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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Seeking a Better Life

This Day in History: February 5, 1917

America...a melting pot, the world's gathering place, a nation of immigrants. If each American were to trace his or her ancestry, there would probably be few who would be far removed from immigrant roots.
A half century ago John F. Kennedy could call America "a nation of immigrants," and publish a book with that title: We remain a nation of immigrants today. Even if many of us did not have the courage or vision to uproot and move to America, many of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents made that difficult journey. Our diversity is what makes America unique and is a source of our fundamental strength and long term prospects.
Source: The Importance of Immigration
Image Source: en.wikipedia.org
The influx of immigration occurred during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as people poured into America seeking a better life. From 1892 to 1924, over twelve million immigrants entered the United States through the portal of New York's Ellis Island (1.3 million immigrants passing through in 1907 alone). This small island in New York Harbor lies within the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. The immigration center closed in November, 1954 but the island is ever present housing ghosts of all who passed through this Gateway to America.

'Doctor's examination - stopping an emigrant suspected of defective eyesight.
He will be detained for further examination...' ~Anonymous, 1902.

What is the connection of immigration to this day in history?

On February 5, 1917, in an effort to to control the composition of immigrant flow into the United States, the United States Congress passes the Immigration Act of 1917, aka the Asiatic Barred Zone Act, overriding President Woodrow Wilson's veto of the previous week. This was a law restricting the immigration of so-called "undesirables" from other countries into the United States. Previously, only the Chinese had been excluded from admission to the country. In short, 

Immigration Act of 1917 ("Asiatic Barred Zone Act"). Denies entry to immigrants from the "Asiatic Barred Zone"--much of eastern Asia and the Pacific Islands. It also sets a literacy requirement for immigrants over 16 and a head tax for entry into the country; it bars entry by "idiots," "feeble-minded persons," "epileptics," "insane persons," alcoholics, "professional beggars," all persons "mentally or physically defective," polygamists, and anarchists. Furthermore, the act instated literacy tests for all immigrants over the age of sixteen.
[Summary available of this act HERE.]
 'Any country not owned by the U.S. adjacent to the continent of Asia'
along specified longitudes and latitudes were restricted from immigrating.
Image Source: en.wikipedia.org
This political cartoon shows America's literacy test wall
that blocks the entry of immigrants.
Image Source: Library of Congress
As a result of Asian and Latin American immigration, America is a place with roots everywhere. There are global reasons for immigration making the diversity of America's population universal. The Asian American History Timeline is filled with misguided steps, as well as many successes, regarding immigration.
Asians first began to immigrate to the U.S. in the mid-19th century. Since then, they have undergone violent and unjust discrimination but have also overcome it. Today, Asian-Americans proudly live as U.S. citizens, with equal rights and equal contributions to the country.
Source: U. S. Immigration Asian American History Timeline
Image Source: flickr.com

Related Articles:

U.S. Immigration  Asian American History Timeline
The Importance of Immigration
Immigration act passed over Wilson's veto
The Lessons of the Barred Zone Act (Incorrect date in this article)
U.S. Immigration Legislation online