The Nation of Immigrants

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People around the world make one of the most difficult decisions — to leave their homes in search of a better life. Many leave to work or get an education, while others flee war, poverty, natural disasters or other threats at home. Some are escaping from human rights violations such as torture and discrimination on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. These people are immigrants, and they are among the millions of people who move between countries each year.

In the United States, where 14 percent of the population is foreign-born, these people have become an integral part of the nation’s culture and economy. They are workers, business owners, taxpayers and neighbors, making significant contributions that benefit the entire country.

They bring new energy, ideas and creativity to a society that was built on the hard work of immigrants. They have made America what it is today and continue to shape its future.

Many Americans proudly proclaim that this is a “nation of immigrants” and can trace their ancestry to every corner of the globe. But they often forget the resistance that immigrant families encountered in previous generations — the riots where Italians were killed, the branding of Irish as criminals who could be taken away in paddy wagons, the anti-Semitism and racist denial of citizenship to Asian immigrants and the shameful internment of Japanese American citizens.

These experiences have shaped public opinion about immigration, and they have led to changes in how the nation treats its migrants. Today, fewer people feel that this country is a “nation of immigrants,” and more think it should be more restrictive on immigration from places with high levels of violence or economic decline.

Nevertheless, this country has long been a leader in immigration policy and continues to be an example to the rest of the world. It was the first to provide refugees with safe haven, and it has been among the most generous nations in giving citizenship to people from around the world.

As the globalization of the world continues, it will be essential that the United States maintain its leadership in immigration policies. In order to do that, we must understand the challenges and benefits of migration and how immigration affects different groups in our society. By doing so, we can create policies that reflect the realities of our nation’s past and future.