"Native American communities that were not immigrants – they are the only ones that are really true natives of the state… Nebraska was founded by immigrants. And in fact you know, if you look at the percentage of foreign-born in the state, in 1910, around 1910 if I remember correctly in Omaha itself the numbers [of foreign-born residents] were sometimes larger than the state as a whole. But if you look at around 1910 you can see that the population, it was about 20 percent – in 1920, 20 percent of the state was foreign-born. Today we're talking nine percent. And so really – And even in absolute numbers, the percent of foreign-born were also larger – The number of foreign born in absolute numbers were larger at the beginning of the 20th century, end of the 19th century, than they are today. Nebraska is the quintessential mirror of the country, a quintessential immigrant state, until 1924 when a very draconian anti-immigration bill that was legitimized with extremely xenophobic discourses against the Poles and the Italians and the Czechoslovakians and the Latvians and so forth, and against the Asians, of course – whole other bills had already, laws in the country had already being passed. Well, this bill passes. The 1924 law becomes the anti-immigrant law of 1924 that establishes very severe quotas. The aim, really, at restricting southern and eastern European migration. So you begin to see by the1940s-50s you begin to see a decline in the law on immigration that only begins to pick up again in the 1980s.
     "Among those who came in the early 20th century were contingents of Mexicans who came to work, as you know, in the beet fields in western Nebraska, and you know as close to Omaha as Kearney, if not closer, with the sugar industry in Grand Island and Hershey and so forth. And also worked in Omaha rarely in meat packing but primarily in the railroads as they did in the rest of the state. You know, I have interviewed folks in Lexington that were Mexicans who truly were responsible for laying the brick on the streets of Lexington along with European immigrants or children of European immigrants. So this is you know – What has happened is that, and why our memory fails us, is because of that law. Because we had one generation, pretty much one generation, that grew up without that immediate immigration history. One! One generation, and that generation is those grandchildren or sometimes older second generation children of European immigrants who often join (interestingly enough) the nativist chorus that sound very much like the ones that affected their grandparents. And they themselves have sometimes a really good knowledge of what it was like, but sometimes a distorted, nostalgic, reconstructed view of the history of what their parents and grandparents went through."

Lourdes Gouveia – A Nation of Immigrants


Excerpts from Lourdes Gouveia’s Interview:

Modern Immigration
The New Wave
Immigration & Language
Immigration Slowing Down