Immigrants and America

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About 44.9 million immigrants —people who were born in another country —lived in the United States as of 2019. This represents about 14 percent of the population. Since the end of World War II, immigrant numbers have increased steadily.

Immigrants have strengthened cities and towns that were losing population; played key roles in reviving cities such as Los Angeles, Miami and New York that were struggling economically; and helped revitalize far-flung rural communities and halt their decline. In addition, many of the people who were born abroad have gone on to become leaders in their fields and have made a profound impact on the economy, including driving technological advancements in the areas of health care, finance, energy and food science.

The nation is better off because of the openness to immigration that has been part of its culture and history. It enriches the culture, expands economic opportunity and enhances America’s role in the world. It also brings the benefits of a diverse, multicultural society and provides the energy and ingenuity that has built our nation.

While some people may have negative views of immigration, most Americans recognize the positive contributions that immigrants make to our society. A recent PNAE/KFF survey found that 70 percent of the public thinks that the U.S. would be even more successful if it allowed more immigrant admissions.

Some people are concerned that immigrants take jobs away from U.S.-born workers or impose fiscal burdens on the government, but these concerns are misplaced. The majority of immigrants pay more in taxes than they consume in government benefits. Additionally, there is a growing recognition that immigrant entrepreneurs drive innovation in the United States and contribute to economic growth.

Many immigrants face challenges as they integrate into American life. Some of these include navigating the legal system, learning English and dealing with culture shock and discrimination. However, the vast majority of immigrants report feeling successful in their lives and achieving the American dream.

Most immigrants work hard and provide a strong foundation for the future for their children. In 2017, 92 percent of children with foreign-born parents were living in families where at least one adult was employed full time and working at least 1,000 hours per year on average. Almost all of these families are in the middle or upper-middle income brackets.

Immigrants also make significant financial contributions to their countries of origin through remittance payments and other investments. These transfers help individuals meet their basic needs and are a critical source of funding during disasters. They also boost productivity in the home country by bringing knowledge, skills and capital to improve industry and create jobs.

The ability to move across borders has transformed the global economy, making it possible for workers to move where they are most needed. This has given rise to a new kind of competition, with firms seeking the best talent wherever it is available. In this new global marketplace, all businesses need to adapt if they want to thrive.