Immigration to the USA

The USA is often referred to as a nation of immigrants. 99 per cent of the Americans are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants and all of the immigrants arrived after 1607, when the first British settlement was made.

Who came and when was determined by so - called push and pull factors:

Push Factor
A push factor is something that forces or motivates someone to leave an area.
Typical push factors:
  • Starvation
  • Poverty
  • Oppression
  • Religious or political persecution

Pull Factor
A pull factor is something that attracts people to a certain area.
Typical pull factors:
  • Promise of freedom
  • Resources
  • Improved economic situation

Immigration to the USA can be divided into four main waves:
  • From early colonisation to around 1820
  • From around 1820 to 1880
  • From around 1880 to around 1920
  • From the 1960s and onwards

First wave
The first wave of immigration brought people from Europe to America. Most of the settlers came from Britain, but there were also French, Portuguese, German and Dutch settlements. The main push factor at the time, was religious persecution in Europe. The Pilgrim Fathers who came with the Mayflower in 1620 is a example of that.

Second wave
In the second wave there was also considerable immigration from Britain, and one of reason for that is the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s that resulted in mass immigration from Ireland.In additon, there were hard times in Scandinavia, so many Norwegians and Swedes set sail for America in search of better times. The Homestead Act from 1862 is one of the most important pull factors in this period.

Third wave
In the third wave, people started arriving from southern and eastern Europe and most of the land was taken in The USA. Most of the immigrants were Greeks, Italians and Sovjets. Even though most of the land
was taken, there was plenty of work because this was the period when the USA its industry. So this meant that the southern and eastern Europeans could achieve their American Dreams.

Fourth wave
From the 1920s to the 1960s immigration was not allowed. But in the 1960s these restrictions were lifted, and today, most of the immigrants come Asia and South and Central America.

The melting pot
Traditionally, the idea of being American has been to adapt to American society by getting rid of much of one’s own cultural baggage. Everything is melted together into Ameri

can culture.

The salad bowl
More recently, the USA has come to resemble a salad bowl or a pizza. This means that immigrants are able to keep much of their own cultural identity and that cultures exist side by side, with
their own characteristics, rather than being melted together into one culture.

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