HOT TOPIC: Immigration
Volume 1, Issue 26 - March 20, 2005

"While the first great wave of American settlers was the Puritan wave of 1629, immigration came in waves in the years that followed: one peaking in the 1720's, another in the early 1750's, and another from the late 1760's. After our revolution, there was much less immigration activity for 70 years until the Irish started arriving in the 1840's due to the potato famine in their homeland. This makes sense, because the United States was weeks away from Europe by an expensive and dangerous journey by ship.

After the Irish came Germans fleeing the revolution of 1848. For the next 40 years, immigration trends went up and down, and the main source of immigrants moved from northern Europe to southern and eastern Europe. Transportation became cheaper as railroads and steamships grew in size, making the passage more available to the poor. During this time, immigration became a corporate business. There were peaks in 1851-4, 1866-73, 1881-83, and 1905-7. Specific events, such as pogroms and regional harvest failures triggered waves of people which eventually subsided, at least until some fresh cause emerged.

Did you know that one-third of all the immigrants who came to America between the American Revolution and 1965 went back to their country of origin? Only the Irish and Israelis have failed to return home in significant numbers. And the experience hasn't been wholly positive for existing American citizens either, as immigrants bring with them the social problems from their nations of origin. This is the reason many ethnic groups became stereotyped and discriminated against as they struggled to assimilate into American society.

All this having been said, the story of immigrants coming to America from all over the world is an inspiring one. Where else in history do you find such a patchwork of backgrounds, belief systems and cultures melding together into a new and unique kind of society? Indeed, the strength of this nation is often attributed to these many diverse components which together make up the composite of the American ideal. There are many stories to be told by the waves of immigrants who have come to this country. This week's digital dozen offers you the best the Web has to offer in learning more about the ancestors who made life here in this great nation possible for us today ....."


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