Similarities and Disparities of Discourse of Immigration in Germany and the U.S.

Term Paper, 2016

14 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Terms and Definitions
2.1 New Immigration
2.2 Nativism
2.3 Cultural Pluralism
2.4 Melting Pot

3. Development in the U.S. concerning the new immigration

4. Discourse on Immigration in Germany and the U.S.
4.1 Exposure of the refugee situation in Germany in the magazine Spiegel Online
4.2 Similarities and disparities of the discourse and development today in Germany and back in the day in the U.S.

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

In the mid nineteenth century, a huge number of immigrants arrived in America, mostly, originating from the Northern and Western parts of Europe. Remarkably, approximately one third of all immigrants hailed from Ireland.

Only a few years later, another striking wave of immigrants arrived in the U.S. During the late nineteenth century, Americas cities experienced impressive growth. It was a time of an intense industrial development, which was both known as the gilded age and the progressive era. This new wave comprised of immigrants from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, like especially Italy, Greece and Poland, as well as from China or Japan. In view of the fact that there are always reasons for leaving one´s own home country, different political, social and economic push factors drove these new immigrants to emigrate to America.

Today immigration is a red-hot issue in many different countries and has a huge impact on the advancement of societies. This term paper therefore firstly provides an overview of the ‘new immigration’ period in the U.S. Secondly, it will elucidate some of the different repercussions of immigration, including concepts such as ‘nativism’, ‘cultural pluralism’, or ‘melting pot’, which concern a society´s development faced with an enormous number of new immigrants. In order to compare this situation with that in Germany, an analysis of the depiction of the immigration situation in Germany in the online magazine Spiegel Online[1] will be presented. The next paragraph will examine the similarities and disparities in the development and depiction of immigration in Germany and America, and the last paragraph will summarise the most pivotal facts contained in this term paper.

2. Terms and Definitions

2.1 New Immigration

A vast number of Italians, Slavs, Greeks and Jews from the southern and eastern part of Europe, Amenians from the Middle East and Japanese from Asia arrived in the U.S during the 1890s and were dubbed as the ‘new immigrants’, bound to raise America´s foreign-born population up to 18 million. Generally, the bulk of the new immigrants settled in cities near to the north eastern seaboard and northern-central states. The impact of the overwhelming number of immigrants was inconceivable; for instance, in 1890 New York City comprised “half as many Italians [as] in Naples” (“IMMIGRATION, URBANIZTION, AND EVERDAY LIFE, 1860-1900,” 593). Furthermore, “four out of five people living in New York City had been born abroad or were children of foreign-born parents.” (“IMMIGRATION,URBANIZTION, AND EVERDAY LIFE, 1860-1900,” 593) Generic push factors for immigrants leaving their own home country included starvation, religious persecution, violence, overcrowding, industrial depression or crop failure. Also pull factors such as higher salary attracted Japanese immigrants especially. Noticeably, the majority of the new immigrants were young single men who came to the U.S. to earn more money, which they would repatriated to their families back home. Moreover, they brought their own culture and traditions along with them and had no earlier connections to the U.S., wherefore the Dillingham Commission Report from 1911 claimed that the new immigrants constituted a genuine hazard to America´s nationhood and values.

2.2 Nativism

In view of the fact that the Dillingham Commission Report aroused concern about the loss of national values, the concept of ‘nativism’ is indubitably associated with this wave of new immigration, although it originally stemmed from the anti-foreign and anti-catholic attitude from original settlers in the 1840ies. This approach was a response to the ever increasing number of immigrants who arrived in the U.S. in the twenties and thirties. (Baker, par. 1-3)

According to the Cambridge Dictonary the term ‘nativism’ describes generally “the political idea that people who were born in a country are more important than immigrants“ (Cambridge Dictionary), and most of the time, there is no liaison between the emergence of nativism and war, international conflicts or a particular historical incident. For nativists the main conflict issue is that they consider themselves to be the only true ‘native’ Americans.

Regarding American history in the nineteenth century, the notion of ‘nativism’ refers to the anti-immigrant point of view. After the first upsurge of nativism in the beginning of the nineteenth century, the second increase in nativism commenced in the 1880s when a great number of ‘new immigrants’ entered the country. In light of the fact that among the immigrants were many Catholics from Italy and Eastern Europe, the nativists were alarmed by how much change there could be to their culture. (Rubin, Boyer and Casper 55) Furthermore, they competed for jobs because the immigrants worked for longer and harder for less pay. Unsurprisingly, this upset the people who had been living in the U.S. before and strengthened the conception of nativism. In order to try to reduce immigration, the proponents of the nativism wave “used racial and evolutionary vocabularies” (Rubin, Boyer and Casper 58) Furthermore, this new nativist effort emerged in the period when influential public figures, including major reformers such as Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, themselves seized on racist theories.

