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2000 Census Population Ancestry Map

Immigration to the United States is a complex demographic phenomenon that has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the history of the United States. The economic, social, and political aspects of immigration have caused controversy regarding ethnicity, economic benefits, jobs for non-immigrants, settlement patterns, impact on upward social mobility, crime, and voting behavior. In 2006 the United States accepted more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined.[1] After ethnic quotas on immigration were removed in 1965[2] the number of actual (first-generation) immigrants living in the United States eventually quadrupled,[3] from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 38 million in 2007.[4] Over one million persons were naturalized as U.S. citizens in 2008. The leading countries of origin of immigrants to the United States were Mexico, India, the Philippines, and China.[5] Nearly 14 million immigrants entered the United States from 2000 to 2010.[6]

Family reunification accounts for approximately two-thirds of legal immigration to the US every year.[7] The number of foreign nationals who became legal permanent residents (LPRs) of the U.S. in 2009 as a result of family reunification (66%) exceeded those who became LPRs on the basis of employment skills (13%) and for humanitarian reasons (17%).[8]

Migration is difficult, expensive, and dangerous for those who enter the US illegally across the Mexico–United States border.[9] Participants in debates on immigration in the early twenty-first century called for increasing enforcement of existing laws governing illegal immigration to the United States, building a barrier along some or all of the Template:Convert/miTemplate:Convert/test/A U.S.-Mexico border, or creating a new guest worker program. Through much of 2006 the country and Congress was immersed in a debate about these proposals. As of 2010Template:Dated maintenance category few of these proposals had become law, though a partial border fence had been approved and subsequently canceled.[10]


Main article: History of immigration to the United States

American immigration history can be viewed in four epochs: the colonial period, the mid-19th century, the start of the 20th century, and post-1965. Each period brought distinct national groups, races and ethnicities to the United States. During the 17th century, approximately 175,000 Englishmen migrated to Colonial America.[11] Over half of all European immigrants to Colonial America during the 17th and 18th centuries arrived as indentured servants.[12] The mid-19th century saw mainly an influx from northern Europe; the early 20th-century mainly from Southern and Eastern Europe; post-1965 mostly from Latin America and Asia.

File:Ellis island 1902.jpg

Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, 1902

Historians estimate that fewer than one million immigrants—perhaps as few as 400,000—crossed the Atlantic during the 17th and 18th centuries.[13] The 1790 Act limited naturalization to "free white persons"; it was expanded to include blacks in the 1860s and Asians in the 1950s.[14] In the early years of the United States, immigration was fewer than 8,000 people a year,[15] including French refugees from the slave revolt in Haiti. After 1820, immigration gradually increased. From 1836 to 1914, over 30 million Europeans migrated to the United States.[16] The death rate on these transatlantic voyages was high, during which one in seven travelers died.[17] In 1875, the nation passed its first immigration law, the Page Act of 1875.[18]

The peak year of European immigration was in 1907, when 1,285,349 persons entered the country.[19] By 1910, 13.5 million immigrants were living in the United States.[20] In 1921, the Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act, followed by the Immigration Act of 1924. The 1924 Act was aimed at further restricting the Southern and Eastern Europeans, especially Jews, Italians, and Slavs, who had begun to enter the country in large numbers beginning in the 1890s.[21] Most of the European refugees fleeing the Nazis and World War II were barred from coming to the United States.[22]

File:Polish berry pickers color.jpg

Polish immigrants working on the farm, 1909. The welfare system was practically non-existent before the 1930s and the economic pressures on the poor were giving rise to child labor.

Immigration patterns of the 1930s were dominated by the Great Depression, which hit the U.S. hard and lasted over ten years there. In the final prosperous year, 1929, there were 279,678 immigrants recorded,[23] but in 1933, only 23,068 came to the U.S.[13] In the early 1930s, more people emigrated from the United States than to it.[24] The U.S. government sponsored a Mexican Repatriation program which was intended to encourage people to voluntarily move to Mexico, but thousands were deported against their will.[25] Altogether about 400,000 Mexicans were repatriated.[26] In the post-war era, the Justice Department launched Operation Wetback, under which 1,075,168 Mexicans were deported in 1954.[27]

First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same.... Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.... Contrary to the charges in some quarters, [the bill] will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area, or the most populated and deprived nations of Africa and Asia.... In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think.

Ted Kennedy, chief Senate sponsor of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.[28]

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Cellar Act, abolished the system of national-origin quotas. By equalizing immigration policies, the act resulted in new immigration from non-European nations, which changed the ethnic make-up of the United States.[29] While European immigrants accounted for nearly 60% of the total foreign population in 1970, they accounted for only 15% in 2000.[30] Immigration doubled between 1965 and 1970, and again between 1970 and 1990.[31] In 1990, George H. W. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990,[32] which increased legal immigration to the United States by 40%.[33] Appointed by Bill Clinton,[34] the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform recommended reducing legal immigration from about 800,000 people per year to approximately 550,000.[35] While an influx of new residents from different cultures presents some challenges, "the United States has always been energized by its immigrant populations," said President Bill Clinton in 1998. "America has constantly drawn strength and spirit from wave after wave of immigrants [...] They have proved to be the most restless, the most adventurous, the most innovative, the most industrious of people."[36]

An analysis of census data found that nearly eight million immigrants entered the United States from 2000 to 2005, more than in any other five-year period in the nation's history; 3.7 million of them entered without papers.[37][38] Since 1986 Congress has passed seven amnesties for undocumented immigrants.[39] In 1986 president Ronald Reagan signed immigration reform that gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants in the country.[40] Hispanic immigrants were among the first victims of the late-2000s recession,[41] but since the recession's end in June 2009, immigrants posted a net gain of 656,000 jobs.[42] Over 1 million immigrants were granted legal residence in 2011.[43]

File:Paifang Boston Chinatown 1.jpg

Boston Chinatown, Massachusetts, 2008.

Persons Obtaining Legal Permanent Resident Status Fiscal Years
Year Year Year Year
1950 249,187 1987 601,516 2008 1,107,126 2011 1,062,040
1967 361,972 1997 797,847 2009 1,130,818 2012 1,031,631
1977 462,315 2007 1,052,415 2010 1,042,625

Source: US Department of Homeland Security, Persons Obtaining Legal Permanent Resident Status: Fiscal Years 1820 to 2012[44]

Contemporary immigration[]

Until the 1930s most legal immigrants were male. By the 1990s women accounted for just over half of all legal immigrants.[45] Contemporary immigrants tend to be younger than the native population of the United States, with people between the ages of 15 and 34 substantially overrepresented.[46] Immigrants are also more likely to be married and less likely to be divorced than native-born Americans of the same age.[47]


Naturalization ceremony, Salem, Massachusetts, 2007


Paterson, New Jersey, within the New York City Metropolitan Area, is becoming an increasingly popular destination for Muslim immigrants.

