How did immigration to America change in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and what was the response to that change?
The U.S. changed in terms of immigration in the latter half of the 19th century because public opinion on immigrants became more positive. Between the 1880-1920s, industrialization and urbanization grew rapidly, and over 20 million immigrants came to America. Unlike today, the majority of immigrants came from Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe. This is due to the amount of turmoil and persecution in this part of the world. About 2 million Eastern European Jews came to the U.S. during this interval, and the many Irish and German people came to the States because famine and political upheaval respectively. From Asia, about 300,000 Chinese immigrants came to America due to the Opium War, and this immigration only increased due to rumors of Gold on the California coast. Many Japanese immigrants, about 90,000, also came to America because they wanted to work on the transatlantic railroads.

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Some people feared these immigrants because they thought their jobs were being stolen by them. While the economy actually became stronger due to the immigrants, that’s not exactly how the public felt. Immigrants were often given the worst, most undesirable jobs, and many people wouldn’t actually want to do these jobs. Due to this fear, political parties such as the American Party or the KKK started to emerge. The Know-Nothing-Party (KKK) actually fought against the Roman Catholic immigration the most, but they were against immigration in general. The culmination of this nativism probably hit when the Chinese Exclusion act of 1882 was passed.
This disallowed Chinese workers to enter the U.S., and it barred teachers, diplomats, and traders. Other acts were passed trying to stop European immigrants to come to the U.S., and many immigrants who had diseases were banned from entering the country. At the first half of the 20th Century, immigration went down as War and Depression attacked the U.S. and World economies.

  • Staff. (2009). U.S. Immigration Before 1965. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from
  • Sandler, M. W. (1995). Immigration and Industrialization in the 19th Century. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from