People immigrated to America for a variety of reasons, most of which involved seeking personal, religious or economic freedom. The largest reason for immigration, however, was poverty. People left their home countries, where they had low wages and poor living conditions, to go to America and attempt to create a better life for them and their families.
Immigration in the United States is divided into four eras: the colonial period, the mid-19th century, the start of the 20th century and post-1965. Each era brought with it a different major group of immigrants and a different reason for immigrating.
During the colonial period, immigrants came to America to flee religious or economic persecution and to attempt to establish a better life for themselves. However, the 1790 Act limited entry to "free white persons."
The mid-19th century brought immigrants mainly from northern Europe, and they came as indentured servants. During the early 20th century, the main bulk of immigrants came from Southern and Eastern Europe to escape famine and war. The peak year for immigration was during this time. In 1907, 1,285,349 immigrants came into America. This period was also when the Great Depression hit, which caused many impoverished immigrants to try to find a better life in America. Late in this period, immigrants came to America to avoid World War I and World War II, and to be free from Nazi persecution.
The most recent period for immigration was the post-1965 period. These immigrants were predominantly Hispanic and Asian. In recent years, immigrants have come up from Mexico to flee from violence and poverty.