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The Effects of Immigration in America

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After the discovery of America, tens of thousands of immigrants from England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal rushed to the New World. In fact, the New World also hosted sentenced convicts and sold children from the British slums. The participants of unsuccessful revolutionary struggles of the middle 19th century in Germany, Ireland, France, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Finland also arrived. A significant proportion of the population of America was descendants of African slaves. In 1639, the British colonial authorities prohibited criminals’ and beggars’ movements to the North American colonies (Schoeni, 1997). However, the embargo did not have a great influence. Nine years after independence, the U.S. Congress gave the president an unconditional right to expel “dangerous foreigners”. In 1808, another channel of new residents’ arrival was blocked – importation of slaves into the United States was banned. The influx of immigrants forced the veterans of the New World to think about ways to counter unhindered access of new settlers into the territory of America.

The first piece of legislation specifically restricting immigration into the country was adopted in 1875, when it was forbidden to immigrate for people who previously committed crimes and prostitutes in the USA. In 1882, the infamous law banning ethnic Chinese to settle in the United States was passed (Aslund, Rooth, 2007). Meanwhile, the Chinese, who at that time lived in the USA, were forbidden to claim the U.S. citizenship. This law was passed due to the influx of Chinese laborers, who were considered to be the cheapest labor force and were attracted to the construction of railways. The U.S. legislators considered that the presence of the Chinese would adversely affect the level of unemployment and wages of the “native” Americans (Schoeni, 1997). Only in 1943, this law was repealed. Ironically, the ethnic Chinese make up one of the largest and most influential communities in the United States today.

The first immigration law was passed in 1882. It called for the establishment of control over the “quality” of immigrants (implying that the country needed hard-working professionals) and forbade the entry of the mentally ill and mentally underdeveloped people. This law also established a tax of 50 cents for every arriving immigrant. This amount later increased to $ 2, and then to 8. In fact, the tax still exists, but now it is the consular fees required for a visa. The influx of immigrants was perceived as a threat to the U.S. economy. In 1891, another law was passed which added to the “black” list of immigrants the poor and polygamists (Aslund, Rooth, 2007). The law also established a procedure for compulsory medical examination of newly arrived immigrants, existing to this day (since the 1990s, the U.S. banned the entry of AIDS-infected people) (Aslund, Rooth, 2007). These measures reduced the level of immigration to the U.S., but not for long. In the early twentieth century, America received a new wave of immigrants. At this time, the authorities refused entry to epileptics, patients with tuberculosis, beggars, anarchists, and persons with mental or physical disability, which “may affect their ability to earn a living” (Schoeni, 1997). In 1917, the U.S. put a barrier before the Indians, the Burmese, the Thais, the Malays, the Arabs, and the Afghans (Schoeni, 1997).

In 1924, a fundamentally new restriction was introduced. The U.S. authorities provided each country's quota on immigration. The quota was determined by results of the next census. In 1934, the Philippines, the former U.S. colony, gained independence. At the same time, the Filipinos, who were previously considered the Americans, had been imposed restrictions on the transfer to the U.S. – no more than 50 people a year. The quota system still operates with some changes in the modern USA. Despite the fact that the economic crisis of the “Great Depression” of the 1930s greatly reduced the flow of immigrants into the United States, with the beginning of World War II, only in 1940 more than 1 million people from Europe moved to America (Schoeni, 1997).

In 1950, the U.S. banned entering of the communists. However, the most important law, which finally established the U.S. immigration system, was the law on nationality and immigration (Immigration and Nationality Act), enacted in 1952. This law created a system of quotas, “categories of entry”, recorded as the reasons for which an immigrant could be deported from the country. It introduced a more stringent control over the parameters of immigrants’ “quality” (Aslund, Rooth, 2007).

In 1962 (after the Cuban revolution and the exodus of Cubans from the island of Liberty), the United States first established a policy of financial support for refugees. Later, the U.S. began to receive refugees from Southeast Asia, China, and at the end of the 1970s – from the Soviet Union. In 1965, Congress created “a system of preferences” the aim of which was to attract skilled workers and professionals to the United States (Auerbach, Kotliko, 1987). The Law on Immigration was adopted. This law established rules for resettlement in the United States. Following the adoption of this law the structure of immigration has radically changed. Until 1965, the majority of immigrants were the Europeans, after it – these were citizens of Latin America and Asia. In addition, the number of immigrants has increased dramatically. In 1965, there were 297 thousand (Auerbach, Kotliko, 1987), when in 2000 – 850 thousand people.

