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Multicultural America: An Encyclopedia of the Newest Americans [4 volumes]
PageVol1:xiii(14 of 2387)
xiii Introduction It is well known that America is a nation of immigrants, but less understood are the patterns, laws, and effects of that immigration. The multitude and variety of Amer- icaÊs immigrants have shaped the country from the colonial period to the present. Although the sending countries have changed over the years, the reasons for com- ing to America have not. This introduction provides a short history of immigration, with special attention to the period after 1965, when new laws restructured the im- migration process. Individuals from the colonizing European powers settled colonial America. The majority were from England but included as well settlers from such coun- tries as Spain, France, Holland, Sweden, the German states, and, as forced im- migrants, those from various African areas (Daniels 1990). Except for numerous people brought as slaves, immigrants have generally seen America as a land of opportunity, where they could start new lives. Immigration was a product of being pushed from the Old World countries and pulled toward America. The push factors could be lack of employment and land, wars, oppressive governments, discrimination, overpopulation, and the impact of the Industrial Revolution. Fac- tors in AmericaÊs pull could be individual and generational opportunity, a rise in class status, property ownership, and freedom of religion (Daniels 1990). Not all immigrants stayed some colonies failed, and many immigrants at various periods in American history returned to their ancestral homes. Some came with no intention of staying and planned only to spend a few years in North America, make some money, and return home to buy property. But for those who stayed, whether the Irish famine immigrants of the 1840s, the Cubans fleeing CastroÊs revolution in the 1960s, or the Ethiopians responding to war in the 1990s (see Cuban and Ethiopian chapters), commonality existed in regard to the elements of their pushăpull histories. It was also usual for immigrants to form chain mi- grations, in which one family or town member would arrive first and then other family or townspeople would follow, often going to the same American location (Daniels 1990).