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.[48] Seven out of ten immigrants surveyed by Public Agenda in 2009 said they intended to make the U.S. their permanent home, and 71% said if they could do it over again they would still come to the US. In the same study, 76% of immigrants say the government has become stricter on enforcing immigration laws since the September 11, 2001 attacks ("9/11"), and 24% report that they personally have experienced some or a great deal of discrimination.[49]

Public attitudes about immigration in the U.S. were heavily influenced in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. After the attacks, 52% of Americans believed that immigration was a good thing overall for the U.S., down from 62% the year before, according to a 2009 Gallup poll.[50] A 2008 Public Agenda survey found that half of Americans said tighter controls on immigration would do "a great deal" to enhance U.S. national security.[51] Harvard political scientist and historian Samuel P. Huntington argued in Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity that a potential future consequence of continuing massive immigration from Latin America, especially Mexico, might lead to the bifurcation of the United States.

The population of illegal Mexican immigrants in the US fell from approximately 7 million in 2007 to 6.1 million in 2011 [52] Commentators link the reversal of the immigration trend to the economic downturn that started in 2008 and which meant fewer available jobs, and to the introduction of tough immigration laws in many states.[53][54][55][56] According to the Pew Hispanic Center the total number of Mexican born persons had stagnated in 2010, and tended toward going into negative figures.[57]

More than 80 cities in the United States,[58] including Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Detroit, Jersey City, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Baltimore, Seattle, Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine, have sanctuary policies, which vary locally.[59]

Inflow of New Legal Permanent Residents, Top Five Sending Countries, 2012
Country 2012 Region 2012
Mexico 146,406 Americas 407,172
China 81,784 Asia 429,599
India 66,434 Africa 107,241
Philippines 57,327 Europe 81,671
Dominican Republic 41,566 All Immigrants 1,031,631

Source: US Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics[60]


File:Mulberry Street NYC c1900 LOC 3g04637u edit.jpg

Little Italy in New York, ca.1900

The United States admitted more legal immigrants from 1991 to 2000, between ten to eleven million, than in any previous decade. In the most recent decade, the ten million legal immigrants that settled in the U.S. represent an annual growth of only about 0.3% as the U.S. population grew from 249 million to 281 million. By comparison, the highest previous decade was the 1900s, when 8.8 million people arrived, increasing the total U.S. population by one percent every year. Specifically, "nearly 15% of Americans were foreign-born in 1910, while in 1999, only about 10% were foreign-born." [61]

By 1970, immigrants accounted for 4.7 percent of the US population and rising to 6.2 percent in 1980, with an estimated 12.5 percent to this date.[62] As of 2010, a quarter of the residents of the United States under 18 are immigrants or are immigrants' children.[63] Eight percent of all babies born in the U.S. in 2008 belonged to illegal immigrant parents, according to a recent analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center.[64]

Legal immigration to the U.S. increased from 250,000 in the 1930s, to 2.5 million in the 1950s, to 4.5 million in the 1970s, and to 7.3 million in the 1980s, before resting at about 10 million in the 1990s.[65] Since 2000, legal immigrants to the United States number approximately 1,000,000 per year, of whom about 600,000 are Change of Status who already are in the U.S. Legal immigrants to the United States now are at their highest level ever, at just over 37,000,000 legal immigrants. Illegal immigration may be as high as 1,500,000 per year with a net of at least 700,000 illegal immigrants arriving every year.[66][67] Immigration led to a 57.4% increase in foreign born population from 1990 to 2000.[68]


Crowd at the Philippine Independence Day Parade in New York City

While immigration has increased drastically over the last century, the foreign born share of the population was still higher in 1900 (about 20%) than it is today (about 10%). A number of factors may be attributed to the decrease in the representation of foreign born residents in the United States. Most significant has been the change in the composition of immigrants; prior to 1890, 82% of immigrants came from North and Western Europe. From 1891 to 1920, that number dropped to 25%, with a rise in immigrants from East, Central, and South Europe, summing up to 64%. Animosity towards these different and foreign immigrants rose in the United States, resulting in much legislation to limit immigration.

Contemporary immigrants settle predominantly in seven states, California, New York, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Illinois, comprising about 44% of the U.S. population as a whole. The combined total immigrant population of these seven states is 70% of the total foreign-born population as of 2000. If current birth rate and immigration rates were to remain unchanged for another 70 to 80 years, the U.S. population would double to nearly 600 million.[69]

The top twelve emigrant countries in 2006 were Mexico (173,753), People's Republic of China (87,345), Philippines (74,607), India (61,369), Cuba (45,614), Colombia (43,151), Dominican Republic (38,069), El Salvador (31,783), Vietnam (30,695), Jamaica (24,976), South Korea (24,386), and Guatemala (24,146). Other countries comprise an additional 606,370.[60] In fiscal year 2006, 202 refugees from Iraq were allowed to resettle in the United States.[70][71]

In 1900, when the U.S. population was 76 million, there were an estimated 500,000 Hispanics.[72] The Census Bureau projects that by 2050, one-quarter of the population will be of Hispanic descent.[73] This demographic shift is largely fueled by immigration from Latin America.[74][75]


File:Country of birth data USA.png

██ 500,000 +

██ 200,000-499,999

██ 100,000-199,999

██ 50,000-99,999

File:2006-2010 imm rate.PNG

Rate of immigration to the United States relative to sending countries' population size, 2006–2010.

Foreign born population of the United States by country of birth in 2000[76] and number of immigrants since 1986 by country of birth[77]

These data are complementary; the former includes the Census 2000 population of immigrants from that country, and is slanted toward historic immigration (e.g., Italy) whereas the latter counts immigrants between 1986 and 2012 and is slanted toward recent immigration (e.g., Burma). A country is included in the table if it exceeded 50,000 in either category.

Country of birth Population (2000) Immigrants (1986-2012)
Template:Country data United States

