The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Prof discusses immigrant history

By Frankie Farrar-Helm/reporter

The irony of Emma Lazarus’ 1883 poem on the Statue of Liberty, “The New Colossus”, which welcomed immigrants to New York Harbor, is that it was written when the colonies were passing immigration laws to limit the number of people coming to the New World, said Anne Rye, NE assistant professor.

Rye quoted a portion of Lazarus’ poem in her speech titled, History of U.S. Immigration, that she gave last week during the International Festival on NE Campus.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” Rye said, quoting Lazarus. “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

According to Rye, 50 to 75 million people with a variety of languages and cultures were here before the Europeans came to the New World. 

Rye described four main reasons Europeans immigrated.

One reason, she said, was economic opportunity. People wanted to own land, no matter their wealth.

Religious and political freedoms were other reasons. People suffered persecution in Europe for their religion and various crimes that drove them out of the country.

The last reason Rye gave was Europe becoming overcrowded.

“By 1700, there were a quarter of a million people,” Rye said. “By 1775, the population jumped to 2.5 million.”

After the French Revolution, three “waves” of population increase occurred in the colonies.

The first wave occurred from 1800 to 1860 when northwestern European immigrants, mainly Irish, came and increased the population to 5 million.

The second wave, Rye said, occurred from 1865 to 1880 bringing Italian and Russian immigrants who doubled the population to 10 million.

The last wave, 1890-1914, brought southeastern Europeans, such as Russians, Turks and Greeks and increased the population to 18 million people.

“At the end of World War I, Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act,” Rye said. “They took the 1890 Census, took 2 percent of that and set that as the quota.”

This gave high quotas to those who assimilated and low quotas to those who didn’t quite fit in, Rye said.

“Emma Lazarus wrote her poem for the Statue of Liberty when the act became permanent in 1924,” Rye said.

One of Rye’s former Western civilization students, Taylor Goodwin, 20, attended Rye’s speech with the rest of her class.

“Her speaking is clear and easy to follow,” Goodwin said. “I learned the irony between the Emergency Quota Act and the poem.”

Jessica Lumbreas, a NE Campus English for Speakers of Other Languages student, came to the International Festival for the opportunity to listen to more English. She wants to volunteer on campus to support  ESOL.

“I was interested in the different waves, why they came and the way they were treated,” Lumbreas said. “This history is all new to me.”

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