Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence.
- Discuss the history and status of immigration (both legal and illegal) and the workforce in the United States
- Immigration to the United States has been a major source of population growth and cultural change. Different historical periods have brought distinct national groups, races and ethnicities to the United States.
- In recent years, immigration has increased substantially.
- American attitudes toward immigration are markedly ambivalent. In general, Americans have more positive attitudes toward groups that have been visible for a century or more, and much more negative attitude toward recent arrivals.
- An illegal immigrant in the United States is an alien (non-citizen) who has entered the United States without government permission and in violation of United States Nationality Law, or stayed beyond the termination date of a visa, also in violation of the law.
- immigration: The act of immigrating; the passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence.
- illegal immigration: When a person enters the United States without governmental permission and in violation of the United States Nationality Law, or stayed beyond the termination date of a visa, also in violation of the law.
Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence. Immigration occurs for many reasons, including economic, political, family re-unification, natural disasters, or poverty. Many immigrants came to America to escape religious persecution or dire economic conditions. Most hoped coming to America would provide freedom and opportunity.
Immigration to the United States has been a major source of population growth and cultural change. Different historical periods have brought distinct national groups, races and ethnicities to the United States. During the 17th century, approximately 175,000 Englishmen migrated to Colonial America. Over half of all European immigrants to Colonial America during the 17th and 18th centuries arrived as indentured servants. The mid-nineteenth century saw mainly an influx from northern Europe; the early twentieth-century mainly from Southern and Eastern Europe; post-1965 mostly from Latin America and Asia.
In recent years, immigration has increased substantially. In 1965, ethnic quotas were removed; these quotas had restricted the number of immigrants allowed from different parts of the world. Immigration doubled between 1965 and 1970, and again between 1970 and 1990. Between 2000 and 2005, nearly 8 million immigrants entered the United States, more than in any other five-year period in the nation’s history. In 2006, the United States accepted more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined.
Recent Immigration Demographics
Until the 1930s most legal immigrants were male. By the 1990s, women accounted for just over half of all legal immigrants. Contemporary immigrants tend to be younger than the native population of the United States, with people between the ages of 15 and 34 substantially over-represented Immigrants are also more likely to be married and less likely to be divorced than native-born Americans of the same age.
Immigrants come from all over the world, but a significant number come from Latin America. In 1900, when the U.S. population was 76 million, there were an estimated 500,000 Hispanics. The Census Bureau projects that by 2050, one-quarter of the population will be of Hispanic descent. This demographic shift is largely fueled by immigration from Latin America.
Immigrants are likely to move to and live in areas populated by people with similar backgrounds. This phenomenon has held true throughout the history of immigration to the United States.
Public Opinion Toward Immigrants
American attitudes toward immigration are markedly ambivalent. American history is rife with examples of anti-immigrant opinion. Benjamin Franklin opposed German immigration, warning Germans would not assimilate. In the 1850s, the nativist Know Nothing movement opposed Irish immigration, promulgating fears that the country was being overwhelmed by Irish Catholic immigrants.
In general, Americans have more positive attitudes toward groups that have been visible for a century or more, and much more negative attitude toward recent arrivals.According to a 1982 national poll by the Roper Center at the University of Connecticut, “By high margins, Americans are telling pollsters it was a very good thing that Poles, Italians, and Jews emigrated to America. Once again, it’s the newcomers who are viewed with suspicion. This time, it’s the Mexicans, the Filipinos, and the people from the Caribbean who make Americans nervous. ”
One of the most important factors regarding public opinion about immigration is the level of unemployment; anti-immigrant sentiment is highest where unemployment is highest, and vice versa. In fact, in the United States, only 0.16 percent of the workforce are legal immigrants.
Illegal Immigration to the United States
An illegal immigrant in the United States is an alien (non-citizen) who has entered the United States without government permission and in violation of United States Nationality Law, or stayed beyond the termination date of a visa, also in violation of the law. Illegal immigrants continue to outpace the number of legal immigrants—a trend that’s held steady since the 1990s. The illegal immigrant population is estimated to be between 7 and 20 million. More than 50% of illegal immigrants are from Mexico.
While the majority of illegal immigrants continue to concentrate in places with existing large Hispanic communities, illegal immigrants are increasingly settling throughout the rest of the country. A percentage of illegal immigrants do not remain indefinitely but do return to their country of origin; they are often referred to as “sojourners”, for “they come to the United States for several years but eventually return to their home country. ”
The continuing practice of hiring unauthorized workers has been referred to as the magnet for illegal immigration. As a significant percentage of employers are willing to hire illegal immigrants for higher pay than they would typically receive in their former country, illegal immigrants have prime motivation to cross borders. But migration is expensive, and dangerous for those who enter illegally. Participants in debates on immigration in the early twenty-first century have called for increasing enforcement of existing laws governing illegal immigration to the United States, building a barrier along some or all of the 2,000-mile (3,200 km) U.S.-Mexico border, or creating a new guest worker program.