Immigration Inflows and Comparisons from the Past vs Today

“The earliest influx of new arrivals started in the mid 1840’s when Europe felt the throes of a bitter famine.

This FIRST wave of immigrants – primarily Northern Europeans from Ireland, England, Germany and Scandinavia – fled starvation, feudal governments, and the social upheaval brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

A SECOND wave of immigrants streamed out of Southern and Eastern Europe from 1890-1924. Along with fleeing the burden of high taxes, poverty, and overpopulation, these “new” immigrants were also victims of oppression and religious persecution. Jews living in Romania, Russia, and Poland were being driven from their homes by a series of pogroms, riots and laws enforced by a Czarist government.

Similarly the Croats and Serbs in Hungary, the Poles in Germany, and the Irish persecuted under English rule all saw America as a land of freedom and opportunity.

Furthermore, from 1892 to 1954, over 12 million immigrants entered the United States from Ellis Island.

While most immigrants entered through New York Harbor, the most popular destination of steamship companies, others sailed into ports such as Boston, San Francisco and Savannah.

FIRST AND SECOND class passengers who arrived in New York were NOT required to undergo the inspection process unless they were sick or had legal problems.  These passengers underwent a cursory inspection aboard ship, the theory being that if people could afford to purchase a first or second class ticket, they were less likely to become a public charge.  The government felt that more affluent passengers would not end up in institutions, hospitals or become a burden to the state.

Upon arrival in New York City, first and second class passengers would disembark, pass through Customs and were free to enter the United States.

The STEERAGE and THIRD CLASS passengers were transported from the pier by ferry or barge to Ellis Island where everyone would undergo a medical and legal inspection.

If the immigrants’ papers were in order and they were in reasonably good health, the Ellis Island INSPECTION PROCESS WOULD LAST APPROXIMATELY THREE TO FIVE HOURS.  The inspections took place in the Registry Room, where doctors would briefly scan every immigrant for obvious physical ailments.”

Some points to consider about immigration from the PAST to immigration of the PRESENT:

1)      12 million immigrants were processed which represented a greater percentage of the TOTAL and Past US population of 92 million from the 1910 Census vs the current percent of 10.8 million undocumented immigrants estimated to be in the US today out of our total US population of over 300 million.

2)      Practically nothing was known about the past immigrants.  About 45-50% of the 10.8 million current undocumented overstayed their Visas, and thus a lot is known about them by our government, and these people had background checks and other information verified.

3)       Past immigrants were fleeing starvation, their governments, and social upheavals.  There was no overriding argument that they go back and improve their countries and their societies.

4)      Past Wealthier passengers were NOT inspected.  Poorer Past immigrants were processed in about 3-5 HOURS.  Current documented and undocumented immigrants have to wait several years, sometimes 10-15 YEARS before they can received proper documentation.  In the meantime, the economic needs of the US are pulling immigrants into America in spite of the ineffective and ineffective immigration processing system currently in place.

5)      There was no guarantee that past immigrants would become contributing members of society.  There are several independent studies that show that the vast majority of TODAY’s undocumented immigrants are contributing to our Economy, PAY MORE in taxes and fees than they receive in services, and they have a positive impact to the pocketbook of individual American households.

6)      The Majority of Past immigrants did NOT have established roots in America.  The current 10.8 million undocumented immigrants live in households of mixed status (documented and undocumented).  This means that they have established roots, where one spouse is a citizen or documented immigrant, or children are US citizens (about 4 million US born citizens live in mixed status households) or Both.

7)      Again, the children of past immigrants did NOT have established roots in America, and were not familiar with our American values and customs.  Today’s undocumented immigrants consist of about 1.5 million undocumented children who were brought to the US as children, and who have grown up with our American Values and pledging Allegiance to our US Flag on a daily basis, who want to serve in our military as adults, in whom we as a society have already invested in their elementary education, and who many times do not even know they are undocumented until they grow up.

8)      In the past, neither the US nor the rest of the industrialized world was facing a graying of its population, as it currently does.  Currently, the US will have about 75-80 million baby boomers retiring in the next couple of years.  Thus, to maintain the viability of the US Social Security, and the competiveness of America, and America’s standard of living, America will have to replace the 75-80 million baby boomers that will be retiring, but this will have to done in competition with other nations that will also need to replace their retiring workers with younger workers, and who in spite of this significant, but short-term, economic recession are attempting to attract the young immigrant labor force.

9)      In the past, millions of dollars were spent to facilitate the quick processing of these newly arrived immigrants in a matter of HOURS.  Today we spend BILLIONS and BILLIONS of dollars to try to deport people who are contributing to America’s well-being, and who live in mixed status households, which then separates families or which leaves US citizen children in terror of having their families broken up, or which leaves these US citizen children in an uncertain future.

10)   In the past, we expedited the past immigrants’ entry INTO the US.  Today we continue to pursue people and a failed policy that wastes America’s limited resources to try to REMOVE people OUT OF the US.  For example, Federal border enforcement costs have gone up about 8-10 times within the last decade.  And under the Obama administration, the federal government has stepped up enforcement, and the expenditures have increased tremendously, and are at the highest levels than they have ever been under any other past administration.

11)   In the past, Americans could recognize when course correction needed to be done for the well-being of America.  Today, we try to follow the failed course of attempting to deport people who are contributing and knowing that at this rate it would take about 30 years just to deport.  And yet we allow the politicians to think more about how they can win the next election even at the expenses of obstructing progress or solutions that work for the well-being of America.


Finally, we know that we have an undocumented immigration issue.  But we disagree on the HOW to solve.

But many people seem to offer what I think has been demonstrated to be a non-working solution (Deportation), and seem to argue for PROCESS (the process of deportation) at the EXPENSE of a REAL SOLUTION that would allow us to focus on our real issues or that take the TRUE FACTS into consideration.

The thinking goes something like this.  They should get out and get in line, and start all over.  We have no problem with them (the undocumented immigrants), if they follow the rules.

  • Well, my understanding is that as part of the CURRENT process that someone who came here undocumented or overstayed their VISA (This is a Civil Infraction and NOT a Felony), CAN PETITION AND HAVE their status adjusted FROM UNDOCUMENTED TO DOCUMENTED/LEGAL status, AFTER paying the required processing fees plus the PENALTIES for coming over undocumented or for overstaying their VISA, after meeting certain conditions . . . and yet a major hurdle or condition seems to be one of TIME . . . sometimes waiting 10-15 years.
  • If so, then it seems to me that Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) IS CONTEMPLATED WITHIN the CURRENT process, and we could adjust status within the CURRENT rules, and comprehensive immigration reform would do THIS EXPEDITIOUSLY, if only our government officials acted more as leaders of a nation rather than politicians looking out for their own personal interests.


Francisco “Paco” Barragan (My opinions only and not those of any group)

Santa Ana, CA

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