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Comparison of Migration Processes and Experiences of Irish in Boston, and Japanese in Hawaii

The Irish Americans are said to have migrated to the United States between 1815 and 1920. During this period, approximately 5.5 million Irish migrated from Ireland to the United States (Irish Immigration). Once in the United States, Irish immigrants mainly settled at the port cities. The highest concentration of Irish immigrants was in Boston (The Irish in America: 1840s-1930s).

One of the reasons why Irish migrated from their homeland was the Great Famine of 1840s. The famine rendered many Irish poor. They therefore had to look for means of survival. Irish also migrated from Ireland was because of the oppressive colonial rule of the English men in their land (Irish Immigration). During the English colonial rule in Ireland, the Europeans had taken Irish land and given it to English Protestant settlers. In fact, by 1700, the Irish only owned 14 percent of Ireland. Moreover, the Irish were being forced into Christianity.

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The Irish migration process started with traditional form of migration. Initially, Irish peasants with small pieces of land would migrate to different places within Ireland, or England, Wales, and Scotland depending on the farming seasons prevailing in those areas (The Irish in America: 1840s-1930s). However, the 1840 famine changed their migration patterns whereby, they started crossing over to the United States. Most of them had tried to survive on potatoes, but this was not long-lived, after a serious fungal outbreak destroyed all the potatoes and left them with no source of food. Irish continued to migrate to the US even after 1854 because, most of Irish land continued to face commercialization, hence eviction of Irish tenants (Irish Immigration). Commercialization of agriculture destroyed the Irish native craft industry, due to cheap imports from Europe.

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Those who had already immigrated to the US between 1815 and 1840 could write to their relatives back at home, boosting of boundlessness and growing riches (The Irish in America: 1840s-1930s). This motivated more and more peasant to migrate to the US. They could sail on the Pacific Ocean for days until they arrived at the port cities of the US. Once in the US, they engaged themselves in activities such as mining, canal, roads, and rail construction. The flow of Irish to the US between 1846 and 1854 was as follows, 92,484, 196,224, 173,744, 204,771, and 206, 041 in 1846, 1947, 1948, 1949, and 1950 respectively (Irish Immigration).

By 1860s, many Irish immigrants had managed to buy land in the mainland of port cities, and started to practice commercial agriculture. Through farming income, Irish were able to rise economically and politically. Irish in the US associated themselves with the Democratic Party as opposed to the Republican Party. This is because the Democratic Party was did not show much sympathy for slaves, and the Irish feared that, freedom for slaves would threaten their jobs in America. The economic development among some of the Irish landowners in the US enabled Irish Americans to engage in local politics. Irish were able to participate in local American politics since they had already gained American citizenship. The Naturalization Act of 1790, which stated that, made this possible (Borger). The act provided that,

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“Any alien, being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the US for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof, on application to any common law court of record, in any one of the States wherein he shall have resided…”

Due to their large numbers in port cities, all Irish candidates for various seats would easily win the elections. Due to domination of Irish politicians in the Democratic Party, the party came to be known as Irish Democratic Party. The first-generation of Irish American who joined politics, through the Democratic Party included, Michael Cudahy, John Downey, and William Grace. Irish also contributed to economic development of the port cities where they settled. For instance, Irish farmer, Milwaukee, started the highly profitable meat packaging business in the US. William Grace, who later became the California governor between 1880 and 1888, established the growing real estate business (The Irish in America: 1840s-1930s). In addition, Irish made a great contribution in the US transport sector through construction.

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However, Irish in Boston faced a lot of racial discrimination. To Bostonians, Irish came from a servant race. Irish women worked as house servants, where the Bostonians referred them as ‘bridgets’ or ‘biddys. Irish men worked as laborers in construction companies, and were called ‘paddys.’ Since Irish women worked as domestic servants, many of them suffered loneliness and melancholy, hence mental illnesses. The Americans viewed Irish as desperate laborers who could work for anything. The negative attitude of American towards Irish could be seen in employment posts written ‘No Irish Need Apply,’ which were placed near sings, which read, ‘No Dogs Allowed’ (The Irish in America: 1840s-1930s). This depicted that, American compared Irish to dogs. However, influx of Irish in the US reduced early in 1920, after the enactment of the Immigration Act of 1924, which limited the number of immigrants allowed entry into the US (The Immigration Act of 1924).

