Came to America, a documentary
appearing on WKAR discussed the motivating factors behind the
immigration during the late 1800s and early 1900s, as well as the
experiences of immigrants as they entered the United States and
somewhat touched on the lives of immigrants after they had been
assimilated to American culture.
The mass of early immigrants (those entering the United States
between 1880 and 1920) traveled to America for primarily economical
and religious reasons. Many of the immigrants saw America
as the land of opportunity, a place where they might not be able to
improve their lives, but they were certain they could improve the
status of their children's lives dramatically though better
employment opportunities. Also, many traveled to America to avoid
the religious oppression occurring overseas. The great majority of
the immigrants of this time were of Irish or German descent; the
Irish coming to America for salvation from the Irish Potato Famine.
During the period of Nazi Communism, many immigrants also made the
trek to avoid the political oppression of the time. Wars were a
common motivator for immigrants, who, due to fleeing from the war
were often referred to as refugees.
But the ultimate goal was not personal satisfaction through greater
material goods for one's self, but rather, the end goal was to
improve the life of their children in hopes that they in turn would
be able to better provide for their children.
Many of the immigrants, however, found America to be less than
welcoming. Often times, immigrants entered through Ellis Island (one
of the most popular entrance places, however, by no means the most
major. Dozens of other large entrance points existed, as well as
dozens more minor entrance points. More often than not, immigrants
were put through a rigorous testing regimen in order to “weed out”
the bad eggs. They were asked questions (most of the immigrants had
been coached on how to answer the questions but they were still
asked) and then giving a thorough health examination in hopes of
preventing any over-seas diseases from entering the American border.
Many immigrants did not pass these examinations and were sent back to
their home country; a shame given many of them gave up their entire
life in their old country to come to America. This led to some
But once they were in America, they generally settled in areas with
others from their home country in hopes of making the transition more
smoothly. Acquiring employment and finding housing were the two
largest tasks of immigrants, and once that was accomplished, they
were considered functional members of American Society.