Does History Repeat Itself? Comparing 19th Century and Contemporary American Attitudes towards Immigrants

Briana Nicole Ferguson


Immigration has been a topic of controversy in the United States, and has led to national discussions on tightening border control. The United States continues to be a place where immigrants seek a better life or refuge from their own country. Today, a large number of Hispanic immigrants seek to start a new life in the United States, much as Chinese and Irish immigrants did in the early 1900s. By studying the struggles immigrants faced during the 19th century and comparing them to obstacles faced by present day Hispanic immigrants, it is possible to see there are many parallels. Attitudes of US citizens today towards new immigrants are similar to those held in the 1800s and 1900s. Historically, many American citizens have not recognized immigrants as equals in the workplace, an attitude that seems to persist today. This study examines the historic immigration of the Irish and the Chinese during the nineteenth century, specifically focusing on their assimilation into early American society. The ways that these groups were treated can be compared to the treatment of Hispanic immigrants that are living and working in the United States today. Factors that will be examined include conditions that precipitated the migration of the immigrants from their homeland, and living and working conditions that the groups endured before, during, and after their immigration. The difference in languages and how it can influence one’s perception of another person will also be reviewed. To supplement this analysis, a questionnaire will be completed by both Hispanic immigrants in the United States and non-Hispanic Americans. This will allow for a comparison of how the two groups view themselves and each other in modern day society, thus providing additional viewpoints for the study.


Immigration; United States; immigrants

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