Budweiser's "Born the Hard Way" advertisement during the Super Bowl won plaudits for putting today's anti-immigrant sentiment under a harsh light. But it was a stretch. In reality, the white Anglo-Saxon America of the 19th century was generally welcoming of Germans. They were Christian, often Protestant, hard working. Which is not to say the migration was without troubles.
For example, especially after the failed revolutions of 1848, German immigrants transformed Cincinnati. They congregated in the dense neighborhood north of the Miami-Erie Canal. The city's English and Scots-Irish majority sniffed, "There are a lot of Germans over the Rhine," meaning the canal. And the district, still one of America's architectural treasures, gained its name. The Germans brought great beer and helped make Cincinnati a magnificent music city. Before World War I, Cincinnati had many German-language newspapers — these, and much of the German culture, were victims of wartime xenophobia. Later, the German families moved to the west side. Even today, Interstate 75 is called the Sauerkraut Curtain, dividing old German from old English Cincinnati. The Germans assimilated and became some of the city's leading citizens. Samuel Adams beer is based on a recipe from co-founder Jim Koch's great-grandfather.
The Irish were reviled in many cities in the same century. They went on to become among the most American of Americans, producing two presidents. The largest mass lynching in American history was carried out in 1891 against 11 Italian immigrants in New Orleans. Italians, too, assimilated, and became a distinguished (and sometimes, with the Mafia, notorious) part of America. In the early 21st century, the governor of Arizona, most prominent businessman in Phoenix and, ironically, anti-immigrant sheriff of Maricopa County were all Italian-Americans (many of Phoenix's most important earlier leaders were of Jewish extraction). So it went for scores of different ethnic and religious groups who came here. Native fear, discrimination and even atrocities, assimilation and acceptance. America is a credal nation, not an ethnic one. And we have been stronger for it.