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A great Italian immigration ignited in the late 19th century due to the extreme amount of poverty in Southern Italy. Between 1880 and 1924, more than 4 million Italians fled to the United States in search of a more prosperous life. But even though in theory it made sense to come to the United States in search of well-paying jobs, a hospitable environment to raise a family, and overall enhanced lifestyle, this did not come uncomplicated for the Italians.

Southern Italy during this time was riddled with poverty so the majority of Italians who sought refuge in the United States yearned for better job opportunities. Most Italian immigrants that would resettle here looked for factory jobs because they required low skill. Since this time was also in line with America becoming one of the most prominent industrial nations, Italians were able to find jobs at the same rate of the native people, but were discriminated monetarily. Italian workers were among the lowest paid labor force in America.

Many new immigrants lived in disgustingly overcrowded, tenement houses that were often plagued with contagious diseases such as cholera. This affected the mental health of anyone migrating to the U.S., causing a spike in the suicide rate in American cities during this time. The quality of life was poor to say the least. If you look at the quality of life of incoming immigrants in current times, it is hard to argue that the poor quality of life has changed for the better.

Securing work in the U.S. is strenuous for incoming refugees and immigrants. The typical employer will prefer to have domestic work experience here to avoid issues such as language barriers and discrimination within the workplace. Immigrants with foreign education find it difficult for certifications to transfer over, so obtaining a similar higher education job such as a doctor in the U.S. is a struggle. Because of difficulty finding jobs, the effect of this is poor housing situations. With recent inflation and extreme rise in lumber prices, housing is more expensive than ever before. The result of this is large immigrant families living in cramped homes, which induces with stress and anxiety. There was a sudden spike in the suicide rate in 2018 with members of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baltimore. This draws parallels to immigration that transpired in late 19th century. However, movements have started to promote mental health awareness, such as pro- immigrant rallies in southeast Baltimore to raise awareness to youth suicide, and provision of psychological help to those in need. It is vital for immigrants now to realize that those who worked hard to live in the U.S. back then had little to no help regarding awareness of their shared struggles as compared to now. Everyone has a voice, and all feelings are validated, whereas the same could not be said for 19th century Italian immigrants.

Ethan Zielinski