The US witnessed a huge influx of immigrants during the last half of the 19th century. The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that in excess of 16.8 million immigrants arrived in the US between 1850 and 1900. The vast majority of these immigrants came to the US in search of economic opportunities that they lacked in their home countries. These immigrants hoped to acquire jobs in the farms and industries of America, enabling them to change their financial fortunes. In addition to this, a group of immigrants came to the US to escape the massive famine being experienced in their home country. This was the case for the millions of Irish immigrants who moved to the US during the last half of the 19th century. Some immigrants moved to the US to enjoy the freedom and equality that characterized the country. Some of the Germans who emigrated from Russia during this period did so to preserve their culture.
However, the experience of the immigrants in the US was different from what they expected. The new immigrants experienced economic hardships and extreme poverty in the US. The hardships were caused by the lack of adequate jobs and the reduced economic growth of the US caused by the economic depression in the 1870s. This was the opposite of what they expected since they had come to the US in search of a better livelihood. Specific groups of migrants experienced discrimination once they arrived in the US. European immigrants of Irish descent were discriminated against due to their Catholic beliefs by the native Protestant population. These Irish immigrants had expected America to be a land where freedom of worship was guaranteed.