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Nativist vs. Immigrationist

Comparing Nativist and Immigrationist opinions on the issue of immigration in the United States.

The Nativist versus Immigrationist argument is very complicated and controversial. There are so many different ideas and thoughts circulating these days, it is hard to classify yourself as one or the other. Nativists are people who do not support immigration, and Immigrationists are people who do. Those are both extremes, and there is a lot of gray area in between the two. In this paper I will be explaining to you both sides of the argument, how things have changed over time, and then I will share with you my own opinion on the issue.

One side of the immigration argument is Nativism. The first Nativists were Americans back in the 1900’s that started to grow anxious when such large numbers of foreigners arrived in this country (Nativist Packet, Page 1). Most of the immigrants that arrived in America did not know how to speak English and they brought along their own religions and beliefs. This worried many Americans and caused them to wonder how we would adapt to all the changes and if our society would be weakened by these new travelers (Nativist Packet, Page 1).

Nativists believe that immigrants are not good for America and we should not allow unrestricted immigration. Some anti-immigration arguments that Nativists have are:

  • Immigrants isolate themselves in their own communities and refuse to learn the local language
  • Immigrants take jobs that otherwise would have been available to native citizens
  • Immigrants increase the use of limited resources
  • They may cause overpopulation
  • Immigrants sometimes swamp a native population and replace its culture with their own
  • Their skills are sometimes needed in their country of origin
  • It leads to more housing needed; therefore countryside is being torn up and built on

Many Nativists also blame immigration for problems like unemployment, crime, harm to the environment, and weakening public education. One excerpt from Our Country, by Rev. Josiah Strong (1885) reads:

“…immigration not only furnishes the greater portion of our criminals, it is also seriously affecting the morals of the native population. It is disease and not health which is contagious.”

On the other side of the argument, there are the Immigrationists. Immigrationists are the people that support immigration and believe that it is a good thing for our country. They are the people who started to defend the immigrants after the Nativists began to protest against them. They also have an argument, and many counter-arguments against the Nativists. Some of them are:

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