250,314,015 3,132
Total foreign born 31,107,890 26,147,963
Template:Country data Mexico 9,177,485 5,551,757
Template:Country data Philippines 1,369,070 1,480,946
Template:Country data China 1,192,435 1,399,667
Template:Country data India 1,022,050 1,323,011
Template:Country data Vietnam 988,175 955,967
Template:Country data Cuba 872,715 666,657
Template:Country data Korea 864,125 609,321
Template:Country data Canada 820,770 394,790
Template:Country data El Salvador 817,335 676,776
Template:Country data Germany 706,705 192,676
Template:Country data Dominican Republic 687,675 904,721
Template:Country flag2 677,750 383,037
Template:Country data Jamaica 553,825 507,741
Template:Country data Colombia 509,870 498,551
Template:Country data Guatemala 480,665 353,122
Template:Country data Italy 473,340 69,111
Template:Country data Poland 466,740 360,669
Template:Country data Haiti 419,315 536,657
Template:Country data Japan 347,540 172,893
Template:Country data Russia 340,175 476,306
Template:Country data Taiwan 326,215 269,873
Template:Country data Ecuador 298,625 243,217
Template:Country data Iran 283,225 358,586
Template:Country data Honduras 282,850 178,321
Template:Country data Peru 278,185 320,611
Template:Country data Ukraine 275,155 306,203
Template:Country data Pakistan 223,475 347,237
Template:Country data Nicaragua 220,335 191,701
Template:Country data Brazil 212,430 214,266
Template:Country data Guyana 211,190 214,995
Template:Country data Laos 204,285 110,235
Template:Country data Portugal 203,120 53,831
Template:Country data Trinidad and Tobago 197,400 157,689
Template:Country data Thailand 169,800 174,168
Template:Country data Greece 165,750 37,406
Template:Country data Republic of Ireland 156,475 104,586
Template:Country data France 151,155 87,601
Template:Country data Cambodia 136,980 106,183
Template:Country data Romania 135,695 140,887
Template:Country data Nigeria 134,940 227,497
Template:Country data Argentina 125,220 98,999
Template:Country data Serbia and Montenegro 113,985 88,688
Template:Country data Egypt 113,395 153,755
Template:Country data Israel 109,720 106,568
Template:Country data Venezuela 107,030 143,411
Template:Country data Lebanon 105,910 113,727
Template:Country data Panama 105,175 57,628
Template:Country data Bosnia and Herzegovina 98,756 129,481
Template:Country data Bangladesh 95,295 215,164
Template:Country data Netherlands 94,570 35,117
Template:Country data Hungary 92,015 31,365
Template:Country data Iraq 89,890 153,897
Template:Country data Czech Republic 83,080 27,354
Template:Country data Spain 82,860 41,328
Template:Country data Chile 80,805 54,573
Template:Country data Turkey 78,380 85,415
Template:Country data Indonesia 72,550 61,493
Template:Country data Costa Rica 71,870 47,648
Template:Country data Ethiopia 69,530 202,518
Template:Country data Ghana 65,570 130,542
Template:Country data Armenia 65,280 62,201
Template:Country flag2 63,650 12,926
Template:Country data South Africa 63,560 69,992
Template:Country data Australia 60,965 56,283
Template:Country data Syria 54,560 68,864
Template:Country data Bolivia 53,280 52,177
Template:Country data Barbados 52,170 25,444
Template:Country data Jordan 46,795 104,168
Template:Country data Afghanistan 45,195 59,480
Template:Country data Kenya 40,680 92,891
Template:Country data Liberia 39,030 74,632
Template:Country data Albania 38,665 84,031
Template:Country data Belarus 38,505 58,254
Template:Country data Somalia 35,760 94,978
Template:Country data Bulgaria 35,090 68,768
Template:Country data Morocco 34,680 76,622
Template:Country data Burma 32,590 94,792
Template:Country data Uzbekistan 23,030 68,654
Template:Country data Sudan 19,790 51,840
Template:Country data Yemen 19,210 51,675
Template:Country data Nepal 11,715 58,841
Template:Country data Hong Kong n/a 156,676

Note: Counts of immigrants since 1986 for Russia includes "Soviet Union (former)", for Czech Republic includes "Czechoslovakia (former)", and for "Serbia and Montenegro" includes Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo for the most recent years. Serbia and Montenegro defined as "Yugoslavia" in Census 2000 foreign-born statistics. Sudan includes South Sudan.

Immigration by state[]

Percentage change in Foreign Born Population 1990 to 2000
North Carolina 273.7% South Carolina 132.1% Mississippi 95.8% Wisconsin 59.4% Vermont 32.5%
Georgia 233.4% Minnesota 130.4% Washington 90.7% New Jersey 52.7% Connecticut 32.4%
Nevada 202.0% Idaho 121.7% Texas 90.2% Alaska 49.8% New Hampshire 31.5%
Arkansas 196.3% Kansas 114.4% New Mexico 85.8% Michigan 47.3% Ohio 30.7%
Utah 170.8% Iowa 110.3% Virginia 82.9% Wyoming 46.5% Hawaii 30.4%
Tennessee 169.0% Oregon 108.0% Missouri 80.8% Pennsylvania 37.6% North Dakota 29.0%
Nebraska 164.7% Alabama 101.6% South Dakota 74.6% California 37.2% Rhode Island 25.4%
Colorado 159.7% Delaware 101.6% Maryland 65.3% New York 35.6% West Virginia 23.4%
Arizona 135.9% Oklahoma 101.2% Florida 60.6% Massachusetts 34.7% Montana 19.0%
Kentucky 135.3% Indiana 97.9% Illinois 60.6% Louisiana 32.6% Maine 1.1%

Source: U.S. Census 1990 and 2000

Effects of immigration[]


The Census Bureau estimates the US population will grow from 281 million in 2000 to 397 million in 2050 with immigration, but only to 328 million with no immigration.[78] A new report from the Pew Research Center projects that by 2050, non-Hispanic whites will account for 47% of the population, down from the 2005 figure of 67%.[79] Non-Hispanic whites made up 85% of the population in 1960.[80] It also foresees the Hispanic population rising from 14% in 2005 to 29% by 2050.[81] The Asian population is expected to more than triple by 2050. Overall, the population of the United States is due to rise from 296 million in 2005 to 438 million in 2050, with 82% of the increase from immigrants.[82]

In 35 of the country's 50 largest cities, non-Hispanic whites were at the last census or are predicted to be in the minority.[83] In California, non-Hispanic whites slipped from 80% of the state's population in 1970 to 42.3% in 2008.[84][85]

Immigrant segregation declined in the first half of the century, but has been rising over the past few decades. This has caused questioning of the correctness of describing the United States as a melting pot. One explanation is that groups with lower socioeconomic status concentrate in more densely populated area that have access to public transit while groups with higher socioeconomic status move to suburban areas. Another is that some recent immigrant groups are more culturally and linguistically different than earlier group and prefer to live together due to factors such as communication costs.[86] Another explanation for increased segregation is white flight.[87]

Place of birth for the foreign-born population in the United States
Top ten countries 2010 2000 1990
Mexico 11,711,103 9,177,487 4,298,014
China 2,166,526 1,518,652 921,070
India 1,780,322 1,022,552 450,406
Philippines 1,777,588 1,369,070 912,674
Vietnam 1,240,542 988,174 543,262
El Salvador 1,214,049 817,336 465,433
Cuba 1,104,679 872,716 736,971
South Korea 1,100,422 864,125 568,397
Dominican Republic 879,187 687,677 347,858
Guatemala 830,824 480,665 225,739
All of Latin America 21,224,087 16,086,974 8,407,837
All Immigrants 39,955,854 31,107,889 19,767,316

Source: 1990 and 2000 decennial Census and 2010 American Community Survey


File:San Jose May Day 01.jpg

Mexican immigrants march for more rights in Northern California's largest city, San Jose (2006).

