Immigrant aid organizations played an important role in helping immigrants to establish themselves in the United States. Not only have they offered much-needed financial assistance to immigrants, many of whom have been employed in low-wage jobs, but they also have given immigrants a sense of belonging and created a sense of home by providing social activities and traditional holiday celebrations.
During the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, the vast majority of immigrants coming to the United States from Europe, Latin America, and Asia were poor working-class individuals who came seeking economic opportunities and better lives for themselves and their families. Farmers, laborers, and tradespeople who have lacked formal educations have found themselves in a new country in which customs are different, working conditions are often far from ideal, and the legal system is unfamiliar. The situation of new immigrants has been made more difficult by the fact many do not speak English when they arrive, and they have missed the cultural ambiance that they had left in their native lands.
Within the various ethnic communities or groups, organizations were soon formed to help individuals through both financial assistance and moral support. Early organizations helped those in their group who were ill and in need of medical care and those who were at times unable to find work and provide for their families. The concept of self-help was a major part of these organizations. Members paid either set dues or whatever they could afford. These funds were typically used to assist members with expenses incurred in childbirth, weddings, and funerals. Aid organizations eventually began offering health and life insurance at low rates. Some organizations even established banks to provide loans to members. Many organizations were also active in maintaining traditions of the home countries by sponsoring festivals and traditional holiday celebrations. Many of these organizations have remained active into the twenty-first century. as aid societies or social organizations or both.
Flyer from an organization dedicated to protecting Italian immigrants from being exploited upon their arrival in America.
The AOH was also active in the
The mutual aid
Candeloro, Dominic. Chicago’s Italians: Immigrants, Ethnics, Americans. Chicago: Arcadia Press, 2003. Traces development of Italian contributions to Chicago in labor unions, politics, and religion. Gutíerrez, David G. Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants and the Politics of Ethnicity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. Excellent history of Mexicans and their descendants in the United States with a strong emphasis on the Mexican immigrants’ maintenance of their culture and the role of mutualistas. Also good presentation of role of labor and political organizations. Portes, Alejandro, and Rubén G. Rumbaut. Immigrant America: A Portrait. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. Excellent for understanding the problems and difficulties shared by immigrant groups and the need for immigrant aid organizations. Pozzetta, George, ed. Immigrant Institutions: The Organization of Immigrant Life. New York: Routledge, 1991. Collection of useful articles on Italian, Jewish, and Japanese aid organizations. Many articles emphasize the roles of ethnic newspapers and of saloons as gathering places. Reimers, David. Other Immigrants: The Global Origins of the American People. New York: New York University Press, 2005. Good discussion of the problems faced by non-European immigrants, with some attention to the aid organizations that were formed.
Association of Indians in America
Chinese family associations
Chinese secret societies
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Sociedad Progresista Mexicana
Welfare and social services