Nation of Immigrants

5 T n 1815, the population of the United States was 8.4 million. Over the next 100

X years, the country took in about 35 million immigrants, with the greatest numbers coming in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Many of these new immigrants were not from northern Europe. In 1882, 40,000 Chinese arrived, and between 1900 and 1907 there were more than 30,000 Japanese immigrants. But by far the largest numbers of the new immigrants were from central, eastern, and southern Europe.

The new immigrants brought different languages and different cultures to the United States, but gradually most of them assimilated[3] to the dominant American culture they found here.

6 In 1908, a year when a million new immigrants arrived in the United States,

Israel Zangwill wrote in a play,

America is God’s Crucible,[4] the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming. . . . Germans and Frenchmen,

Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians—into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American!

7 Since Zangwill first used the term melting pot to describe the United States, the concept has been debated. In Chapter 8 we consider this issue in more detail, and trace the history of African Americans as well. Two things are certain—the dominant American culture has survived, and it has more or less successfully absorbed vast numbers of immigrants at various points in its history. It has also been changed over time by all the immigrant groups who have settled here.

8 If we look at the immigration patterns of the 1900s, we see that the greatest numbers came at the beginning and at the end of the century. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, there were as many as 1 million new immigrants per year, so that by the 1910 census, almost 15 percent of all Americans had been born in another country. In 1921, however, the country began to limit immigration, and the Immigration Act of 1924 virtually closed the door. The total number of immigrants admitted per year dropped from as many as a million to only 1 50,000. A quota system was established that specified the number of immigrants that could come front each country. It heavily favored immigrants from northern and western Europe and severely limited everyone else. This system remained in effect until 1965, with several exceptions allowing groups of refugees from countries such as Hungary, Cuba, Vietnam, and Cambodia into the United States.

9 The immigration laws began to change in 1965 and the yearly totals began to rise again, from about 300,000 per year in the 1960s to over a million per year in the 1990s. By the end of the century, the United States was admitting more immigrants than all the other industrialized countries combined. In addition to the legal immigration, estimates were that illegal immigration was adding more than a half a

million more per year. Changes in the laws that were intended to help family reunifications[5] resulted in large numbers of non-Europeans, creating another group of new immigrants. By the late 1900s, 90 percent of all immigrants were coming from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia.

10 In the twenty-first century, the numbers of new immigrants have begun to

approach the percentages of the early twentieth century. By the year 2000, more than 11 percent of all Americans were foreign born, born in another country. Some states had even higher percentages of foreign-born residents:

• California, over 26 percent

• New York, over 20 percent

• New Jersey, Florida, and Nevada, each over 15 percent

• Arizona, Illinois, and Texas, each over 12 percent

Foreign-Born Population in the United States (Percentage of Total Population)




1900 1910 (10.4) (13.6)

1920 1930 (14.0) (14.3)








1970 1980 1990 (9.6) (14.1) (19.8)



Percentage of Foreign-Born by Region of Birth





Latin America


Latin America








All other


All other


Note: The regional categories shown above encompass many ethnicities. In 1990, for example, more than 80 ethnic divisions comprise "Europe."

Source: U. S. census data.

11 The twenty-first-century immigration patterns are continuing to change the color and the ethnic mix of the American population. First, the percentage of white Americans of European descent[6] is growing smaller. Few Europeans are immigrating to the United States now, and many of those who came in the early 1900s have died. Their descendants have married Americans with ancestors from other countries, and many of these second – and third-generation immigrants no longer think of themselves as Irish or German or English.

Second, more than half ol all the new immigrants are from Latin America, resulting in large concentrations of Spanish speakers around the country, particularly in California,

Florida, Texas, Arizona, and other southwestern states.

Подпись: 30% to 48% 7% to 29%Hispanics now represent the largest minority in the United States, larger than the number of African Americans. Recognizing the influence of this new minority, in 2001 President George W. Bush became

the first president to give his weekly radio speech in Spanish, in honor of Cinco de Mayo[7] (May 5), a festival celebrating Mexican heritage.[8] Later that year, the White House website began to include Spanish translations of presidential news.

12The immigrants from Asian countries are also contributing to the new American mix. Today, more than one-quarter of all first-generation immigrants are from Asia.

As the minority, nonwhite population ol the United States continues to grow, the white majority grows smaller.

Updated: 18th July 2015 — 3:16 pm