History

This country is well over two hundred and thirty years old, and has seen its challenges.  Despite the country’s challenges millions of people from countries around the world have decided to move to America, and make this land they’re new home. In fact this country was founded by immigrants, and has become a melting pot for cultures from around the globe. Although immigrants founded this country, immigration is not a challenge we are experiencing for the first time. Late in the 19th century many Chinese traveled across the Pacific Ocean and through the Golden Gate into the United States, the Irish and many other Europeans have also come to this country seeking new freedoms.

In the spring of 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act (Click Here) that was later signed by President Chester A. Arthur.  This provided a ten-year delay on Chinese labor immigration. This Exclusion Act also required those who were not working to obtain certificates from the Chinese government in order to immigrate into the country. It was very difficult for any Chinese immigrants to get into the country under this act. Before this was passed there

were hundreds of Chinese working class men in America, thousands of which worked on the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s being paid less than the white workers with no benefits. Click Here Many others were employed in the mining industry.  The immigration of the Chinese was a very big issue at the time, and was mostly viewed in a negative way by many us citizens.  A large percentage of the cartoons from this time period framed the Chinese immigrants as unwanted or “undesirable” when immigrating into the United States.

The Irish also found their own troubles after they immigrated into America. Many Irish men looking for jobs would be discouraged as they read the phrase “NO IRISH NEED APPLY” written on help wanted signs. Employers looking to hire would write the phrase on their help wanted signs because they had no desire to hire an Irish immigrant, or in other words were discriminating against the Irish people.  Often times when this slogan is used it will remind us of the persecutions the Irish had after immigrating to the country, although there is evidence suggesting this type of persecution in the United States was a myth. Click Here

Discrimination and persecution was a big issue when it came to immigrants, and people of another race.  The Chinese were being paid so little, and laws were placed before them restricting their movement in and out of the country. The Irish had difficulty getting jobs, and were discriminated for their religion and viewed as a lower class people. Obviously discrimination was a very big issue, especially between the 1880s and the 1960s when almost every state in the country instated “Jim Crowe” laws that further contributed to the discrimination of people of another race. These laws were set in place because many U.S. citizens believed colored people were not equal to others. The laws helped eliminate their equality, and separated the rights between people of different races. Click Here

Below are several examples of some of the “Jim Crow” laws in the separate states:

  • Buses:  All passenger stations in this state operated by any motor transportation company shall have separate waiting rooms or space and separate ticket windows for the white and colored races. Alabama
  • Restaurants:  It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment. Alabama
  • Education:  The schools for white children and the schools for negro children shall be conducted separately. Florida
  • Promotion of Equality:  Any person…who shall be guilty of printing, publishing or circulating printed, typewritten or written matter urging or presenting for public acceptance or general information, arguments or suggestions in favor of social equality or of intermarriage between whites and negroes, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fines or not exceeding five hundred (500.00) dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six (6) months or both. Mississippi
  • Barbers:  No colored barber shall serve as a barber [to] white women or girls. Georgia
  • Burial:  The officer in charge shall not bury, or allow to be buried, any colored persons upon ground set apart or used for the burial of white persons. Georgia
  • Parks:  It shall be unlawful for colored people to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the benefit, use and enjoyment of white persons…and unlawful for any white person to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the use and benefit of colored persons. Georgia
  • Circus Tickets:  All circuses, shows, and tent exhibitions, to which the attendance of…more than one race is invited or expected to attend shall provide for the convenience of its patrons not less than two ticket offices with individual ticket sellers, and not less than two entrances to the said performance, with individual ticket takers and receivers, and in the case of outside or tent performances, the said ticket offices shall not be less than twenty-five (25) feet apart. Louisiana

Today in the United States we are still seeing immigration and possibly discrimination problems, and the government is still trying to solve the problem of illegal immigrants coming to America. Many citizens and state government officials believe the federal government had failed to do their job, and because of this the duty has fallen upon the individual states to deal with the immigration issues. Alabama recently changed its laws regarding the issue, and Governor Robert Bentley expressed his opinion when he said “if the federal government had done its job by enforcing its own immigration laws, we wouldn’t be here today.  Unfortunately, by failing to do its job, the federal government has left the problem of dealing with illegal immigration to the states.” Click Here The state of Alabama has recently passed a very strict law that will now allow Alabama police officers to arrest someone under reasonable suspicion of being an illegal immigrant. There are also employers paying undocumented workers with very low wage rates that are lower than a white U.S. citizen.

Is this just history repeating itself? Or are these challenges we are dealing with for the first time? From taking a look into history we can find that we have had very similar issues in the United States already. Although some things on how we view immigration and its policies have changed. During the time the Irish were immigrating into America many cartoonists framed the Irish as a lower class people bringing poverty into the country. This was not only the way the Irish were framed, but also the Chinese and people of other races were framed in a negative manner, portraying them as very low-class citizens that do very little for the country. The policies at the time were viewed in a positive way.

Often times in today’s media we are seeing immigrants viewed as being a disturbance to the country and its wellbeing. But on the other hand, especially with the recent change in the Alabama immigration law, we are seeing the immigration policies viewed in a negative manner. Many cartoonists have recently framed the Alabama immigration law as being negative, and discriminatory towards immigrants.

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