Monday, October 16, 2017

Tracing the Facts about Greek Immigration




TRACING THE FACTS ABOUT GREEK IMMIGRATION
By Stratos Boudouridis
Special to The National Herald

Published in The National Herald, March 4, 2006  

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I am excited to announce that The National Herald has given Hellenic Genealogy Geek the right to reprint articles that may be of interest to our group. 

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NEW YORK - President Lyndon Johnson's immigration legislation reforms in 1965 played a very important role in the life and development of all immigrant communities in the United States. By extension, the Greek American community was no exception. 

According to relevant prior laws, Northern Europeans had priority over residents from other countries. The same legislation, which was created in 1920, limited the immigration of residents from many countries in Latin America. It is estimated that, until the Johnson immigration law reforms, 90 percent of U.S. immigrants emanated from Europe. 

The immigration reforms adopted in 1965 opened America's doors to millions of immigrants from Asian and Latin American countries, inviting them to participate in the “American Dream.” Twenty years later, only the 10 percent of this country's immigrants came from Europe. The overwhelming majority of “new immigrants” were from Mexico, Cuba and the Philippines. 

During this period and until the 1970's, when the Johnson laws were fully applied, Greece experienced the second largest immigration wave after the one marking in the dawn of 20th Century. Roughly 160,000 Greeks crossed the Atlantic Ocean searching for better life after 1965. 

Historically, more than 700,000 Greeks are recorded as emigrating from Greece to the United States from the time of the first waves of Greek immigration. 

According to statistics cited by Elizabeth Corwin, Press Counselor at the American Embassy in Greece, Greeks were generally less inclined to emigrate from their homeland during the postwar period, and there has been a marked decrease in the number of Greek immigrants as compared to the prewar period. One important difference is the fact that, before the World War II, the U.S. Embassy used to issue thousands of visas to Greeks who wished to immigrate to America. This is stark contrast to the current immigration climate, in which the number of visas issued to Greeks has dropped to less than 500 annually, and the half of those are issued to non-Greeks who live in Greece (e.g., Albanians). Statistics from the U.S. Embassy in Athens show precisely how many Greeks attempted to immigrate to the United States from 1820 to 1998: In the decade of 1821-30, 20 Greeks crossed the Atlantic Ocean; in 1831-40, 49 did so; in 1841-50, 16; in… 
1851-60 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 
1861-70 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 
1871-80 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 210 
1881-90. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,308 
1891-1900 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15,979 
1901-10 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167,519 
1911-20 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184,201 
1921-30 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51,084 
1931-40. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9,119 
1941-50. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8,973 
1951-60 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47,608 
1961-70 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85,969 
1971-80 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92,369 
1981-90 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38,377 
1991-93 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10,096

According to the U.S. Embassy, 2,539 visas were issued to Greeks in 1994; 2,404 in 1995; 2,394 in 1996; 1,483 in 1997; and 1,183 in 1998. 

In 1995, a new law was created which permitted the issuance of migratory visas for two categories of immigrants: those who are entitled to an unlimited number of visas per year, and those who are only eligible for a restricted number of visas per year. 

The first category includes people who have a primary relationship to American citizens (e.g., spouses, parents and children under the age of 18). 

In the second category, no more than 675 thousand visas (total) are issued per year, and those are divided into three sub-categories:

1. 480,000 visas for persons who maintain family bonds with U.S. citizens, who may sponsor them. 

2. 140,000 visas are granted in the form of work permits for both skilled and unskilled individuals. Educators, artists, scientists and specialists in business and the sports industry are given priority. 

3. 55,000 for those with a higher education, as well as workers with at least two years of experience, and to no more than 10,000 unskilled laborers. 

According to recent statistics in the 2000 U.S. Census, 1,153,295 people of Greek heritage and 7,663 people of Cypriot heritage live and work in the United States, and constitute the 0.4 percent of its population. In the previous decade, the influx of Greek immigrants increased by 43,003 or 3.9 percent, rendering it the smallest increase from the time of the first mass migration in the late 19th Century.

Unofficially, community sources estimate the number of Greek Americans at more than 2.5 million. Almost 500 thousand of them live in the New York City area; 400 thousand in the Chicago area; 250 thousand in greater Boston; and a significant number in California, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. There are also substantial Greek communities in the states of Florida and Texas. 

Other large Greek immigration centers are Australia, which numbers, roughly 700 thousand Greeks; Germany, with some 316 thousand; and Canada, with 300 thousand. 

According to historians, the first Greek immigrant who came to America was a Cretan by the name Theodore, 36 years after Christopher Columbus discovered the Western Hemisphere. Theodore was a member of Spanish explorer Pafilio de Narfaeth's crew when his boat anchored at what is today known as the city of Pensacola, Florida. In January of 2005, a bronze statue of Theodore, the first Greek immigrant to the New World was erected in Tampa (an initiative undertaken by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Florida).

The second official Greek immigrant in America is also of Cretan origin: one Konopios by name, who lived New England. According to recorded accounts, he owned and operated a coffee shop. 

In 1692, the Greek explorer Juan de Fuca (Yannis Phokas of Cepalonia) discovered the strait bearing his name, which separates the state of Washington from British Columbia. 

The first group immigration of Greeks took place in 1768, when almost 500 Greek immigrants colonized the Saint Augustine, Florida area. A little later, the first Greek Orthodox Church in America was built in New Orleans.

The first Greek student was Ioannis Paradisos (John Paradise), who came to the United States at the invitation of the great American statesmen and founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. 

One of the early Greek immigrants was also the famous artist, Constantino Brumidi, who decorated the dome of Capitol building in Washington. Even though the first biographical accounts describe him as Italian, because he was born in Rome, in his autobiography,Brumidi reports that he is the son of Stavros Broumides from Filiatra of Arcadia in the Peloponnese.

The first mass immigrations of Greeks to the America began at the end of 19th Century and were completed by 1980. The primary motivation for most all Greek immigrants was the search for improved socioeconomic conditions. It is estimated that more than 650 thousands Greeks crossed the Atlantic Ocean by 1980. Many of them endured racist discrimination not only from members of other ethnic groups, but also from government officials.

Professor Charles Moskos, in his book, “Greek-Americans: Struggle and Success,” writes that the main reason for Greek immigrant success was their professional and public activity, “and the need for escape from misery and unequal treatment.” 

Many Greeks also felt the need to Americanize, in many cases changing their Greek names (if it wasn't already changed for them at Ellis Island) and adopting Anglicized versions of their original names to “fit in better” with American society and the American way of life. Many of them remained deeply Greek, however, in spite of this external impact on their Hellenic identity.

In 1959, a well-known study by Bernard Rosen revealed that Greek immigrants enjoyed the greatest degree of professional and educational success in the United States, compared to other ethnic groups in America. The 1960 Census showed that second generation Greek Americans possess a higher level of education among all other nationalities in the U.S., and only the Jews exceeded the Greeks in average income. The same was also confirmed in the 1970 census ten years later.