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History of Immigration

History of Immigration Mohamed Salih msalihwy@gmail.com

The debate about immigration and immigrants has become a heated topic since Mr. Trump made it one of his major agenda as a candidate and continued it as President of the United States. We all heard about the Mexicans immigrants being labelled “criminals and rapists”, the DACA children who are adults now, not belonging here and should be returned to their countries of origin. The call for Muslims to be completely “shutdown from entering the U.S.”, and the disparaging remarks about African countries and by extension those who emigrated from there. This kind of rhetoric does not define a problem and for sure does not help solve it.

A brief history of immigration might help in clarifying the immigration issue and put it in proper perspective for today debate. Immigration ebb and flow has been an issue since the U.S. came into existence. The period from 1789 to 1880 was called the Laissez-Faire one. During this period anyone who could afford to come to America could enter and settle down. Since the U.S. Constitution stipulated that anyone born in the U.S. is considered a citizen, all the children of those early immigrants were automatically became citizens. Africans were brought here as slaves not as immigrants and suffered a lot during this period and did not enjoy the full rights of being citizens. The Native Americans, original inhabitants of America, also suffered during this period. After the civil war many Chinese immigrants came to the U.S. to build the railroads. But many settlers who were immigrants themselves argued against them for economic and cultural reasons similar to some arguments we hear today. The Chinese Exclusion Act was drafted that reduced their numbers. From the 1880s through the mid-1920s America experienced an immigration boom during which immigration averaged nearly 600,000 annually driven by US becoming fully industrialized. From 1924 to 1965 only 155,000 were allowed to immigrate from the western hemisphere. It is important to note the system set quotas for individual sender countries on the basis of their contribution to America’s ethnic stock of 1890, meaning most slots were allocated to immigrants from northern Europe. In 1965 Congress passed the Hart-Cellar immigration bill, replacing quotas that had favored Europeans with a system that instead allotted slots to individual countries on the basis of their proportion of total world population. The idea was to have the new immigrants look like or represent the world not just Europe. So from this brief history it is obvious that immigration is not a new issue. It is also obvious that early immigrants and late ones built America and it is also where America’s strength lies. History has shown that shutting down immigration or limiting it to a specific group will not help America affirm its rightful claim that it is the nation of immigrants and its pride in that claim. the leader of the free world.

Many arguments about immigration has been presented and debated with opposing views. The first argument is that “Immigrants take our jobs and lower our wages.” This is usually the most common arguments but many studies have shown that this is not true. Immigrants usually reside in growing regions of the U.S. and they have been found to increase the supply and demand of the economy and therefore help employment rather than hurting it. They also take jobs that the Native citizens usually will not do. The effect on wages has also been shown to be very little and almost insignificant. The counter argument says that if there are fewer immigrants the wages for some of those jobs like landscaping, construction and meat packing will go up and if that happens the native citizens will take those jobs. I will outline some other arguments about immigration in my next column.

Peace and blessings to you all,

Carl Carmichael carmichael.carl@gmail.com

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