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Immigration

The reasons for immigration to the "land of opportunity" called America in the early years of our country are clear.  America offered jobs, fruitful and expansive land and freedom from persecution.  America was seen as a place where an individual could start over with an equal chance of success or failure, no matter what country he or she came from.  This proved to be true for Irish Immigrants, German-American Immigrants, English and black immigrants that came to America. The Boston area has long received immigrants, from the arrival of the Mayflower and the colony of John Winthrop to the present. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, most of the newcomers were from England. In the nineteenth century, immigrants from southern and eastern Europe brought rich cultural traditions to the area.

Immigration

In the early years of immigration to America, the foremost groups to fill that land were the English settlers and the Irish.  The English were escaping from the tyranny of their mother country in hopes of economic freedom and religious tolerance. After arriving in America the English remained under the mother country's rule, however, seizing the opportunity to establish their own government, the colonists rebelled against England.  Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense was a “best seller” of the day and brought to light the economic conditions that England burdened the United States with and most influentially, pointed out the fact that the colonies did not need England to survive.  “...America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power had anything to do with her.  The commerce by which she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe...”.  Thus the early English immigrants gained their freedom through the revolutionary war and established government upon their own terms. The English were the least persecuted group of immigrants compared to that of the Irish, German and black.

Current U.S. immigration laws allow for approximately 800,000 people to settle in the U.S. each year as permanent residents. Of this number, approximately 480,000 are admitted to reunite with family members, 140,000 to fill jobs the U.S. Department of Labor determines no American citizens will fill, and about 110,000 as refugees. Another 55,000 are admitted under the diversity lottery begun in 1990. According to U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) estimates, approximately 275,000 people entered the U.S. illegally or overstayed their visa in 1996.

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