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Immigration: An Enduring Issue

By Ely Schosek, SGI Student Reporter

Immigration can be defined as the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country. It has been said that America is a “melting pot.” This means that America is a place where people from all types of cultures have come together, which led to a merging of beliefs and ideas. Nearly half of U.S. citizens can trace their heritage to another part or parts of the world so this percentage has at least one, possibly more, ancestors who were immigrants to the United States.

Ellis Island was previously an inspection station for immigrants entering the United States, and it now serves as a popular tourist destination. The station began service on Jan. 1, 1892 and was run until Nov. 12, 1954 when it was closed by the federal government. Ellis Island was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants coming to America over the course of the 62 years it was open.

Nearby to Ellis Island stands the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to commemorate the long-lasting friendship between the two nations. It was dedicated in 1886 by President Grover Cleveland, and in 1986 received a renovation to celebrate its centennial. The Statue of Liberty stands as a lasting symbol of freedom and democracy. At the base of the statue, a poem is engraved. The poem is entitled, “The New Colossus” and was written by Emma Lazarus as part of a fundraising contest. It says, “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

The countries where immigrants have come from have shifted dramatically over the years. Upon the opening of Ellis Island, arrivals shifted from northern and western Europeans to southern and eastern Europeans. Both the Immigration Quota Act of 1921 and the National Origins Act of 1924 limited the quantity and nationality of immigrants allowed into the country. In 1921, the Emergency Quota Act was put into place. This meant that annual immigration from any country could not exceed 3 percent of the total number of U.S. immigrants from that same country according to the 1910 census.

Only a few years before the closing of Ellis Island, the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 was implemented, which caused a drop in the number of detainees on the island to drop below 30.

In recent years, President Donald Trump has begun actions to phase out DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) along with actions to continue building a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border.

Richard Studt, age 93, currently resides at Jennie B. Richmond Nursing Home. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Richard remembers Pearl Harbor happening when he was just 15 years old. Once he joined the Navy in 1943 at the age of 19, his first big battle with the Japanese was the Battle of Guadalcanal. He also remembers the Battle of Midway. After boot camp, Richard attended radio school and learned to copy code. Richard said that he went 100,000 miles on the water during his time in the Navy before leaving in 1956. Richard’s grandfather immigrated to the United States with his family. “Immigration is a growing problem for the U.S.,” Richard said when asked about his opinions on immigration, adding with a chuckle, “Everybody wants to be here!”

“It’s kind of a crazy world,” was his summarizing statement.

As was previously mentioned, the countries that are the source of immigrants to the U.S. have changed over time depending on their economic, agricultural, and political circumstances. There are many reasons why people choose to immigrate including; war, drought, famine, poverty, religious persecution, and hopes of greater opportunities. In the late 1800s and early 1900s poverty in Italy caused a large wave of Italian immigrants to come to America. From the mid-1800s to the late 1800s a wave of Eastern European Jews and German Jews left their homes due to religious persecution. In addition to these waves, there have also been declines and slight pauses in immigration. World War I caused a sharp decline in the amount of immigrants to America. According to immigration and emigration records, the Great Depression caused more people to leave the country than to arrive.

Overall, immigration has largely impacted not only the United States but many other countries as well, and it will most likely continue for many years to come. Even on a much smaller scale, like a town or village, the impacts of immigration are visible.

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