Immigrants are people who have moved from their country of birth (called their “home” country) to another. They might be immigrants for economic reasons, to find employment or study, or because they want to join their families in their new country. Others may leave their homeland because of political unrest, violence or other threats to their safety and well-being.
Historically, immigration has been an important feature of American life. It has shaped our country’s culture and economy, contributing to the nation’s industrialization and the development of science and technology.
Most Americans hold positive views about immigrants, and many believe they contribute to the country’s prosperity. However, a significant portion of the population has negative views of immigrants, particularly among those with a Republican or conservative leaning.
Some people believe that immigrants are a threat to America’s economy. The main fallacy associated with this belief is that immigrants take jobs from American workers and cause unemployment, but that assumption misses the fact that immigrants produce more productive, efficient workers and increase demand for goods and services in the economy.
These workers create new opportunities for American citizens and make it possible for businesses to expand. They also help to fill jobs that would otherwise be a limiting factor on the economy, such as in high-tech industries or construction.
They provide a large share of the workers in some of the highest-paying, high-skilled occupations in the economy, including computer software developers, medical scientists, teachers and professors. They also help to attract high-tech and manufacturing jobs to some smaller cities that would otherwise be left without them.
While there are many differences between the types of immigrants and the ways they move from their home countries to new countries, most of them are motivated by a desire for economic prosperity or to better their standard of living. They may also seek to escape conflict, violence, poverty or extreme inequality in their native countries.
The main categories of immigrants include: unauthorized migrants, who are not legally allowed to enter the United States; legal immigrants, who have a legal status that allows them to live, work and access public benefits in the country; and refugees or asylum seekers, who are fleeing armed conflicts or persecution in their home countries.
About 17% of the civilian labor force in 2017 was made up by immigrants. The unauthorized immigrant workforce grew by a small amount in that year, while the lawful immigrant workforce remained about the same.
In recent years, immigration policies in the United States have shifted significantly. The 1965 immigration law, for example, abolished national quotas and replaced them with a complex system that grants priority to three groups of foreigners: those with relatives in the United States, people needed to fill vacant U.S. jobs and refugees.
These laws were designed to control the flow of unauthorized migration, but they produced unexpected consequences that posed challenges for American society. In addition to changing the composition of the unauthorized immigrant population, they had the unintended consequence of increasing the number of migrants from Latin America and Asia.