The United States has long been the world's chief receiving nation for immigrants and refugees. The country has had four major periods of immigration.
The first wave began in what is now the United States with the colonists of the 1600's and reached a peak just before the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775. The second major flow of immigrants started in the 1820's and lasted until a depression in the early 1870's. The greatest inpouring of people took place from the 1880's to the early 1920's. A fourth and continuing wave began in 1965 because of changes in U. S. Immigration laws.
During the first wave most of the early colonists who settled in what is now the United States came from England.
The second wave lasted from 1820 to 1870. Almost 7 ½ million newcomers entered the United States. Nearly all of them came from northern and western Europe. About a third were Irish, many of them seeking escape from a potato famine that struck Ireland in the mid-1840's. Almost a third were German.
The third wave was from 1881 to 1920. Almost 23 ½ million immigrants poured into the United States from almost every area of the world. Until the 1880's, most newcomers still came from northern and western Europe. They came to be called old immigrants. Beginning in the 1890's, the majority of arrivals were new immigrants, people from southern and eastern Europe.
In 1965, the fourth wave amendments, to the Immigration and Nationality Act ended quotas based on nationality. Instead, the amendments provided for annual quotas with a ceiling of 170,000 immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere and 120,000 from the Western Hemisphere. The act established a preference system for the issuing of visas that strongly favored relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens, as well as people with special skills. Wives, husbands, parents, and minor children of U. S. citizens could also enter without being counted as part of the quota. In 1978, Congress replaced the separate quotas for immigrants from the Eastern and Western hemispheres with a single annual world quota of 290,000.
See the sources below for additional information.
You may also wish to place this question within the History section as this is the Geography section.
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