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Family Histories
The Peopling of America
The Peopling of America
A timeline showing forces behind immigration and their impact on the immigrant experience.
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Pre-1790 1790 1820 1880 1930 1965 2000
The Great Depression has begun, leaving few with the means or incentive to come to the United States. Many recent immigrants return to their native lands, including hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, many against their will. The restrictive immigration policies of the 1920s persist.

In the late 1930s, with the Second World War accelerating in Europe, a new kind of immigrant began to challenge the quota system, and the American conscience. A small number of refugees fleeing Nazi persecution arrived under the quota system, but most were turned away.

Once the US declared war against the Axis Powers, German and Italian resident aliens were detained; but for the Japanese, the policies were more extreme: both resident aliens and American-born citizens of Japanese descent were interned. Congress would officially apologize for the Japanese Internment in 1988.

After the war, the refugee crisis continued. President Truman responded: "I urge the Congress to turn its attention to this world problem in an effort to find ways whereby we can fulfill our responsibilities to these thousands of homeless and suffering refugees of all faiths."

Congress answered with the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, offering hundreds of thousands entry into the United States. But millions more were left to seek refuge elsewhere.

Between 1956 and 1957, the US admitted 38,000 Hungarians, refugees from a failed uprising against the Soviets. These were among the first of the Cold War refugees.

In this era, for the first time in US history, more women than men entered the country. They were reuniting with their families, joining their GI husbands, taking part in the post war economic boom.

By the early 1960s, calls for immigration reform were growing louder. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed the Hart-Cellar Act into law. Gone was the quota system favoring Western Europe, replaced by one offering hope to immigrants from all the continents. The face of America was truly about to change.

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