For many years, one of America's leading imports was people. To take up land, to build the roads, canals, turnpikes, and railroads, to work in the factories, the United States needed people. It was not surprising that the U.S. had become a nation of immigrants. The U.S. took many actions because of this massive immigration. They issued laws and policies which affected the immigrants in many ways. The U.S. immigration policy has changed over time to reflect the needs and attitudes of American society.
While Europe and Asia became more overcrowded, the U.S. offered open air and cheap land. When families in Europe couldn't find food or places for their children in school or anywhere else, they automatically thought of the U.S. In Europe, it was an age of turmoil. As shown in Document 2, the U.S. was welcoming all refugees to the country. The foreigners no longer wanted oppressive taxes, expensive kings, and no compulsory military service. The U.S. was their savior and offered free education, free land, free speech, and free voting. The foreigners wanted to escape their countries because between the time of the American Revolution and the American Civil war, there were many revolutions and dictatorships in Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, and Greece. It was an age of chaos. There were many reasons why people in Europe wanted to get away from their country. The chaos in Europe made refugees by the millions. All wanted to come to the U.S. There were legends of rich land, undiscovered mines, and fast growing cities. During the 1820's only about 500,000 people migrated to the U.S. Then, it began to increase. In the 1830's and 1840's, 2.5 million men, women, and children arrived and in the 1850's, 2.7 million. For a long time it had seemed that the country was divided between old comers and new comers. To keep out what America considered "undesirable", they proposed a literacy test. People over fourteen years old, who wanted to come into the U.