Immigration to America
Immigration to America
In the late 1800's and early 1900's there
were massive waves of immigration to America. These new immigrants
were largely Italians, Hungarians, Jews, Serbians, Irish, and Slovaks.
Fleeing such hardships as poverty, religious persecution, and political
unrest in their homelands, immigrants journeyed to the United States in
search of freedom and opportunity.
During their voyage from their homelands
to Ellis Island, many immigrants suffered. Traveling by steamships,
voyages lasted anywhere between seven days to a month. Many immigrants
ate off of tin plates with only soup or bread to choose from. To
alleviate themselves from the unpleasant smells on the steamships, immigrants
went on deck for some fresh air. At times many of the immigrants
prayed for the steamships to go under so they could relieve themselves
from the fear and worry. While approaching Ellis Island, nearly all
immigrants' eyes filled with tears as they admired the beauty of the land.
It was argued that if a large number of immigrants entered the United States,
it would be difficult to absorb them all because of the language and cultural
differences among them. This instilled fear within these immigrants.
Uncertain of their future, several immigrants saw America has an adventure
and a "beacon of hope."
Upon arriving at Ellis Island immigrants
underwent questioning, medical examinations, and other upsetting ordeals.
Each passenger had to answer a series of about 30 questions that were recorded
on lists. These questions included name, age, sex, marital status, occupation,
nationality, etc. Several immigrants didn't know how to write or
spell their own names, so immigration inspectors created one for them.
Passengers were inspected for contagious diseases such as small pox, yellow
fever, scarlet fever, and measles. The cultural habits of immigrants
were frequently targets of criticism, especially when the new arrivals
came from a different background. Numerous immigration officers looked
down upon these immigrants. Immigrants were told to "sit down and
shut-up." Many families were separated. If family members were
with one another , their lives were considered to be tolerable. With
only little food to eat, the immigrants were supplied a dining area to
eat with 3,000 others joining. Americans looked at these people with
hatred and disgust. They saw only the awkward clothing, the strange
foods eaten, and the different languages spoken by these immigrants.
At Ellis Island up to as many as 5,000 immigrants each day would be checked,
questioned and sent on their way. This process took between three
and five hours possibly further. For others, a longer stay meant additional
testing, and for an unfortunate two - percent, exclusion and a return trip
Finally the doors to the immigrants had
opened. Although several immigrants had money taken from them in
an unorderly manner, many departed and went to cities like Boston, Chicago,
Baltimore, and Pittsburgh to start their new lives. Employees at
the Money Exchange would simply lie about the exchange rates and pocket
the difference. While the immigrants provided industries with a cheap
source of labor, Americans were both afraid of and hostile towards these
new groups. If an immigrant gains employment, he does so only by
displacing an American who previously held that job. For an immigrant
to find an employer, he would have to offer himself at a lower wage than
an American worker was earning. In addition to, if Americans were
to keep their jobs, they had to match the lower wages. Although they
stood alone on the doorsteps of the nation's largest cities, immigrants
overcame their fears and faced reality.
Ellis Island was the gateway for more than
half of the immigrants that entered the United States. Turning back
was seldom an alternative for these immigrants. Even though immigrants
still have the same views on America , many immigrants say, "God's promise
had finally been fulfilled." The vast majority of immigrants to the
United States came in search of jobs and the chance to create a better
life for themselves and their families.