This was an essay I wrote for AP History
Immigrants coming to the United States during the 1880’s were a new type of immigrant. They came from different parts of Europe than the “old” immigrants did. When these immigrants arrived, they became a scapegoat for the myriad of problems that were developing in growing urban areas.
Even though immigrants in America’s history have all shared the dream of bettering their lives, there were two distinct types of immigrants. During the 1880’s, a new type of immigrant was coming to the United States. In contrast to earlier immigrants from Western and Northern Europe (Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia), these new immigrants came from Eastern and Southern Europe (Italy, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Russia).
These new immigrants were primarily Roman Catholic and Jewish and brought with them habits that seemed strange to the older Americans. The new immigrants climbed to more than fifty percent of the total in the 1890’s, and then to more than seventy percent in the next decade.
The new immigrants were often thought of as the cause for urban problems. This was probably because their immigration to America occurred simultaneously with the development of urban ills and tendencies to stress racial differences. Because of this, new immigrants were blamed from problems that they had little to do with. One such instance would be the development of the slum. Slums were heavily associated with unsanitary facilities, no privacy, vermin, and awful smells. Crime and prostitution also flourished in this time, and law enforcement did little to stop it. While the homicide rate was declining in Europe, it was quickly rising in the United States. Human misery and degradation were all too common of sights.