Irish Immigration

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Irish immigration constitutes one of the more famous and continuous immigrations in United States history. Although the more well-to-do Irish migrated during colonial times, and poor Irish began to migrate in noticeable numbers during the 1820s, the destitute Irish came in huge numbers as a result of the Irish Famine of 1845, which resulted from potato blight. Thereafter, this nation became a prime destination for Irish immigration.

As is the case with large groups of foreigners, the Irish took the lowest-paying jobs, lived in tenements which bred tuberculosis and other diseases, and suffered discrimination in housing, education, employment, and society-at-large. Within decades, however, they became politically influential, partly because of sheer numbers, in Boston and other metropolitan areas on the East Coast. Entire police departments of certain large cities--New York City, Boston--became dominated by these new Americans.

Irish Immigration Today

Although the enormity of Irish immigration has lessened dramatically, there continues to be an intimate relationship between the United States and Ireland. Millions of Americans of Irish descent maintain a nostalgic fondness for the old country, and even among non-Irish, the "wearing of the green" on St. Patrick's Day is traditional. Immigration to America has declined since the peak period of the 19th century, but the ties between the two countries are stronger than ever.

Today, Ireland and Northern Ireland are both eligible for the coveted Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery program, which enables otherwise non-eligible migrants to have a chance at obtaining a Green Card. Approximately 10 million people applied for the 55,000 visas last year. Selection is by random lottery, and applicants are restricted to those from low-admission countries.

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