In a late 1980s study, economists overwhelmingly viewed immigration, including illegal immigration, as a positive for the economy.[88] According to James Smith, a senior economist at Santa Monica-based RAND Corporation and lead author of the United States National Research Council's study "The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration", immigrants contribute as much as $10 billion to the U.S. economy each year.[89] The NRC report found that although immigrants, especially those from Latin America, caused a net loss in terms of taxes paid versus social services received, immigration can provide an overall gain to the domestic economy due to an increase in pay for higher-skilled workers, lower prices for goods and services produced by immigrant labor, and more efficiency and lower wages for some owners of capital. The report also notes that although immigrant workers compete with domestic workers for low-skilled jobs, some immigrants specialize in activities that otherwise would not exist in an area, and thus can be beneficial for all domestic residents.[90] A non-partisan report in 2007 from the Congressional Budget Office concluded that most estimates show that illegal immigrants impose a net cost to state and local governments, but “that no agreement exists as to the size of, or even the best way of measuring, the cost on a national level.”[91] Estimates of the net national cost that illegal immigrants impose on the United States vary greatly, with the Urban Institute saying it was $1.9 billion in 1992, and a Rice University professor putting it at $19.3 billion in 1993.[92] About twenty-one million immigrants, or about fifteen percent of the labor force, hold jobs in the United States; however, the number of unemployed is only seven million, meaning that immigrant workers are not taking jobs from domestic workers, but rather are doing jobs that would not have existed had the immigrant workers not been in the United States.[93] U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners: Hispanic-Owned Firms: 2002 indicated that the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States grew to nearly 1.6 million in 2002. Those businesses generated about $222 billion in gross revenue.[94] The report notes that the burden of poor immigrants is not born equally among states, and is most heavy in California.[95] Another claim supporting expanding immigration levels is that immigrants mostly do jobs Americans do not want. A 2006 Pew Hispanic Center report added evidence to support this claim, when they found that increasing immigration levels have not hurt employment prospects for American workers.[96] Research shows an economic consensus that, taken as a whole, immigrants raise living standards for American workers by boosting demand and increasing productivity, contributing to innovation, and lowering prices.[97]

File:Chinatown manhattan 2009.JPG

The number of garment factories in Manhattan's Chinatown has fallen from 400 in 2000 to about 150 in 2005. Most of the garment industry has moved to China.[98]

In 2009, a study by the Cato Institute, a free market think tank, found that legalization of low-skilled illegal resident workers in the US would result in a net increase in US GDP of $180 billion over ten years.[99] The Cato Institute study did not examine the impact on per capita income for most Americans. Jason Riley notes that because of progressive income taxation, in which the top 1% of earners pay 37% of federal income taxes (even though they actually pay a lower tax percentage based on their income), 60% of Americans collect more in government services than they pay in, which also reflects on immigrants.[100] In any event, the typical immigrant and his children will pay a net $80,000 more in their lifetime than they collect in government services according to the NAS.[101] Legal immigration policy is set to maximize net taxation. Illegal immigrants even after an amnesty tend to be recipients of more services than they pay in taxes. In 2010, an econometrics study by a Rutgers economist found that immigration helped increase bilateral trade when the incoming people were connected via networks to their country of origin, particularly boosting trade of final goods as opposed to intermediate goods, but that the trade benefit weakened when the immigrants became assimilated into American culture.[102]

The Kauffman Foundation’s index of entrepreneurial activity is nearly 40% higher for immigrants than for natives.[103] Immigrants were involved in the founding of many prominent American high-tech companies, such as Google, Yahoo, Sun Microsystems, and eBay.[104] On the poor end of the spectrum, the "New Americans" report found that low-wage immigration does not, on aggregate, lower the wages of most domestic workers. The report also addresses the question of if immigration affects black Americans differently from the population in general: "While some have suspected that blacks suffer disproportionately from the inflow of low-skilled immigrants, none of the available evidence suggests that they have been particularly hard-hit on a national level. Some have lost their jobs, especially in places where immigrants are concentrated. But the majority of blacks live elsewhere, and their economic fortunes are tied to other factors."[105]

File:Andrew Carnegie by Francis Luis Mora.jpg

Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century.

The analysis shows that 31% of adult immigrants have not completed high school. A third lack health insurance.[37] Robert Samuelson points out that poor immigrants strain public services such as local schools and health care. He points out that "from 2000 to 2006, 41 percent of the increase in people without health insurance occurred among Hispanics."[106] According to the immigration reduction advocacy group Center for Immigration Studies, 25.8% of Mexican immigrants live in poverty, which is more than double the rate for natives in 1999.[107] In another report, The Heritage Foundation notes that from 1990 to 2006, the number of poor Hispanics increased by 3.2 million, from 6 million to 9.2 million.[108]

US citizens won't take certain jobs usually done by foreign workers, like manual labor involving agriculture. [109] Fruit picking labor costs are estimated at $0.36 per pound, so a production rate of 1 pound per minute is required to earn minimum wage after fees are deducted.[110] Hard physical labor and dangerous jobs with a small paycheck creates labor shortages in certain job markets that can only be satisfied using foreign labor.[111] Foreign laborers often work for no pay for several months each year to earn enough to pay their employer for the cost of their H series visa.[112] Hispanic immigrants in the United States were hit hard by the subprime mortgage crisis. There was a disproportionate level of foreclosures in some immigrant neighborhoods.[113] The banking industry provided home loans to undocumented immigrants, viewing it as an untapped resource for growing their own revenue stream.[114] In October 2008, KFYI reported that according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, five million illegal immigrants held fraudulent home mortgages.[115] The story was later pulled from their website and replaced with a correction.[116] The Phoenix Business Journal cited a HUD spokesman saying that there was no basis to news reports that more than five million bad mortgages were held by illegal immigrants, and that the agency had no data showing the number of illegal immigrants holding foreclosed or bad mortgages.[117]

Immigration and foreign labor documentation fees increased over 80% in 2007, with over 90% of funding for USCIS derived from immigration application fees, creating many USCIS jobs involving immigration to US, such as immigration interview officials, finger print processor, Department of Homeland Security, etc.[118] An article by American Enterprise Institute researcher Jason Richwine states that while earlier European immigrants were often poor when they arrived, by the third generation they had economically assimilated to be indistinguishable from the general population. However, for the Hispanics immigrants the process stalls at the second generation and the third generation continues to be substantially poorer than whites.[119] Despite apparent disparities between different communities,[120] Asians, a significant number of whom arrived in the United States after 1965,[121] had the highest median income per household among all race groups as of 2008.[122]

According to NPR in 2005, about 3% of illegal immigrants were working in agriculture.[123] The H-2A visa allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs.[124] The passing of tough immigration laws in several states from around 2009 provides a view of actual outcomes, rather than theoretical predictions. The state of Georgia passed immigration law HB 87 in 2011;[125] this led, according to the coalition of top [Kansas] businesses, to 50% of its agricultural produce being left to rot in the fields, at a cost to the state of more than $400m. Overall losses caused by the act were $1bn; it was estimated that the figure would become over $20bn if all the estimated 325,000 undocumented workers left Georgia. The cost to Alabama of its crackdown in June 2011 has been estimated at almost $11bn, with up to 80,000 unauthorised immigrant workers leaving the state.[126]

While immigration from Latin America has kept the United States from falling off a Japanese or European style demographic cliff, this is a limited resource as fertility rates continue to decline throughout the Americas and the world.[127]


Irish immigration was opposed in the 1850s by the nativist Know Nothing movement, originating in New York in 1843. It was engendered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by Irish Catholic immigrants. In 1891, a lynch mob stormed a local jail and hanged several Italians following the acquittal of several Sicilian immigrants alleged to be involved in the murder of New Orleans police chief David Hennessy. The Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act in 1921, followed by the Immigration Act of 1924. The Immigration Act of 1924 was aimed at limiting immigration overall, and making sure that the nationalities of new arrivals matched the overall national profile.

