It is obvious that people always look for a better life. They believe that they can find it abroad. Therefore, migration became immensely popular in the nineteenth century, when everyone was tempted by the famous “American dream” concept, and came to the USA to find better job opportunities, social liberty, and get other benefits. People of different nationalities migrated to the country, but the number of immigrants from China and Ireland was the biggest. Since they were representatives of different civilizations, there were many considerable differences in their way of migration.
With the migration process becoming massive, both Americans and new people coming to the country faced a problem, which had not been solved yet, namely discrimination and the restriction of liberty. In 1790, the so-called Naturalization Law was adopted. In general, it concerned white Americans and immigrants, and prohibited the latter from getting American citizenship. This law was later used in the anti-Chinese policy established in CA in the nineteenth century, according to which representatives of the nation could not acquire citizenship, no matter how much time they had spent in the country. The same happened to another large group of people migrating from Europe, namely the Irish. Newcomers brought their language, customs, and traditions to the country, and did everything possible to assimilate.
3 Periods of Chinese Immigration
There were three periods of Chinese immigration. The first one (1849-1882) started after the California Gold Rush. Generally, the Chinese came to the USA for the same reasons that most people did. However, at that time, Beijing started sending its workers abroad. Therefore, there were a great number of contract laborers among immigrants, and many of them did not even want to leave their native country. Nevertheless, difficult economic conditions in China, which were caused by the Opium Wars and great debts it had to pay to France and Britain, entailed a tax increase and made many citizens seek a better life overseas. Sojourners had no intention of staying in America, because they all had wives and children waiting for them to come back home. They were involved mostly in unskilled labor, such as building, fishing, and other activities. As mentioned in Chinese Immigration to the United State, by the end of the first period, there were about 110,000 Chinese immigrants in the country. They brought no profit in the economic sense, due to they wanted to make some money and then bring it to China to start their businesses there. Therefore, immigrants were regarded to be useless by Americans, because they did not make any contribution to the development of the country.
As to Irish immigrants, there were around 5.5 million of them in the period from 1815 to 1920. Not many returned to their home country. It was a difficult period for them, because at that time, Ireland was a British colony. Therefore, the Irish were called second-class citizens, their rights and freedoms were restricted, and were given no protection from the British authorities. In addition, there was the lack of food, particularly potato, and lands were commercialized. As a result, many people had to immigrate to survive. The religion, which they followed, was predominantly Catholicism. It was one of the reasons why the Irish were ostracized from society. However, they assimilated more successfully, than the Chinese did, mostly because they spoke English. Some of them were skillful at different activities, and had small savings to start their own businesses. At the beginning, most immigrants were involved in unskilled labor, and made a considerable contribution to the building of the infrastructure during the years of the Industrial Revolution. Therefore, they were accepted by many Americans. Due to this, these people started fighting for their freedom and equal rights.
Most Irish immigrants came to the USA through Castle Garden and settled in New York. There, they sought some jobs and places to live. However, it was not the only destination for newcomers, because they also sailed to other cities (Boston and Philadelphia). In fact, the Irish settled in port cities, and then they went to other parts of the country in search for a job. At first, people tried to help them, but as more newcomers arrived, locals grew hostile towards them. “As the number of famine immigrants piled up in New York and Boston, residents of these cities became alarmed. In a single year, 30,000 immigrants arrived in Boston”. Local people started having stereotypes concerning the Irish (the most popular one, which exists today, depicts the nation as the one with the weakness for alcohol). It increased hostility towards them. Apart from it, Americans of that time were mostly Protestants, and people were afraid that the Irish would be extremely loyal to Catholicism, which could harm the country. Therefore, locals did not trust the Irish. They even burned down Catholic churches. Furthermore, negative feelings towards immigrants started spreading throughout the country.
