Immigration is the movement of people to a country where they are not citizens in order to settle as residents or become naturalized citizens. It may be the result of economic opportunities (such as those provided by the United States) or other reasons – such as political or religious freedom, safety from war or natural disasters, and availability of medical care. Some migrants are accompanied by family members; others travel alone. Some people are forced to leave their home countries because of violence, poverty, environmental degradation, gangs or other dangers.
Immigrants are a vital part of America’s economy and culture. They have brought in new ideas and approaches to business, science and the arts. Many have been instrumental in expanding our knowledge of the world’s cultures and preserving their own traditions. And they make up an increasingly large percentage of our population, giving them a greater stake in the society that is now their homeland.
The American dream of opportunity is alive and well for immigrants, and they want to give back to their adopted nation. This is reflected in their work ethic, civic involvement and commitment to their communities. Many are highly skilled and contribute significantly to their fields, as evidenced by the fact that the second generation of most contemporary immigrant groups meets or exceeds the schooling level of native-born Americans in some areas.
However, many immigrants still face significant hardships and societal barriers. They often have limited access to education, health care and social services. In addition, a large proportion of the immigrant population is without legal status, making it difficult to obtain the jobs and benefits they need to support their families and help them thrive in America.
A common perception is that most immigrants are stealing from the government or bringing crime into our neighborhoods, but the facts show otherwise. Immigrants are less likely to be involved in violent crimes than the native-born population and more likely to pay taxes, pay for insurance and participate in other social programs.
For those who are able to obtain legitimate employment, the rewards can be great. But many find themselves in an ongoing struggle with discrimination and lack of opportunity, especially when trying to start their own businesses. In addition, dishonest bosses and a lack of legal protections can lead to mistreatment and demoralization.
Despite these challenges, most immigrants are not thinking about leaving the United States. In fact, they are much more likely to view their children’s future in America as promising than the prospect of returning to their home country. The data for this study was collected in a national telephone survey of 1,002 immigrant adults conducted by Public Agenda from January 26-February 27, 2013.
The U.S. is one of the world’s largest economies and offers a robust job market that attracts millions of skilled workers. The survey was complemented by focus group interviews with immigrants and by in-depth interviews with experts in immigration policy, law and community outreach.