2.3 Cultural Pluralism

The German-Jewish philosopher Horace Kallen, who taught at New York City´s New School for Social Research, heralded the term ‘cultural pluralism’ for the first time in Culture and Democracy in the United States (1924). (Rubin, Boyer and Casper 271)

The basic assumption was that each ethnic and cultural group had an unparalleled and precious contribution to American life, whereby the immigrants´ diversity should be appreciated and respected by society. (Rubin, Boyer and Casper 594) Furthermore, cultural pluralists believed that ethnic minorities, providing that they were intending to learn English, had the right to retain and refine their own cultures. Due to this asset, cultural pluralists also deemed that advantages like broadening of people´s horizons, ad gaining a fresh view on history, music, art, education and cuisine would enrich the American culture. (Haas, par. 2-3) Horace Kallen illustrated the idea of this concept with the image of an orchestra, embracing the idea that all the different cultures could engender a harmony comparable to that produced by distinct instruments playing toghehter. (Rubin, Boyer and Casper 594) Another absorbing example for the benefits of cultural pluralism could be, for instance bilingual education, whereby the process of integration could be facilitated, since this could provide a bridge between natives and immigrants.

Certainly, there were disparate critiques concerning the notion of cultural pluralism. On the one hand, detractors criticised America´s transformation into a ‘nation of nations’, contingent on the interaction of the different cultures, while on the other hand they alleged that every individual native person would be suppressed by the influence of the new cultures. (Haas, par. 2-3)

2.4 Melting Pot

The alternative concept to cultural pluralism was the ‘melting pot’. The immigrant Israel Zangwill introduced the term with his play The Melting Pot, which was first staged in 1908. The line “God´s crucible, the great Melting Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming!” emphasises the progress of all ‘races’ in ‘one white American race’ which was exactly the notion of the melting pot. (Rubin, Boyer and Casper 575) It was believed that all immigrants should adopt to American culture and relinquish their own traditions, cultures and languages. (Haas, par. 4-6) Thereby, all immigrants would lose their independent identities and the outcome would be uniform. Furthermore, all different cultures, would be combined into one mutual culture, although this was in general only the culture of the ruling group. (Gloor 29)

3. Development in the U.S. concerning the new immigration

Several cities in the U.S. grew sensationally during the late nineteenth century – the population of New Orleans, for example, almost doubled. This dramatic urban growth was inflamed by the nearly eleven million immigrants who reached the U.S. in 1870 and were enticed away from their profession by better jobs. Already at this particular time, many people believed that diversity could threaten the present traditional tenor of social existence and communal life. In fact, the sensational surge in the population brought with it issues such as housing and sanitations problems as well as class differences. Therefore, many native Americans began voicing complaints about the sheer number of immigrants. (“IMMIGRATION,URBANIZTION, AND EVERDAY LIFE, 1860-1900,” 592)

Commonly known as new immigrants, a phenomenal count of mostly pleasant economic migrants arrived in the U.S. Starting in 1880/1890 who would elevate America´s ‘foreign-population’ up to 18 million. Their lower standards of living and distinctive racial varieties augmented many already existing problems and led to a number of fresh ones. (Schlesinger 83) Hence, new immigrants faced a tremendous amount of resentment from nativists, which was due to the striking changes in ethnic and religious terms.

Furthermore, the changing demographic composition of the cities became more conspicuous, where New York in 1890, for instance, included “twice as many Irish as Dublin, as many Germans as Hamburg, half as many Italians as Naples and 2 ½ times the Jewish population of Warsaw” (“IMMIGRATION,URBANIZTION, AND EVERDAY LIFE, 1860-1900,” 593), and these immigrants grouped together. Keen to manage the situation, the government took notice of the new immigrants and established, for example, the immigration facility Ellis Island, where they wanted to first check and register the immigrants. Moreover, laws were changed, like the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was the first law that enabled to reject immigrants due to their race or nationality, to find a quick and alert way to integrate the new immigrants. Public schools probably managed the situation best, whereas other institutions attempted a process of assimilation (Taylor 1) Nevertheless, the bleak reality was dominated by people like peddlers and tavern keepers who were driven by the idea of nativism and tried to prey on the new immigrants, which in turn aggravated their process of inclusion in the American society. The feeling in society was divided. Some celebrated society´s enrichment through all the new immigrants and felt that a concept such as cultural pluralism could be successful, some expected a melting pot, and the last group in society raised spoke out against the new immigrants. (“IMMIGRATION,URBANIZTION, AND EVERDAY LIFE, 1860-1900,” 596)


[1] Spiegel Online is one of the most wide-coverage germanophone news websites.

Excerpt out of 14 pages


Similarities and Disparities of Discourse of Immigration in Germany and the U.S.
University of Siegen
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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US Immigration, Germany, U.S., New Immigration, Nativism, Cultural Pluralism, Melting Pot
Quote paper
Ronja O. (Author), 2016, Similarities and Disparities of Discourse of Immigration in Germany and the U.S., Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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