After the September 11 attacks, many Americans entertained doubts and suspicions about people apparently of Middle-Eastern origins.[citation needed] NPR in 2010 fired a prominent black commentator, Juan Williams, when he talked publicly about his fears on seeing people dressed like Muslims on airplanes.[128]

Racist thinking among and between minority groups does occur;[129][130] examples of this are conflicts between blacks and Korean immigrants,[131] notably in the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, and between African Americans and non-white Latino immigrants.[132][133] There has been a long running racial tension between African American and Mexican prison gangs, as well as significant riots in California prisons where they have targeted each other, for ethnic reasons.[134][135] There have been reports of racially motivated attacks against African Americans who have moved into neighborhoods occupied mostly by people of Mexican origin, and vice versa.[136][137] There has also been an increase in violence between non-Hispanic Anglo Americans and Latino immigrants, and between African immigrants and African Americans.[138]

A 2007 study on assimilation found that Mexican immigrants are less fluent in English than both non-Mexican Hispanic immigrants and other immigrants. While English fluency increases with time stayed in the United States, although further improvements after the first decade are limited, Mexicans never catch up with non-Mexican Hispanic who never catch up with non-Hispanics. The study also writes that "Even among immigrants who came to the United States before they were five years old and whose entire schooling was in the United States, those Mexican born have average education levels of 11.7 years, whereas those from other countries have average levels of education of 14.1 years." Unlike other immigrants, Mexicans have a tendency to live in communities with many other Mexicans which decreases incentives for assimilation. Correcting for this removes about half the fluency difference between Mexicans and other immigrants.[139]

Religious diversity[]

Immigration from South Asia and elsewhere has contributed to enlarging the religious composition of the United States. Islam in the United States is growing mainly due to immigration. Hinduism in the United States, Buddhism in the United States, and Sikhism in the United States are other examples.[140]


See also: Immigration reform and Nativism (politics)
File:May Day Immigration March LA20.jpg

Immigrant rights march in downtown Los Angeles, California on May Day, 2006.

A Boston Globe article attributed Barack Obama’s win in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election to a marked reduction over the preceding decades in the percentage of whites in the American electorate, attributing this demographic change to the Immigration Act of 1965.[29] The article quoted Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of the New Democrat Network, as having said that the Act is "the most important piece of legislation that no one’s ever heard of," and that it "set America on a very different demographic course than the previous 300 years."[29]

Immigrants differ on their political views; however, the Democratic Party is considered to be in a far stronger position among immigrants overall.[141][142] Research shows that religious affiliation can also significantly impact both their social values and voting patterns of immigrants, as well as the broader American population. Hispanic evangelicals, for example, are more strongly conservative than non-Hispanic evangelicals.[143] This trend is often similar for Hispanics or others strongly identifying with the Catholic Church, a religion that strongly opposes abortion and gay marriage.

File:May 1 2006 Rally in Chicago.jpg

Picture of a rally in Chicago, part of the Great American Boycott and 2006 U.S. immigration reform protests, on May 1, 2006.

The key interests groups that lobby on immigration are religious, ethnic and business groups, together with some liberals and some conservative public policy organizations. Both the pro- and anti- groups affect policy.[144][dead link]

Studies have suggested that some special interest group lobby for less immigration for their own group and more immigration for other groups since they see effects of immigration, such as increased labor competition, as detrimental when affecting their own group but beneficial when affecting other groups.[citation needed]

A 2007 paper found that both pro- and anti-immigration special interest groups play a role in migration policy. "Barriers to migration are lower in sectors in which business lobbies incur larger lobbying expenditures and higher in sectors where labor unions are more important."[145] A 2011 study examining the voting of US representatives on migration policy suggests that "that representatives from more skilled labor abundant districts are more likely to support an open immigration policy towards the unskilled, whereas the opposite is true for representatives from more unskilled labor abundant districts."[146]

After the 2010 election, Gary Segura of Latino Decisions stated that Hispanic voters influenced the outcome and "may have saved the Senate for Democrats".[147] Several ethnic lobbies support immigration reforms that would allow illegal immigrants that have succeeded in entering to gain citizenship. They may also lobby for special arrangements for their own group. The Chairman for the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform has stated that "the Irish Lobby will push for any special arrangement it can get — 'as will every other ethnic group in the country.'"[148][149] The irrendentist and ethnic separatist movements for Reconquista and Aztlán see immigration from Mexico as strengthening their cause.[150][151]

The book Ethnic Lobbies and US Foreign Policy (2009) states that several ethnic special interest groups are involved in pro-immigration lobbying. Ethnic lobbies also influence foreign policy. The authors write that "Increasingly, ethnic tensions surface in electoral races, with House, Senate, and gubernatorial contests serving as proxy battlegrounds for antagonistic ethnoracial groups and communities. In addition, ethnic politics affect party politics as well, as groups compete for relative political power within a party". However, the authors argue that currently ethnic interest groups, in general, do not have too much power in foreign policy and can balance other special interest groups.[152]

In a 2012 news story, Reuters reported, "Strong support from Hispanics, the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, helped tip President Barack Obama's fortunes as he secured a second term in the White House, according to Election Day polling."[153]

Lately, there is talk among several Republican leaders, such as governors Bobby Jindal and Susana Martinez, of taking a new, friendlier approach to immigration. Former US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez is promoting the creation of Republicans for Immigration Reform.[154][155]


The issue of the health of immigrants and the associated cost to the public has been largely discussed. The non-emergency use of emergency rooms ostensibly indicates an incapacity to pay, yet some studies allege disproportionately lower access to unpaid health care by immigrants.[156] For this and other reasons, there have been various disputes about how much immigration is costing the United States public health system.[157] University of Maryland economist and Cato Institute scholar Julian Lincoln Simon concluded in 1995 that while immigrants probably pay more into the health system than they take out, this is not the case for elderly immigrants and refugees, who are more dependent on public services for survival.[158]

Immigration from areas of high incidences of disease is thought to have fueled the resurgence of tuberculosis (TB), chagas, and hepatitis in areas of low incidence.[159] According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TB cases among foreign-born individuals remain disproportionately high, at nearly nine times the rate of U.S.-born persons.[160][161] To reduce the risk of diseases in low-incidence areas, the main countermeasure has been the screening of immigrants on arrival.[162] HIV/AIDS entered the United States in around 1969, likely through a single infected immigrant from Haiti.[163][164] Conversely, many new HIV infections in Mexico can be traced back to the United States.[165] People infected with HIV were banned from entering the United States in 1987 by executive order, but the 1993 statute supporting the ban was lifted in 2009. The executive branch is expected to administratively remove HIV from the list of infectious diseases barring immigration, but immigrants generally would need to show that they would not be a burden on public welfare.[166] Researchers have also found what is known as the "healthy immigrant effect", in which immigrants in general tend to be healthier than individuals born in the U.S.[167][168]


Empirical studies on links between immigration and crime are mixed.