In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was introduced (“Chinese Immigration to the United States,” n.d.), after which only certain groups of the Chinese were allowed to come to the USA. As a result, Chinese Americans united into separate communities known as Chinatowns. It was the second period of the migration of this group to America. The Chinese were deprived of many rights. Due to this, they started protesting and fighting against racial discrimination and injustice. After the civil rights movement, they finally gained their liberties and overcame oppression, marking a new period in Chinese migration to America. Due to they were no longer a target for discrimination, and the law was on their side, Chinese families could unite. Thousands of immigrants came to the USA. Thus, there appeared two groups of Chinese Americans in the country: the first one consisted of well-educated people, and the second one were victims of political unrest and poverty, and refugees looking for asylum.
The Irish and the Chinese organized ghettos throughout the adopted country. The biggest problem on the way to assimilation was the lack of skills among many immigrants. Those people that could not do anything had no chances to find a decent job, having no other choice but to do jobs that other immigrants refused to do. Obviously, it was hard for such people to gain respect from aristocratic society, which made them work for long hours and get small salaries. Meanwhile, at that time, America was developing rapidly with the growing number of large cities, factories, and infrastructure. Due to this, cheap labor was in great demand. However, when a crisis hit the American economy, and the number of workplaces decreased, the Irish faced great discrimination. Because society thought that immigrants occupied positions of the Americans, newcomers were not given jobs. According to Santry, “No Irish need to apply” was a familiar comment in job advertisements.”
The Irish wanted to avoid discrimination and be accepted in the country. Unlike other immigrants, they had a huge advantage, due to they were white. At that time, there existed white antagonism, and the Irish competed with the Chinese and black Americans. Although the former were against slavery, they sometimes resorted to uniting with white Americans in the fight against other immigrants, which helped them gain respect among native citizens. Due to the Irish were looking for support from the authorities and the government, they joined the Democratic Party. Because they inhabited the north of the country and could vote for the party, giving it considerable support, the Democrats claimed that immigrants were the same as other white Americans and should be granted equal rights.
Similar to the Irish, Chinese immigrants were welcomed at first, largely because they built the transcontinental railroad. Constructing railroads in the west of the country was one of the greatest projects of the nineteenth century. The Chinese were responsible for that, due to they agreed to work for lower wages under unsafe conditions unlike others. Later, frontier communities appeared and gave the Chinese more jobs: laundering, childcare, catering, and others. It is worthwhile mentioning that men were predominantly occupied in these kinds of job, because women perceived them as dangerous. Nevertheless, after railroad works were completed, the Chinese had to look for work elsewhere. They started working in the sphere of agriculture, occupying workplaces, which otherwise would belong to Americans. Similar to the Irish, Chinese immigrants experienced discrimination from white Americans, which led to numerous anti-Chinese activities and political actions. They were blamed for being not useful for the country and were forced to pay additional taxes for incomes, which other people did not pay. The U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, “riding the popular anti-Chinese fervor and fear of overpopulation by the Chinese (more than 322,000 Chinese came to the United States between 1850 and 1882). It was a milestone in the history of America, which had been previously favorable towards all immigrants. Apart from denying the Chinese American citizenship, the act allowed deportation and imprisonment of immigrants. However, they did not surrender and were bravely fighting for their rights.
The Act of 1882 was not the only law against Chinese immigrants. The Act to Prohibit the Coming of Chinese Persons into the United States (1892), also called the Geary Act, was another example of exclusionary policy. Although it allowed Chinese workers to return to China and come back to the USA again, safety regulations were stricter than ever before. Immigrants had to fill in different certificates and other documents, and were charged penalties.
Assimilation was not alluring for the Chinese. The Americans perceived them as those, who could not assimilate. In spite of increasing discrimination and harassment, these people remained remarkably tolerant and loyal to their native country, its customs and traditions. It was expressed through celebrating national festivals, preserving native lifestyles, and financially supporting families, which were waiting in China. Parents taught their children the native language, sent them to Chinese schools, and encouraged to study better. Immigrants participated in different organizations and acted jointly to fight against discrimination and racism. During those years, the Chinese filed numerous lawsuits against their discriminators, and their reasoning for such actions was recorded in the American Constitution, which said that all people in America could be given protection regardless of their citizenship. As a result, “the Supreme Court eventually heard cases challenging laws as in violation of the 14th Amendment”.
