100 Years of Immigration
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the current immigration debate, to feel like there’s some sort of bottleneck going on, that the U.S. is facing new issues in uncharted territory. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Americans of 100 years ago were facing many of the same issues, some of them feeling overrun by waves of foreign immigrants who came to the U.S speaking a seemingly strange tongue, looking out of place, and amassing in new, ethnic communities. The only difference between now and then is where these immigrants are coming from. For example, in 1910 the U.S. issued 1,041,570 green cards. In 2010, the U.S. issued 1,042,625 green cards. That’s only 1,055 more in 2010 than in 1910. Between 1900 and 1909, the U.S. issued 8.2 million green cards and 7.6 million of those went to people from Europe with Austria-Hungarians receiving the most at a little over 2 million. Between 2000 and 2009, 10.3 million green cards were issued and only 1.3 million of those went to Europeans, less than the amount of green cards that were issued to Austria-Hungarians alone 100 years earlier. In the last ten years, the lion’s share of green cards went to those from neighboring North American countries with Mexico leading at 1.7 million green cards received, more than all of Europe combined. Asians and Africans represent a much larger percentage of green card recipients in the last ten years than they did 100 years ago. Between 1900 and 1909, only 300,000 green cards went to Asians and 6,326 went to Africans. In the last ten years, however, combined Asians received 3.4 million greencards and combined Africans received 760,000.
Immigration in 1910, Compared to Now
Total immigration to the U.S. in 1910, including legal permanent residents, nonimmigrant workers, students, etc. was 13.5 million people and 11.8 million came from Europe. In 2010, over 20 million immigrants entered the country, with Mexico topping the list at nearly 10 million alone. This may seem like a drastic increase, but when compared as a percentage of total U.S. population, the ratio of immigrants to residents is much smaller in 2010. In 1910, entering immigrants represented 14 percent of the total U.S. population and in 2010; entering immigrants only represented 6 percent of the total U.S. population.
Descendents of Immigrants
The descendents of immigrants who arrived in 1910 are the entrenched culture of the modern United States. The grandchildren and great grand-children of those folks are now the ones wondering who all these new people are. And in 100 years, the descendants of today’s immigrants might wonder the same thing. Where these people come from may change once again, the color of their skin and the language they speak upon arrival. 100 years ago, German was the dominant language of immigrants with various other European languages as well. Today, most immigrants speak Spanish. One thing is certain and that is that immigration to the U.S. will continue as long as it is a place that offers freedom and opportunity.