<Standard USII.2 ...............................................................................................................Standard USII.4>

Describe the causes of the immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans, Chinese, Koreans and Japanese to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and describe the major roles of these immigrants in the industrialization of America.

Key Topics on the Page

Overview of Immigration
Angel Island
Ellis Island
  • Emma Lazarus
Timeline of Key Immigration Legislation and Restrictions
European Immigration
Chinese Immigration
Japanese Immigration
Korean Immigration

German emigrants going to New York board a steamer in Hamburg, Germany
German emigrants going to New York board a steamer in Hamburg, Germany

Focus questions: What were the causes of immigration for Southern and Eastern Europeans, Chinese and Japanese as well as Koreans?

How did these new immigrants impact industrialization in America?

rotating gif.gifFor more information on immigration history, see U.S. History II.30

Overview of Immigration

Immigration and U. S. History provides a brief overview of immigration history by New York University historian Hasia Diner.

Multimedia.pngAsian Immigration to the United States: The Political and Economic Reasons from Mt. Holyoke College offers an interactive map of countries and peoples.

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 12.30.24 PM.pngImmigration versus Nativism, 1890-1916

Angel Island Immigration Station, San Francisco
Angel Island Immigration Station, San Francisco

external image OrteliusWorldMap.jpeg

Angel Island

Rotating_globe-small.gifAngel Island: Immigrant Journeys of Chinese Americans

external image Red_apple.jpgAngel Island: Li Keng Wong's Story presents a history of a young girl whose family moved from China to the Chinatown in Oakland, California in 1933.

Multimedia.pngDiscovering Angel Island from PacificLink.

Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, 1902
Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, 1902

Ellis Island

From Ellis Island to Orchard Street with Victoria Confino from the Tenement Museum in New York City.

Multimedia.pngInteractive Tour of Ellis Islandfrom Scholastic.

Ellis Island in New York City Harbor was a primary gateway for immigrations arriving from Europe. The busiest day was April 17, 1907 when 11,747 immigrants were admitted to the United States.

Ellis Island Documentary

Click here for a summary of what immigrants experienced at Ellis Island prepared by teachers and students at Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego, California.

See how New York resident and Russian-American, David Sarnoff, transformed the broadcast communication industry in the early 1900's.

primary_sources.PNGNYPL Digital Gallery: Ellis Island Photographs by William Williams when he was Commissioner of Immigration for the Port of New York.

Rotating_globe-small.gifVisit the website of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, a collection of museums around the world who are exploring issues of immigration, poverty, social justice and human rights. An interactive map directs students to places such as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the National Civil Rights Museum, and the District Six Museum in South Africa.

Female_Rose.pngEmma Lazarus

Emma Lazarus
Emma Lazarus

One of the first successful Jewish American authors, Emma Lazarus was part of the late nineteenth century New York literary elite, and was celebrated in her day as an important American poet.
  • When anti-Jewish violence broke out in Europe in the 188os, she advocated for Jewish immigration and supported in new Jewish homeland in Palestine.

primary_sources.PNGShe wrote "The New Colossus," a poem that is engraved on the Statute of Liberty.

Multimedia.pngClick here to hear the New Colossus poem read aloud on YouTube.

Rotating_globe-small.gifFrom Haven to Home: 350 Years of Jewish Life in America from Library of Congress

Emma Lazarus High School in Manhatten's Lower East Side

Key Legislation and Immigration Restriction

Immigration Restriction League, founded in 1894, was a leading anti-immigration organization.

In the political cartoon on the page to the right, Uncle Sam is holding paper "Protest against Russian exclusion of Jewish Americans" and looking in shock at Chinese skeleton labeled "American exclusion of Chinese" in closet (January 3, 1912)

primary_sources.PNGA timeline of Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930, from the Harvard University Library features links to key primary sources. Included in the links are the following key laws regulating immigration to America:
Editorial cartoon "A Skeleton in His Closet" (January 3, 1912)
Editorial cartoon "A Skeleton in His Closet" (January 3, 1912)

  • Naturalization Act of 1790
    • Provided the first rules for granting national citizenship in the United States
    • Limited naturalization to aliens who were 'free white persons', leaving out indentured servants, slaves, Asians, free blacks, and women
  • Alien and Sedition Acts, 1798
    • Supposedly to protect the United States from aliens of enemy countries who might commit seditious acts
    • Many said they were unconstitutional and they were major issues in the elections of 1798 and 1800
  • Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882
    • Excluded skilled and unskilled Chinese miners from entering the country for 10 years
    • Punishment would be imprisonment and/or deportation
  • Contract Labor Law of 1885
    • Meant to prohibit the importation and migration of foreigners under contract or agreement from working in the United States
  • Naturalization Act of 1906
    • Required immigrants to learn to speak English to become naturalized
  • Immigration Act of 1917
    • Added to the undesirables barred from entering the United States including 'idiots', 'epileptics' and others
    • Also barred people over 16 who were illiterate from entering
    • Included an Asiatic Barred Zone, including much of eastern Asia and many Pacific Islands from which people could not immigrate
  • Emergency Quota Act of 1921
    • Limited the number of immigrants from any given country to 3% of the number of people from that country already living in the United States
  • Immigration Act, 1924
    • Lowered the quota to 2% of immigrants from any given country
  • Immigration Reform Act of 1965
    • Abolished the national origins quota for immigrants
Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 12.13.15 PM.png
  • Use this lesson plan to examine immigration policy from 1790-1996

  • This lesson plan will have students examine the accuracy of common statements made about immigration in the past and present such as
"Illegal immigrants take away jobs from U.S. citizens"

Reasons for Immigration: Eastern and Southern European Americans

  • Followed the depression of the 1890s
  • Escape religious, racial or political persecution
  • Lack of jobs at home
  • Escape famine
  • Many were pulled to the United States, by contract laborers who offered recruiting by agents

Reasons for Immigration: Chinese Americans

Chinese Railway Workers in the Snow
Chinese Railway Workers in the Snow

See Dramatic Event Page: Chinese Immigration to the United States

Reasons for Immigration: Japanese Americans

  • The sugar boom in Hawaii in 1870s and 1880s attracted many, since Japan was having a difficult transition to a new economy
  • Most immigrants were single, male farm laborers looking for work, and ended up living in Hawaii, in the early stages of the sugar boom industry in Hawaii.
    • 19th century, Japanese ancestry in main land, U.S., virtually nonexistent, small group of Japanese ancestry had begun to establish itself in Hawaii.
  • Because they worked hard for lower pay than white workers, they were hired more often
  • Followed in the wake of Chinese immigration

Reasons for Immigration: Korean Americans

  • Escape economic and political issues in Korea
  • Like the Japanese, became laborers on farms in Hawaii for little pay

Immigrants and Industrialization


primary_sources.PNGClick here for questions from the Naturalization and Citizenship Test that immigrants must pass to earn their United States citizenship. The questions are new, effective with the October 2009 test.

primary_sources.PNGClick here to read the story of Antanas Kaztauskis, a Lithuanian man who emigrated to the US in 1904.

For more information check out the following websites:
Italian Immigration:
Russian Immigration:


Danzer, Klor de Alva, et al., G, J.J (2007). The Americans: Reconstruction to the 21 st Century Oklahoma Teacher's Edition. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell.
Patterson, W (1988). The Korean Frontier in Amerca. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.