The Irish also faced considerable problems in America. Locals were against their settlement and started a political movement to force them out of the country. There was a party, known as “Know Nothing”, which opposed immigrants, promoted slavery, and dictated that the USA should be inhabited by white native-born Americans only. It was called so, due to members kept all information about it secret. If they were asked something about it, they responded, “I know nothing”. Facing such an attitude, the Irish united to achieve common goals. They shared everything they had, helped each other in the period of hardships, and their children protected each other at schools. The Irish gained considerable political support and power, due to they voted for politicians, who could help solve their problems. They were very persistent and progressive, demanded higher salaries at work and better working conditions, organized strikes, and eventually got protection from the authorities. As a result, their rights were restricted less.
Many differences in the migration of the Chinese and the Irish were based on the different proportion of male and female representatives in the groups. These were mostly Irish women, who had moved to the USA. Such tendency was reinforced by cultural peculiarities in their country. According to Irish traditions, sons inherited much more property than daughters, who had to make their livings themselves. Due to that, Irish women migrated to America to search for a better life and higher salaries. In addition, unlike the Chinese, they moved to the USA not to come back soon, but to stay forever with their wives. On the other hand, among Chinese immigrants, there were very few women, and those migrating worked as prostitutes. Moreover, according to the traditions of these newcomers, woman migration was unwelcomed. On the top of that, because of taxes imposed on immigrants, it was quite expensive to keep the whole family in the adopted country.
Due to Irish immigrants gained more favorable positions in the USA, than the Chinese did, their next generation had bright prospects. Parents managed to provide their children with a better life. Due to they enjoyed freedom and economic prosperity, they could give their sons and daughters first-lass education. Many children could go to prestigious colleges and universities. Thus, they could occupy skilled positions and be involved in “white collar” jobs. Soon after that, the Irish started gaining considerable political power and more rights in the country, supporting the growth of their nation.
However, the situation was different for the second generation of the Chinese. Because there were a number of acts, which limited their access to the country, it was much more difficult for immigrants to protect themselves. Generally, due to the first generation was not successful in earning Americans’ goodwill, their children wanted to change that. Moreover, the latter did not have a chance to get good education, due to they had to attend Oriental colleges instead of other educational establishments created for Native Americans. Thus, the second generation decided to become settlers, just like the Irish once did. In 1906, a big earthquake hit San Francisco, destroying many records about Chinese immigrants. As a result, they could say that they were born in America and were its citizens. They used this situation as a chance to bring their children (who were called “paper sons”) to the USA. With the beginning of the World War II, China became an appreciated ally of America. Therefore, the Act to Repeal the Chinese Exclusion Acts was signed. To show its welcome, the U.S. government promised to give the Chinese 105 visas every year. Despite the fact that the Chinese faced many problems while migrating to the USA, they had a considerable impact on the country. First of all, they worked in different industries and were particularly needed during the period of the Civil War in California. With the abolition of slavery, the demand for the working force grew considerably, and the Chinese responded to it promptly. Later, they started their own businesses, supplying different products to the market. Finally, they diversified cultural traditions. Their national food, celebrations, Chinatowns and clothes became popular all over the country.
In conclusion, these two groups of immigrants had a similar background and situations in their countries, which made them move. However, the major difference was the fact that the Chinese were sojourners, and the Irish came to the USA as settlers. It was the reason why there were so many differences in the immigration process for the representatives of each group. Because the Irish were white and spoke the language, it was easier for Americans to treat them as equals. On the other hand, the Chinese became victims of the anti-Chinese policy. It happened due to various reasons, but the main one was that they did not want to assimilate and preserved their traditions and lifestyle. The Irish also resorted to the discrimination of this group. It was surprising, due to they were in the same situation. Furthermore, Irishmen came to the United States to stay there, while the Chinese planned to return home. Thus, the former gained their liberties and equal rights faster than the latter. The Chinese faced much more discrimination. However, after the World War II, Americans became more favorable towards immigrants. With the abolition of anti-immigrant acts and opening its doors to other nations, the USA started its fight against discrimination and racism.