Immigrants are people who move to a new country for a variety of reasons. They may be legal immigrants, unauthorized immigrants or native-born children of immigrant parents.
Immigration has been a critical part of American history, fostering economic vitality and the nation’s culture. It has spawned a number of important industries, including agriculture, military and technology. It has also helped protect and enrich the country’s natural resources, and it has led to cultural change and innovation that have enhanced the American experience.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, and it prides itself on welcoming and integrating new arrivals and their families into society. Despite the ongoing debates over the nation’s policies on immigration, these newcomers contribute greatly to the economy, culture and society as a whole.
Lawful immigration: Many immigrants are legal residents of the United States, either as permanent residents or naturalized citizens. These include immigrants who have been granted a green card through the family-reunification process, as well as those with temporary visas and refugees and asylum seekers.
Unauthorized immigration: Millions of immigrants do not have legal status, and remain in the United States illegally. These unauthorized immigrants are not able to access public benefits, such as employment or social services. They can be deported if they cross the border without authorization or if the border agent suspects them of being unauthorized.
State and local policy: Some states offer a range of services and protections to undocumented immigrants, such as driver’s licenses, in-state tuition at universities, public schools and more. Other states limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials or impose additional restrictions.
Nationally, unauthorized immigrants comprise about 23 percent of the foreign-born population in 2019. They make up a significant portion of the undocumented population in the United States, and they are a growing source of concern for the country.
As the United States welcomes new immigrants, it also must ensure that these newcomers integrate well into the country and that they have access to services that help them succeed. A comprehensive approach to addressing this issue is needed to foster the success of all Americans.
Integration: The Panel on the Integration of Immigrants into American Society concluded that, as a group, current immigrants and their descendants are integrating into U.S. society successfully and that this process is likely to continue over time.
The panel considered a wide variety of outcomes related to integration, from the extent of language skills to education attainment and the use of health care. The panel found that these outcomes are improving, especially for the first generation–the immigrants themselves and the children and grandchildren of immigrants–but also for the second and third generations.
In addition to enhancing economic productivity, immigrants are also helping America stay young and healthy. They have boosted the pace of innovation and productivity growth in the United States, and they have also played a key role in reducing the cost of providing retirement benefits to a growing elderly population.