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Similar to the Irish immigrants, the Japanese immigrants in Hawaii migrated to the US through the Pacific Ocean. One of the reasons for Japanese migration to the US was because of invasion of English and French colonialists and missionaries on their land. Since 1600, Japan had remained cut-off from the west, due to present of English and French military ships on the Northwest side of Pacific Ocean, which was the main route to the US (Immigration: Japanese). However, early 19th century, the Japanese feudal lords engaged the French and English navel ships and military, resulting into opening of the US route from Japan. Another reason for Japanese immigration to the US was due to the heavy tax burden imposed on farmers depending (Immigration: Japanese). Since many farmers could not afford to pay the required tax, they sold their land in order to raise the money require to cover their tax liabilities.

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By 1890, 40 percent of Japanese were peasants. They started to migrate to the US in search of employment opportunities since in their homeland; employment opportunities were minimal, given that, around 40 percent of the population was landless and unemployed. Initially, the Japanese government had denied immigration Japanese to the US, because of the deteriorating conditions of previous Japanese immigrants at Hawaii. However, many Japanese immigrated to the US in 1885, after the Japanese government allowed migration of its citizens under strict supervision (Immigration: Japanese). As opposed to Irish immigrant to Boston, Japanese immigrant to Hawaii experienced better work conditions. Even though they still worked as laborers in construction companies, most of them migrated to the US through the controlled immigration program: Irwin Convention between Hawaii and the Japanese governments. Japanese laborers in Hawaii had intermediaries from Japan, who negotiated for better employment terms of Japanese laborers in American plantations and construction companies. Moreover, unlike many Irish immigrants, Japanese immigrants were educated (Japanese government provided at least eight years of schooling to all its citizens) (Immigration: Japanese).

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The favorable migration terms motivated more Japanese to migrate to Hawaii. In fact, by 1920, the proportion of Japanese women in Hawaii was 46 percent of the entire Japanese immigrants in Hawaii. This was made possible by the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1908, which was an informal agreement between the Japanese government, and the US government. In the agreement, the Japan government was to control migration of Japanese to the US, by only issuing migration passports to specific categories of business and professional men and women (Immigration: Japanese). Since many of the Japanese women could receive basic education in Japan, they were able to secure migration passports to the US, where they worked in textile factories as laborers. For Japanese men immigrants, most of them worked in sugarcane factories and plantations. Sadly, some of the Japanese women immigrants in the US died during the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 (The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fore of 1911).

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In 1942, President Roosevelt gave an order: The Executive Order 9066, to confine thousands of Americans of Japanese descent (The Executive Oder No. 9066). All American Japanese individuals were interned in various assembly points (camps). These events were stirred by the WWII hysteria (after the surprise Japanese attacked of the Pearl Harbor) whereby, the Americans in Hawaii and other port cities feared that, the Japanese would takeover their cities (The Executive Oder No. 9066).

Similar to Irish, Japanese made significant economic contributions to the US. For instance, in 1890, Japanese set a grocery store at Riverside, in New York. In 1895, Japanese had set a restaurant in Riverside, which served American food. Due to their business supremacy in Riverside, a Japanese American Association was formed in 1908. The association allowed membership for non-Japanese individuals residing in Riverside. They could organize get-together parties, music concerts, and theater activities. Most Japanese in the association originated from Wakayama-en or Fukuoka-ken districts in Japan. While in Riverside, they formed the Riverside - Wakayama kenjin-kai and the Fukuoka kenjin-kai. The association is still in existence in the US, and it has formed a platform for development of Japanese talents in the entertainment industry, and exhibiting Japanese culture in America.











However, unlike the Irish laborers, Japanese laborers in America were bold. In 1903, Japanese immigrants, in liaison with Mexican immigrants organized the Oxnard Strike of 1903: the first laborer strike in history of American labor movement. The Japanese laborers were advocating for increased pay, reasonable food prices at the companies’ store where they worked, and direct employment of Japanese in the farms and factories (The Oxnard Strike of 1903).

The second generations of both the Irish American and the Japanese Americans have been actively involved in political, social, and economic activities in the US. For instance, the 1896 to1902 San Francisco’s mayor, James Phelan, was a second generation Irish. Joseph P. Kennedy, a renowned businessperson was also a second-generation Irish. Unlike the American Irish born in Ireland, the American Irish born in America did not experience a lot of racial discrimination. This is because; their parents had tried to conceal their Irish identity, by giving them American names, example, Joseph P. Kennedy (Irish Immigration). Also, because their parents involvement in politics and economic development, they toiled less as laborers.

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Likewise, Japanese born in America (second generation), did not experience much difficulties like their parents. The Japanese American Association, as well as the kenjin-kai has assisted Japanese in America to establish businesses, hence becoming economically independent. Currently, there are numerous Japanese run businesses in New York, Hawaii, Los Angles, and Oregon. Moreover, Japanese involvement in the entertainment industry (movie production) has enabled them to gain recognition in America, hence reducing the level of racial discrimination against them (Japanese American in Riverside).

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