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Report Number WE-7
Component ID: #ti334900729


Most of us are descended from people who were born and reared in the United States. Almost 20 million of us, however, must go back to Mexico, the Philippines, Canada, Cuba, Germany, and many other countries to learn about previous generations. We, who were born in another country of foreign parents and now live in the United States, are America’s foreign born.

In colonial days, most of America’s immigrants came from Great Britain and Ireland, with a few from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxenbourg. During the early 19th century, Germans began coming in ever-increasing numbers, while the French, Norwegians, and Swedes, feeling the push of economic pressures at home and the pull of prospective free land and good wages in America, began moving to the United States.

Between 1850 and 1882, the Chinese, fleeing famine in their homeland, immigrated to America, where they worked in mining camps and on the expanding railroad. Immigration stopped for several decades when American labor reacted to the low wages the Chinese accepted and forced Congress to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act.

For 20 years following the Civil War, a relatively large number of Canadians entered the country. Italians began arriving in 1890, and from 1990 until the start of World War I, about a quarter of all immigrants were Italian. After World War II, many Germans arrived in the United States. The 1970’s saw large numbers of Asians and Latin Americans arriving in the United States.

Today, the flow of immigrants to America is regulated by laws, and prospective immigrants are admitted at many ports of entry. In addition, an estimates 200,000 undocumented aliens enter the country annually.

Where do we, the foreign born, come from? Where do we live in the United States? What kind of work do we do? What education do we have? How much do we earn? We are a mosaic of social and cultural characteristics.

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