According to Bureau of Justice Statistics as of 2001, 4% of Hispanic males in their twenties and thirties were in prison or jail, compared to 1.8% of non-Hispanic white males. Hispanic men are almost four times as likely to go to prison at some point in their lives than non-Hispanic white males, although less likely than non-Hispanic African American males.[169]

Other writers have suggested that immigrants are under-represented in criminal statistics

. In his 1999 book Crime and Immigrant Youth, sociologist Tony Waters argued that immigrants themselves are less likely to be arrested and incarcerated; he also argued, however, that the children of some immigrant groups are more likely to be arrested and incarcerated. This is a by-product of the strains that emerge between immigrant parents living in poor, inner city neighborhoods. This occurs particularly in immigrant groups with many children as they begin to form particularly strong peer sub-cultures.[13] A 1999 paper by John Hagan and Alberto Palloni estimated that the involvement in crime by Hispanic immigrants is less than that of other citizens.[170] A 2006 Op-Ed in The New York Times by Harvard University Professor in Sociology Robert J. Sampson says that immigration of Hispanics may in fact be associated with decreased crime.[171]

A 2006 article by Migration Policy Institute cited data from the 2000 US Census as evidence for that foreign-born men had lower incarceration rates than native-born men.[172]

According to a 2007 report by the Immigration Policy Center, the American Immigration Law Foundation, citing data from the 2000 US Census, native-born American men between 18–39 are five times more likely to be incarcerated than immigrants in the same demographic.[173]

A 2008 study by the Public Policy Institute of California, found that, "...on average, between 2000 and 2005, cities that had a higher share of recent immigrants (those arriving between 2000 and 2005) saw their crime rates fall further than cities with a lower share" but adds, "As with most studies, we do not have ideal data. This lack of data restricts the questions we will be able to answer. In particular, we cannot focus on the undocumented population explicitly".[174] In a study released by the same Institute, immigrants were ten times less likely to be incarcerated than native born Americans.[175]


Locator map of countries and states with substantial presence of the criminal gang Mara Salvatrucha – darkness indicates strength.

Explanations for the lower incarceration rates of immigrants include:

  • Legal immigrants are screened for criminality prior to entry.
  • Legal and illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes are being deported and therefore are unable to commit more crimes (unlike their US couterparts who remain in the US). They are unlikely to become "career criminals" moving in and out of the prison system. In the last 10 years, 816,000 criminal aliens have been removed from the United States. This does not include immigrants whose only offense was living or working illegally in the United States.[176]
  • Immigrants understand the severe consequences of being arrested given their legal status (i.e. threat of deportation).

Heather MacDonald at the Manhattan Institute in a 2004 article argued that sanctuary policies has caused large problems with crime by illegal aliens since the police cannot report them for deportation before a felony or a series of misdemeanors takes place. In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide are for illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) are for illegal aliens. 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in southern California were illegal aliens in a 1995 report.[177]

The Center for Immigration Studies in a 2009 report argued that "New government data indicate that immigrants have high rates of criminality, while older academic research found low rates. The overall picture of immigrants and crime remains confused due to a lack of good data and contrary information." It also criticized the reports by the Public Policy Institute of California and Immigration Policy Center for using data from the 2000 Census according to which 4% of prisoners were immigrants. Non-citizens often have a strong incentive to deny this in order to prevent deportation and there are also other problems. Better methods have found 20–22% immigrants. It also criticized studies looking at percentages of immigrants in a city and crime for only looking at overall crime and not immigrant crime. A 2009 analysis by the Department of Homeland Security found that crime rates were higher in metropolitan areas that received large numbers of legal immigrants, contradicting several older cross-city comparisons.[176]


Some commentators have suggested that increased immigration has a negative effect on the environment, especially as the level of economic development of the United States (and by extension, its energy, water[178] and other needs that underpin its prosperity) means that the impact of a larger population is greater than what would be experienced in other countries.[179]

Perceived heavy immigration, especially in the southwest, has led to some fears about population pressures on the water supply in some areas. California continues to grow by more than a half-million a year and is expected to reach 48 million in 2030.[180] According to the California Department of Water Resources, if more supplies are not found by 2020, residents will face a water shortfall nearly as great as the amount consumed today.[181] Los Angeles is a coastal desert able to support at most one million people on its own water.[182] California is considering using desalination to solve this problem.[183]


Scientific laboratories and startup internet opportunities have been a powerful American magnet. By 2000, 23% of scientists with a PhD in the U.S. were immigrants, including 40% of those in engineering and computers.[184]

A study on public schools in California found that white enrollment declined in response to increases in the number of Spanish-speaking Limited English Proficient and Hispanic students. This white flight was greater for schools with relatively larger proportions of Spanish-speaking Limited English Proficient.[87]

Effects on African Americans[]

An econometic study by George J. Borjas suggested that immigration had detrimental effects on African-American employment in terms of lower wages and numbers employed. It reported that a 10% increase in the supply of workers reduced the black wage of that group by 2.5%Template:Why, lowered the employment rate by 5.9% and increased the Black incarceration rate by 1.3%Template:How.[185]

Public opinion[]

The ambivalent feeling of Americans toward immigrants is shown by a positive attitude toward groups that have been visible for a century or more, and much more negative attitude toward recent arrivals. For example a 1982 national poll by the Roper Center at the University of Connecticut showed respondents a card listing a number of groups and asked, "Thinking both of what they have contributed to this country and have gotten from this country, for each one tell me whether you think, on balance, they've been a good or a bad thing for this country," which produced the results shown in the table. "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." [186][187]

In a 2002 study, which took place soon after the September 11 attacks, 55% of Americans favored decreasing legal immigration, 27% favored keeping it at the same level, and 15% favored increasing it.[188]

In 2006, the immigration-reduction advocacy think tank the Center for Immigration Studies released a poll that found that 68% of Americans think U.S. immigration levels are too high, and just 2% said they are too low. They also found that 70% said they are less likely to vote for candidates that favor increasing legal immigration.[189] In 2004, 55% of Americans believed legal immigration should remain at the current level or increased and 41% said it should be decreased.[190] The less contact a native-born American has with immigrants, the more likely one would have a negative view of immigrants.[190]

One of the most important factors regarding public opinion about immigration is the level of unemployment; anti-immigrant sentiment is where unemployment is highest, and vice-versa.[191]

Surveys indicate that the U.S. public consistently makes a sharp distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, and generally views those perceived as “playing by the rules” with more sympathy than immigrants that have entered the country illegally.[192]

Legal issues[]

Laws concerning immigration and naturalization[]

See also: Illegal immigration to the United States
See also: Guest Worker Program
File:US Permanent Resident Card 2010-05-11.JPG

A U.S. green card, a document confirming permanent resident status for eligible immigrants, including refugees, political asylum seekers, family-sponsored migrants, employment-based workers and diversity immigrants (DV).

