In 1886 the statue of "Liberty Enlightening the World," a gift from the people of France, was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland. Set at the entrance to New York, the statue was just in time to greet the biggest migration in global history.

Between 1880 and World War I, about 22 million men, women, and children entered the United States. More than a million arrived in each of the years 1905, 1906, 1907, 1910, 1913, and 1914.

Not everyone had to travel in steerage. Passengers who could afford the expense paid for first- or second-class quarters. Upon arrival these immigrants were examined by courteous officials who boarded the ships at anchor. But those in steerage were sent to a holding center for a full physical and mental examination. The facility at Ellis Island which opened in 1892 could process up to 5,000 people a day. On some days between 1905 and 1914 it had to process more than 10,000 immigrants a day. Many arrivals had left their homelands to escape mobs who attacked them because of their ethnicity, religion, or politics. The German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman (Turkish) empires ruled over many different peoples and nationalities and often cruelly mistreated them. Until 1899, U.S. immigration officials asked arrivals which nation they had left, not their religion or ancestry. So oppressed people were listed under the countries from which they fled. Armenians who escaped from Turkey were recorded as Turks, and Jews who had been beaten by mobs in Russia were listed as Russians.

This so called "new immigration" was different in many other ways from previous immigration. For the first time, Catholic an Jewish immigrants outnumbered Protestants, and still other arrivals were Muslims, Buddhists, or Greek or Russian Orthodox church members.

Until 1897, 90 percent of all overseas immigrants had come from Protestant northern and western Europe. Many of these nations had democratic traditions and...

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