What does Melting Pot mean?
The term melting pot was a metaphor for the American dream. The idea that immigrants from all over the world could come together, converge their backgrounds and yield a new unified American identity. This concept is contrasted with other metaphors of a "salad bowl" where immigrants become one unified America while retaining their cultural heritage.
The truth is America is a country of immigrants. Throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries American ports teemed with German, Chinese, Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants. Until the late 1880s there was basically an "open door" immigration policy with more limitations flowing into the each 20th century. Later immigrants were sought primarily from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany with only a few available slots for others from eastern and southern Europe.
A great shift occurred in 1965 when the nationality quotas were abolished and more immigrants started coming from Latin America and Mexico. The idea of the melting pot is still a source of pride for many Americans who believe in the notion that newcomers should come to America and assimilate into the American culture. Critics argue that assimilation is not necessarily a goal for many immigrants who come to America and feel increasingly comfortable with their own culture and often contemptuous of American culture.