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40 Million Reasons to Celebrate

May 6, 2015 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

At least two population milestones have been reached in 2011. The most spectacular is that 7 billion people now live in the world. The second, and more meaningful to Americans, is that nearly 40 million immigrants live in the United States today. The increase in our nation’s immigrant population has generated considerable controversy, but that is not new. Amidst all the fears of newcomers failing to integrate into American society, we need to take a look back at how those controversies played out during earlier waves of immigration. We can learn a lot from that history.

Today, immigrants comprise 12.9 percent of the U.S. population. In 1870, 14.4 percent of Americans were immigrants. From about 1860 to 1920, immigrants were a larger share of the population than they are today. Those were the years when our ancestors built enough to fill an entire continent and produce wealth for millions. The 2010 Census reports that nearly half of all immigrants are Hispanic or Latino, which is the largest ethnic immigrant group. Because of that most anti-immigrant sentiments are directed against them.

We should be thrilled to live in a society that is so attractive, wealthy, and prosperous that 40 million immigrants want to call it home and are becoming Americans right before our eyes.”

Immigration politics in the 19th century were much more vicious than today and focused on specific ethnic groups. In 1890 Wisconsin Governor William D. Hoard claimed that German-Americans were engaged in a conspiracy to darken the understanding of the children, and called for native born Americans to fight alienism and selfish ecclesiasticism by closing all German language schools in the state and making education in government schooling compulsory. Catholic and Lutheran German voters threw him out of office. An 1889 Illinois state law required all educators at parochial and public schools in Illinois to teach in English. Outraged German-American voters forced the law’s repeal in 1893. Slowly but surely Germans assimilated, learned English, and became Americans.

American holidays, like Columbus Day, mark the battlegrounds over these conflicts. The controversy over whether Columbus was a courageous explorer or a brutal slave trader and murderer (he was both) is a recent one. In the 19th and early 20th centuries he was a symbol of Catholic heritage and Catholic contributions to America. There was fierce anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant hysteria at the time (most immigrants then were Catholics, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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