian countries (they went to the western states).
  • In 1880, Italy's struggling economy, failing crops, and political conditions made the immigration of Italians go up by four million.
  • In 1876-1879, there was the Northern Chinese Famine, which killed close to 13 million people and resulted in many people trying to escape and find safety in the US.
  • In 1886, a large yellow fever outbreak occurred in China, killing millions, but due to the exclusion act, the people could not escape it
  • From 1882-1912, Russia began to restrict the working and living of Jews in Russia, prompting more than three million Russians to immigrate to the US.
  • Immigrants made of over half of the operatives in steel, meat-packing, and mining.
  • In 1910, the population was 15% immigrants and the labor force was 24% immigrants.
  • 1.2 million immigrants had come to the US by 1914.


1948 - 1950
  • US admits 205,000 refugees running from persecution within their homelands



1948 policy is amended and 200,000 more refugees are let in.

Fourth Wave

1961 - 2017
  • Immigration flow altered a bit due to a new law that changed the selection of immigrants from the country they originated from, and started giving priority to people who had family already within the US or to people who had labor related skills.
  • Immigrants were Europeans, Asians, Hispanics (Mexico).
  • There were many Mexican immigrants because of Mexico's struggling economy and lack of jobs. The US need for labor workers was going up, so they saw this opportunity.
  • In 1961-1981, admit 700,000 Cuban refugees because of Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution.
  • ⅓ of the immigrants coming to the US were Asians in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • ½ of the immigrants coming to the US were Hispanic in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Less than 20% of immigrants coming into the US were Europeans in the 1970s and only around 10% in the 1980s.