Laws concerning immigration and naturalization include:

  • the 1990 Immigration Act (IMMACT), which limits the annual number of immigrants to 700,000. It emphasizes that family reunification is the main immigration criterion, in addition to employment-related immigration.
  • the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA)
  • the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA)

AEDPA and IIRARA exemplify many categories of criminal activity for which immigrants, including green card holders, can be deported and have imposed mandatory detention for certain types of cases.

Asylum for refugees[]

Main article: Asylum in the United States
File:Lotshampa refugees in Beldangi Camp.jpg

The U.S. offered to resettle 60,000 Bhutanese refugees of ethnic Nepalese descent.[193]

In contrast to economic migrants, who generally do not gain legal admission, refugees, as defined by international law, can gain legal status through a process of seeking and receiving asylum, either by being designated a refugee while abroad, or by physically entering the United States and requesting asylum status thereafter. A specified number of legally defined refugees, who either apply for asylum overseas or after arriving in the U.S., are admitted annually.Template:Quantify Refugees compose about one-tenth of the total annual immigration to the United States, though some large refugee populations are very prominent.[citation needed] In the years 2005 through 2007, the number of asylum seekers accepted into the U.S. was about 40,000 per year. This compared with about 30,000 per year in the UK and 25,000 in Canada.[citation needed] Japan accepted just 41 refugees for resettlement in 2007.[194]

Since 1975, more than 1.3 million refugees from Asia have been resettled in the United States.[195] Since 2000 the main refugee-sending regions have been Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, and Ethiopia.[196] The ceiling for refugee resettlement for fiscal year 2008 was 80,000 refugees.[197] The United States expected to admit a minimum of 17,000 Iraqi refugees during fiscal year 2009.[198] The U.S. has resettled more than 42,000 Bhutanese refugees from Nepal since 2008.[199]

In 2009, President Bush set the admissions ceiling at 80,000 refugees.[200] In FY 2008, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) was appropriated over $655 million for the longer-term services provided to refugees after their arrival in the US.[201] The Obama administration has kept to about the same level.[202]

Miscellaneous documented immigration[]

In removal proceedings in front of an immigration judge, cancellation of removal is a form of relief that is available for certain long-time residents of the United States.[203] It allows a person being faced with the threat of removal to obtain permanent residence if that person has been physically present in the U.S. for at least ten years, has had good moral character during that period, has not been convicted of certain crimes, and can show that removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to his or her U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, children, or parent. This form of relief is only available when a person is served with a Notice to Appear to appear in the proceedings in the court.[204][205]

Members of Congress may submit private bills granting residency to specific named individuals. A special committeeTemplate:Which vets the requests, which require extensive documentation. The Central Intelligence Agency has the statutory authority to admit up to one hundred people a year outside of normal immigration procedures, and to provide for their settlement and support. The program is called "PL110", named after the legislation that created the agency, Public Law 110, the Central Intelligence Agency Act.

Illegal immigration[]

Main article: Illegal immigration to the United States
See also: 2006 U.S. immigration reform protests and H.R. 4437

The Illegal immigrant population of the United States is estimated to be between 7 and 20 million.[206] The majority of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico.[207]

In a 2011 news story, Los Angeles Times reported, "The annual report, relied upon by both sides in the contentious immigration debate, found 11.2 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S., statistically identical to the 11.1 million estimated in 2009. ... The report also found that illegal immigrants in 2010 were parents of 5.5 million children, 4.5 million of whom were born in the U.S. and are citizens. Because illegal immigrants are younger and more likely to be married, they represented a disproportionate share of births — 8% of the babies born in the U.S. between March 2009 and March 2010 were to at least one illegal immigrant parent."[208]

In June 2012, President Obama issued a memorandum instructing officers of the federal government to defer deporting young illegal immigrants who had been brought to the U.S. as children. Obama's new non-deportation policy allows 1.7 million illegal immigrants to apply for the temporary right to live and work in the United States.[209] The memorandum is the move by the Obama administration to use its executive powers to revise immigration procedures without changing the law.[210] Beginning March 4, 2013, illegal immigrants who can show that time apart from a U.S. spouse, child or parent would create “extreme hardship” can apply for legal visas without leaving the U.S.[211]

Documentary films[]

File:Immigrant to America.ogv

Film about historical immigration to America from ca. 1970

In their documentary How Democracy Works Now: Twelve Stories, filmmakers Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini examine the American political system through the lens of immigration reform from 2001 to 2007. Since the debut of the first five films, the series has become an important resource for advocates, policy-makers and educators.[212]

That film series premiered nearly a decade after the filmmakers' landmark documentary film Well-Founded Fear which provided a behind-the-scenes look at the process for seeking asylum in the United States. That film still marks the only time that a film-crew was privy to the private proceedings at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), where individual asylum officers ponder the often life-or-death fate of immigrants seeking asylum.

Legal perspectives[]

University of North Carolina law professor Hiroshi Motomura has identified three approaches the United States has taken to the legal status of immigrants in his book Americans in Waiting: The Lost Story of Immigration and Citizenship in the United States. The first, dominant in the 19th century, treated immigrants as in transition; in other words, as prospective citizens. As soon as people declared their intention to become citizens, they received multiple low-cost benefits, including the eligibility for free homesteads in the Homestead Act of 1869, and in many states, the right to vote. The goal was to make the country more attractive, so large numbers of farmers and skilled craftsmen would settle new lands. By the 1880s, a second approach took over, treating newcomers as "immigrants by contract". An implicit deal existed where immigrants who were literate and could earn their own living were permitted in restricted numbers. Once in the United States, they would have limited legal rights, but were not allowed to vote until they became citizens, and would not be eligible for the New Deal government benefits available in the 1930s. The third and more recent policyTemplate:When is "immigration by affiliation", which Motomura argues is the treatment which depends on how deeply rooted people have become in the country. An immigrant who applies for citizenship as soon as permitted, has a long history of working in the United States, and has significant family ties, is more deeply affiliated and can expect better treatment.[213]

It has been suggested that the US should adopt policies similar to those in Canada and Australia and select for desired qualities such as education and work experience. Another suggestion is to reduce legal immigration because of being a relative, except for nuclear family members, since such immigrations of extended relatives, who in turn bring in their own extended relatives, may cause a perpetual cycle of "chain immigration".[119]

Interpretive perspectives[]

The Statue of Liberty was a common sight to many immigrants who entered the United States through Ellis Island

