Anti-Italian sentiments among native-born Americans grew along with the burgeoning numbers of Italian immigrants. Propaganda against the Italian immigrants usually focused on fears of the Mafia. Throughout the United States, Italian immigrants were targets of violence, even lynching, by anti-immigrant nativist groups that were alarmed by the new wave of immigration. To help mitigate their difficult situations, Italians established mutual aid societies that provided services ranging from medical care to funerals to members. Many immigrants cities got moral support from living in Little Italies, in which they were surrounded by fellow countrymen (paesani) and could enjoy many of the trappings of the culture of their homeland. Italian grocery stores and other services helped in the transition, especially among those still unable to speak English.
Some immigrants returned to Italy, but most remained in the United States permanently. Male heads of families generally arrived in the United States first. As they became established, they sent for the rest of their families. Over time, notions of returning to Italy faded. Occasionally, however, some family members remained in the United States while others returned to Italy, traveling back and forth whenever possible. This was especially true after World War II.
Immigrants who came to the United States during the twentieth century, especially after World War I (1914-1918), enjoyed a brief period of relative prosperity. However, the Great Depression of the 1930’s proved an especially difficult time. By then, Italy was under Benito Mussolini’s Fascist rule, so returning to Italy was out of the question for many immigrants. In 1939, Italy followed Nazi Germany intoWorldWar II and became a declared enemy of the United States.