Immigration in Massachusetts: A Brief History

By Haley Lyons, Social Media Fellow

Although the concept of immigration may seem strange and foreign, it happens close to home. Boston would not be the city we all know and love today without the influx of immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The city without all of its Irish pubs and Italian restaurants would be a strange city indeed.

However, these Irish and Italian immigrants were not welcomed with open arms. Religious and cultural differences created tension between the new immigrants and those that considered themselves true Americans. The created “ethnic hierarchy” prevented Irish and Italian immigrants from moving up in the economic world. Workers who had lived in the country longer and spoke English were more valued in positions of power, leaving immigrants to do base-level labor. Although conflict between Americans, Irish immigrants, and Italian immigrants has lessened in the 21st century, the hostility has been transferred onto a new groups: brown, black, and Muslim immigrants.

Mexican, Haitian, Syrian, Dominican, and many more immigrants now come to the United States only to face prejudice. They are constantly targeted by ICE, despite living in the U.S. for years. Although ICE claims to mainly arrest “criminals and fugitives”, everyday citizens live in constant fear that they may be separated from their families. Language and financial barriers frequently prevent the detained persons from getting the help that they need. One can only hope that over time, all immigrants will be accepted in the United States and worldwide.