The American Dream is the belief that through hard work and determination, any United States immigrant can achieve a better life, usually in terms of financial prosperity and enhanced personal freedom of choice.[214] According to historians, the rapid economic and industrial expansion of the U.S. is not simply a function of being a resource rich, hard working, and inventive country, but the belief that anybody could get a share of the country's wealth if he or she was willing to work hard.[215] This dream has been a major factor in attracting immigrants to the United States.[216]

See also[]

  • Adoption in the United States
  • Demographics of the United States
  • Emigration from the United States
  • European colonization of the Americas
  • History of laws concerning immigration and naturalization in the United States
  • How Democracy Works Now: Twelve Stories
  • Illegal immigration to the United States
  • Inequality within immigrant families (United States)
  • Political demography
  • United States immigration statistics
  • United States visas


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Further reading[]


  • Archdeacon, Thomas J. Becoming American: An Ethnic History (1984)
  • Bankston, Carl L. III and Danielle Antoinette Hidalgo, eds. Immigration in U.S. History Salem Press, (2006)
  • Bodnar, John. The Transplanted: A History of Immigrants in Urban America Indiana University Press, (1985)
  • Daniels, Roger. Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850 University of Washington Press, (1988)
  • Daniels, Roger. Coming to America 2nd ed. (2005)
  • Daniels, Roger. Guarding the Golden Door : American Immigration Policy and Immigrants since 1882 (2005)
  • Diner, Hasia. The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000 (2004)
  • Gerber, David A. American Immigration: A Very Short Introduction (2011) excerpt and text search
  • Gjerde, Jon, ed. Major Problems in American Immigration and Ethnic History (1998) primary sources and excerpts from scholars.
  • Glazier, Michael, ed. The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America (1999), articles by over 200 experts, covering both Catholics and Protestants.
  • Sowell, Thomas. Ethnic America: A History (1981), by a conservative economist
  • Thernstrom, Stephan, ed. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (1980) (ISBN 0-674-37512-2), the standard reference, covering all major groups and most minor groups

Before 1920[]

  • Alexander, June Granatir. Daily Life in Immigrant America, 1870–1920: How the Second Great Wave of Immigrants Made Their Way in America (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2007. xvi, 332 pp.)
  • Berthoff, Rowland Tappan. British Immigrants in Industrial America, 1790–1950 (1953).
  • Briggs, John. An Italian Passage: Immigrants to Three American Cities, 1890–1930 Yale University Press, (1978)
  • Diner, Hasia. Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration (2003)
  • Eltis, David; Coerced and Free Migration: Global Perspectives (2002) emphasis on migration to Americas before 1800
  • Greene, Victor R. A Singing Ambivalence: American Immigrants Between Old World and New, 1830–1930 (2004), coving musical traditions
  • Isaac Aaronovich Hourwich. Immigration and Labor: The Economic Aspects of European Immigration to the United States (1912) full text online]
  • Joseph, Samuel; Jewish Immigration to the United States from 1881 to 1910 Columbia University Press, (1914)
  • Kulikoff, Allan; From British Peasants to Colonial American Farmers (2000), details on colonial immigration
  • Meagher, Timothy J. The Columbia Guide to Irish American History. (2005)
  • Miller, Kerby M. Emigrants and Exiles (1985), influential scholarly interpretation of Irish immigration
  • Motomura, Hiroshi. Americans in Waiting: The Lost Story of Immigration and Citizenship in the United States (2006), legal history
  • Pochmann, Henry A. and Arthur R. Schultz; German Culture in America, 1600–1900: Philosophical and Literary Influences (1957)
  • Waters, Tony. Crime and Immigrant Youth Sage Publications (1999), a sociological analysis.
  • U.S. Immigration Commission, Abstracts of Reports, 2 vols. (1911); the full 42-volume report is summarized (with additional information) in Jeremiah W. Jenks and W. Jett Lauck, The Immigrant Problem (1912; 6th ed. 1926)
  • Wittke, Carl. We Who Built America: The Saga of the Immigrant (1939), covers all major groups
  • Yans-McLaughlin, Virginia ed. Immigration Reconsidered: History, Sociology, and Politics Oxford University Press. (1990)

Recent: post 1965[]

  • Beasley, Vanessa B. ed. Who Belongs in America?: Presidents, Rhetoric, And Immigration (2006)
  • Bogen, Elizabeth. Immigration in New York (1987)
  • Bommes, Michael and Andrew Geddes. Immigration and Welfare: Challenging the Borders of the Welfare State (2000)
  • Borjas, George J. ed. Issues in the Economics of Immigration (National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report) (2000) 9 statistical essays by scholars;
  • Borjas, George. Friends or Strangers (1990)
  • Borjas, George J. "Welfare Reform and Immigrant Participation in Welfare Programs" International Migration Review 2002 36(4): 1093–1123. ISSN 0197-9183; finds very steep decline of immigrant welfare participation in California.
  • Briggs, Vernon M., Jr. Immigration Policy and the America Labor Force Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.
  • Briggs, Vernon M., Jr. Mass Immigration and the National Interest (1992)
  • Cooper, Mark A. Moving to the United States of America and Immigration. 2008 ISBN 741446251
  • Fawcett, James T., and Benjamin V. Carino. Pacific Bridges: The New Immigration from Asia and the Pacific Islands . New York: Center for Migration Studies, 1987.
  • Foner, Nancy. In A New Land: A Comparative View Of Immigration (2005)
  • Levinson, David and Melvin Ember, eds. American Immigrant Cultures 2 vol (1997) covers all major and minor groups
  • Lowe, Lisa. Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (1996)
  • Meier, Matt S. and Gutierrez, Margo, eds. The Mexican American Experience : An Encyclopedia (2003) (ISBN 0-313-31643-0)
  • Mohl, Raymond A. "Latinization in the Heart of Dixie: Hispanics in Late-twentieth-century Alabama" Alabama Review 2002 55(4): 243–274. ISSN 0002-4341
  • Portes, Alejandro, and Robert L. Bach. Latin Journey: Cuban and Mexican Immigrants in the United States. University of California Press, 1985.
  • Portes, Alejandro, and Jozsef Borocz. "Contemporary Immigration: Theoretical Perspectives on Its Determinants and Modes of Incorporation." International Migration Review 23 (1989): 606–30.
  • Portes, Alejandro, and Ruben Rumbaut. Immigrant America. University of California Press, 1990.
  • Reimers, David. Still the Golden Door: The Third World Comes to America Columbia University Press, (1985).
  • Smith, James P, and Barry Edmonston, eds. The Immigration Debate: Studies on the Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration (1998), online version
  • Zhou, Min and Carl L. Bankston III Growing Up American: How VIetnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States Russell Sage Foundation. (1998)

Further Reading[]

  • Borjas, George J. Heaven's Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999. xvii, 263 p. ISBN 0-691-05966-7
  • Lamm, Richard D., and Gary Imhoff. The Immigration Time Bomb: the Fragmenting of America, in series, Truman Talley Books. First ed. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1985. xiii, 271 p. ISBN 0-525-24337-2

External links[]


Immigration policy[]

Current immigration[]

Films about immigration[]

Economic impact[]

Template:Immigration to the United States

Template:United States topics

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