Immigrants in the North and West had many opportunities but were also faced with many challenges in the period between 1865 and 1910. The opportunities and difficulties had various similarities and differences. The present essay compares and contrasts between the challenges facing and opportunities available to the immigrants in the West and North during the period mentioned above.
Economic and job opportunities were available to immigrants in the two regions. The two regions had plenty of opportunities that attracted immigrants. The two regions had labor shortages for their agriculture, mining, and railroad industries. For example, the discovery of gold in California in the 1880s attracted many immigrants to the West (Diner). The West also had cheap land that attracted farmers and laborers in the agriculture industry. The North had industries and factories that attracted immigrants.
Discrimination was one of the greatest challenges faced by immigrants in both regions. Native Americans and other earlier immigrants reacted intensely and negatively to the new arrivals in both regions. For example, the Chinese, who made up a significant proportion of the new arrivals in the West, were faced with a lot of discrimination, which even resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (Bryant). By the 1890s, most Americans considered immigration to pose grave dangers to the country’s health and security and formed the Immigration Restriction League, which pressed Congress to curtail foreign immigration (Diner). The fact that immigrants if the same ethnic background usually remained clustered together in urban areas also fuelled the discrimination that they faced. It separated them from the other members of the society and contributed to stereotypes, prejudice, nativism, and discrimination.
Employers exploited immigrants in both regions. Immigrants’ wages were lower than those of Native Americans were. Most immigrants took low-paying and unskilled factory jobs while others worked in physically demanding industries such as mining, agriculture, and railroad construction (BPS). They worked in unsanitary and unappealing conditions and did not actively demand wage increases.
There were significant differences between the kind of opportunities available to the immigrants in the North and those in the West. Most of the opportunities in the West were predominantly in the agricultural sector as the region had fertile land for cultivation. However, most of the opportunities in the North were in the factories and railroads. For instance, the Pennsylvania Railroad had around 110,000 employees by 1891(White).
- BPS,. “Unit 1- Immigration in the Late 19Th and Early 20Th Century | Department Of History and Social Studies”. Plan.bpshistory.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 May 2016.
- Bryant, Joyce. “99.03.01: Immigration in the United States”. Yale.edu. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 May 2016.
- Diner, Hasia. “Immigration in U.S. History – North Carolina Digital History”. Learnnc.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 May 2016.
- White, Richard. “The Rise of Industrial America, 1877-1900 | The Gilder Lehrman Institute Of American History”. Gilderlehrman.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 May 2016.