Sunday, July 02, 2006

Previous waves of immigrantion orderly?

A comment in the Speak Out section of today’s Moline (Illinois) Dispatch newspaper caught my attention. The anonymous comment: "At one time immigrants came to America to become Americans in a coherent, orderly and legal manner. None of these things apply today."

Six of my wife’s eight great-grandparents came to America from Ireland between 1860 and 1890. I am no expert on that period of American history but apparently I know at lot more about it than that Speak Out caller because I know that there was nothing coherent or orderly about the process of integrating that wave of Irish immigrants into American society. One of my wife’s great-grandparents came to America through Canada, walking across the border, never passing through Ellis Island. Was that legal at the time? We don’t know, but like the illegal immigrants made legal by the amnesty in 1986, they and their descendants are legal now.

1 comment:

JoyousInsanity said...

I believe that your wife's great grandmother, whose name was Bridget Gannon, walked across from Canada slightly before 1850 rather than after 1860. I also belive that Ellis Island wasn't open yet then. I further believe that there were no restrictions on immigration to the US until about 1880, when they (we?) started excluding Chinese. I will have to look that up to be sure but I think it's true. If so, it would seem that (1)the founding fathers did not believe in restricting immigration, (2) there were no restrictions for the first century of our independence, and (3) immigration restrictions were put in place for racist reasons.