Immigration is the international movement of people to a country where they are not natives and do not possess citizenship in order to settle as permanent residents or naturalized citizens. National statistical agencies generally use the term “immigrant” to refer to those who are foreign born, although some also use the terms “international migrant,” “foreign-born population,” or “migrants.”
Historically, many Americans have been immigrants or children of immigrants, and they continue to shape our culture. Today, 14 percent of the United States population consists of migrants, including those with American citizenship. In cities and towns across the country, immigrants are helping to build and sustain vibrant communities.
Immigrants contribute to the economy, filling job gaps and bolstering businesses. They are the backbone of the food industry, and they bring a wealth of knowledge and ingenuity to industries like technology and health care. In addition, many immigrants are building the next generation of American leaders and innovators in fields like education and science.
People move to other countries for a variety of reasons, from economic ones to political and societal concerns. Those who migrate seek better jobs and higher wages in their new home, or they might flee wars or other conflicts that have left their homes in turmoil. The desire to be close to family members or loved ones is another driving force for migration.
There are many challenges that migrants face, such as integrating into society and overcoming language barriers. Approximately half of the people who live in the United States are non-English proficient, according to Pew Research, and it takes time for them to learn the language. In the meantime, they often feel isolated from their neighbors and co-workers.
Many states are addressing these challenges by expanding educational and employment opportunities for immigrant students, creating community-based organizations to help them navigate the social service system, and implementing policies that allow local communities to hire more immigrants. These efforts are essential to the success of a country that was built, in part, by immigrants.
As for achieving the American dream, most immigrants do not think that they will reach it unless they work hard and remain self-sufficient. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, eight in 10 immigrants said it is important to work and stay off welfare, reflecting a longstanding and highly prized American value.
As a result, despite the adversity of this pandemic, most immigrants are determined to persevere and remain hopeful that they will one day achieve their American dream. Nevertheless, as the political climate changes and their communities are threatened by federal enforcement actions, immigrants, including those with American citizenship, are increasingly struggling to feel at home in a country they once wholeheartedly embraced. This is a time when the nation needs to rethink its approach to immigration.