Italian Immigrants in the Early 20th Century and How They Have Impacted American Opinions on Immigration
Italian immigration into the United States of America during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, from 1880-1915, provides insight for the contention of immigrants brought about by the drastically changing composition of immigrant groups who came at this time. Issues of class, religion, culture, and linguistics became very prevalent due to this shift in immigration patterns. Immigration remained an unanswered question for the American government which found itself ill-prepared and unsure of how to handle the increased number of immigrants who sought a better life in the states. Italian immigrants gained a great deal of attention for three main reasons. First, Italian immigrants relocated to escape poverty for unskilled labor opportunities abroad. This made the Italians social pariahs as well as victims of exploitation by industrial labor companies who needed able bodied men for backbreaking labor at little personal expense to the companies. Second, Italian immigrants came over at around one hundred thousand each year. Americans viewed large quantities of newcomers as a threat to their way of life because of cultural, linguistic, and religious differences which were seen as “un- American.” Third, Italians were part of new wave of immigration and seen as less desirable and considered incomparable in quality to the old immigrants of Germany and the United Kingdom. Religion would play a significant role in these harsh criticism of Italians by Americans because the Catholic faith, the religion of the Italians, was unfavorable in the U.S. These factors contributed to the negative outlook Americans had toward Italian immigration into the United States. Concerns over language, economic status, and unfamiliarity continue to dominate the opinions of those who fear newcomers as they once placed these concerns upon the Italians coming to Ellis Island. With new immigrant groups arriving today, conversations on the history of immigration become even more important as the nation strives to not repeat past mistakes of mistreatment. Italian immigration has taught Americans the benefits of having hardworking immigrants and may this be a lesson not soon forgotten.