An eternal hymn of hope first expressed in 1893. Yet unspoken, it was the same hymn of hope first expressed in 1607 in Jamestown, Va. Further north, a few English Pilgrims established a small settlement near Plymouth, Mass. in 1620. The peak New England settlements occurred from 1629 to 1641, when about 20,000 Puritan settlers arrived from eastern parts of England.
Soon after, the Dutch established settlements in 1626 along the Hudson River. Then came the Germans, the Swedes, the Finns, Latvians, the Irish, along with the Spanish, Italians, Jews, Africans, French, Hungarians, and the Poles. Between 1841 and 1850 a total of 1,713,000 immigrants made their way to the United States. In 1849, the California Gold Rush brought more than 100,000 would-be miners from Latin America, China, Australia, and Europe.
Between 1850 and 1930 five million Germans immigrated to the United States. During the same time three and a half Britishers and four and a half million Irish entered America. In essence today, in the year 2013, we are all pilgrims or descendants of pilgrims, all except Native American Indians who were already here.
Attitudes towards new immigrants have waxed and waned between favorable and unfavorable since 1790s several times requiring the federal government to step in and pass laws governing the admission of most of the applicants, and refusing a small number of members out of America considered to be unsuitable to become United States citizens. Between 1840 and 1830 about 900,000 French Canadians left to immigrate to the United States and settled mainly in New England.
Shortly after the Civil War some states started to pass their own immigration laws, which prompted the United States Supreme Court to rule in 1875 that immigration was a federal responsibility. In that same year the nation passed its first immigration law known as The Asian Exclusion Act. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which was renewed in 1892 and 1902.
Prior to 1890, the individual states, rather than the federal government regulated immigration to America. The Immigration Act of 1891 established the Commissioner of Immigration in the Treasury Department. The Canadian Agreement of 1894 extended US immigration restrictions to Canadian ports.
In 1952 the McCarran Walter Immigration Act affirmed the national origins quota system of 1924 limiting the total immigration to 16 percent of the population of the continental United States in 1920, or a total of 175,455. Between 1944 and 1955, "The Decade of Welcome," the so-called wet backs, the number of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico increased by 6,000 percent. It is estimated that in 1954, before "Operation Wet Back" got under way, more than one million workers had crossed the Rio Grande illegally. Cheap labor displaced native agricultural workers and increased violation of labor laws and discrimination which encouraged criminality, disease, and illiteracy, according to the study, conducted in 1950 by commission sanctioned by President Eisenhower. Laborers in Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, and cotton growers were paying approximately half of the wages paid elsewhere in Texas.
"Immigration is a story of American history from the earliest days of our nation, generation upon generation of immigrants have come to be part of the land that offers freedom and opportunity to those willing to do their part. Immigrants built our great cities. They cultivated rich farmlands. They built roads, the highways that bind America from sea to shining sea. They erected houses of worship to practice their faith. They fought under American colors in wars. Over the centuries immigrants came to America from every part of the globe and made the American dream. They created the nation that is the envy of the world." These are the words of Ted Kennedy when he was a United States senator.
"E Pluribus unum," out of many, one: An accurate description of our glorious country made up of men and women from every part of the globe, indeed, being part of the melting pot, unique in this fractured world.
Indeed, may God continue to bless our special world.
Hal DeBona is a resident of Dorset.