In 1980, a special law was passed on refugees (Refugee Act). It established the rules for admission of refugees. The law on nationality and immigration has undergone some changes since 1990. A special commission was founded which analyzed the impact of immigration on the social and economic life and assessed how effective the immigration laws of the United States were. In 1994, the U.S. President Bill Clinton signed a law under which foreigners, who came to the United States without documents, could be immediately expelled from the country, except if they request for political asylum, and (or) if they prove that they return to their home country because of persecution based on race, religion, nationality grounds, etc..

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, immigration rules and requirements have become more stringent (Saiz, Wachter, 2010). The duration of tourist visits was reduced to 30 days. Strict rules of stay in the U.S. were adopted for foreign students. Law enforcement agencies were given the right to arrest people for violating immigration laws – especially those involved in the U.S. immigration services. However, the biggest change in the U.S. immigration system was seen in the elimination of the Immigration and Naturalization Service with the subsequent integration of this structure to the new Department of Homeland Security. Public opinion polls show that the September 11 attacks also forced many Americans to reconsider their views on immigration, despite the fact that one out of ten was the first-generation immigrant. Today, the majority of the U.S. citizens express their views in favor of reducing immigration, and only 10-15% considered it necessary to be enlarged (Saiz, Wachter, 2010).

Despite the introduction of more stringent rules for access of immigrants to the United States and the economic difficulties experienced by the U.S. economy, the influx of immigrants has not particularly diminished. According to the Center of Immigration, only for the period from 2000 to 2002, 175 thousand of new immigrants settled in Washington, DC (Saiz, Wachter, 2010).

The problem of immigration is one of the oldest and most painful in the USA. More than two centuries ago, one of the “founding fathers” of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was concerned about the influx of German immigrants, who could have a negative impact mainly on the Anglo-Saxon culture of America. Each new wave of immigrants faced prejudice from the old-timers. In the middle of the 19th century, the Irish immigrants were considered as drunkards. In the early twentieth century, there was a view that the Poles, the Russian, the Jews, and the Italians were very different from the local people; their customs and traditions had little to do with the habits of the Americans. They had very little chance to integrate into the American society successfully (Saiz, Wachter, 2010). Now, the nationals of countries in Asia and Latin America are addressed with similar accusations.

In order to confirm the positive role of immigrants in the U.S. economy, there is the fact that the US cities with the largest percentage of immigrants show the lowest levels of unemployment and the highest rates of economic growth. For example, in New York, 43% of its residents were born outside the U.S. and another 9.2% were born in the families of immigrants (Saiz, Wachter, 2010). In Los Angeles, every tenth resident recently moved to the United States. At the same time, the influx of immigrants can significantly reduce the unemployment rate among the indigenous population. Immigrants tend to agree to take jobs which are not taken by local residents (due to lack of qualifications or other reasons). Immigrants settle for a lesser payment for work. This allows local producers to reduce production costs of goods and services necessary for their successful competition. According to the report of the Center for Research of the labor market, if there were no immigrants, there would be no labor at the age of 35 in the United States as now the American society is aging.

What is more, the majority of immigrants is employed in the fields of industrial production, trade, construction, service, and entertainment industries. For several reasons, the proportion of immigrants is particularly weighty in the field of engineering, medicine, information technology, and physics. For example, in the 1960s, American medical schools did not prepare a sufficient number of specialists. In this connection, the U.S. government gave special immigration privileges to doctors and nurses from Korea, so that they moved to the United States. In some cases, the government even pays for resettlement in the United States for people from Korea. It is believed that if immigrants leave the U.S. high-tech center Silicon Valley, it will simply cease to exist.

The contribution of immigrants to the economy lies in the fact that they are working hard. Immigrants from other countries are working on average 10% more than the locals. In addition, migrants and immigrants tend to be much less likely to violate local laws than the local residents, as well as being subjected to such vices as alcoholism or drug addiction. Immigrants also possess a great potential to update the population of the United States. According to the UN, the USA is one of the 13 industrialized countries which critically need the inflow of “fresh blood” as its native population is rapidly aging. According to UN forecasts, the population of the United States will increase from 280 million to 350 million people in a half of a century. Clearly, the history of the American immigration faced a lot of moments with harsh measures. However, nowadays some policies are altered in a way to support the country and its citizens. As it was stated on the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, America needs to host new and new generation in order to help those who need it. 

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