Immigration, a historical perspective
The United States is truly a nation of immigrants - immigrants from all over the world. For almost 200 years they came to this land seeking a better life. They worked hard to assimilate, and become Americans. It was not always easy. Working and living conditions for these newcomers were often difficult. Many struggled in learning the language of English, and virtually all insisted that their children learn the English language, so their children could take advantage of the opportunities the United States had to offer.
Places like the 5 boroughs of New York City are a prime example. People would come from nations like Germany, Italy, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Poland, and a myriad of others. Often they would settle in regions of the city that had been previously settled by those from their native homeland.
In the early part of the 20th century, the Ridgewood section of Brooklyn had a significant German population. The Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn was home to many Swedes and Norwegians. Other sections of the city had enclaves of Italian immigrants, though many Italians settled in many other parts of the nation. Often Sicilians would migrate to New Orleans, the Neapolitans and Calabrians to Minnesota, and mostly northern Italians found their way to California. The Neapolitans and Sicilians generally settled in different parts of New York State, and many parts of Pennsylvania.
Never was there a demand to be bi-lingual. Never was there a demand to carve away a section of the nation to become, in essence, an extension of their former homeland. While many of these immigrants maintained many of their traditions and customs in their homes and neighborhoods, they were not trying to convert America into their former homeland. They learned English, and their Children learned the “American Experience.” In time, these ethnic groups became an integral part of the American Fabric.
A good example of the “American Melting Pot” can be seen within the German population. During both World War I and World War II, millions of Americans of German descent took up arms against their ancestral homeland - Germany. None of these Americans believed they were attacking their fellow Germans. Their ethnicity was now American. Their loyalty was to America. Germany was the enemy.
Our nation has a rich heritage from those that came to this land, seeking opportunity and a better way of life. How many things have been added to the vast tapestry that is America? It’s hard to really number.
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