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Immigration to the United States in General


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Immigration to the United States is the international movement of non-U.S. nationals in order to reside permanently in the country. Immigration has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the U.S. history. Because the United States is a settler colonial society, all Americans, with the exception of the small percentage of Native Americans, can trace their ancestry to immigrants from other nations around the world.

In absolute numbers, the United States has a larger immigrant population than any other country, with 47 million immigrants as of 2015. This represents 19.1% of the 244 million international migrants worldwide, and 14.4% of the U.S. population. Some other countries have larger proportions of immigrants, such as Switzerland with 24.9% and Canada with 21.9%.

According to the 2016 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, the United States admitted a total of 1.18 million legal immigrants in 2016. Of these, 48% were the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, 20% were family-sponsored, 13% were refugees and/or asylum seekers, 12% were employment-based preferences, 4.2% were part of the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, 1.4% who were victims of a crime (U1) or their family members (U2 to U5), and 1.0% who were granted the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) for Iraqis and Afghans employed by U.S. Government. The remaining 0.4% included small numbers from several other categories, including 0.2% who were granted suspension of deportation as an immediate relative of a citizen (Z13); persons admitted under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act; children born subsequent to the issuance of a parent's visa; and certain parolees from the former Soviet Union, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam who were denied refugee status.

The economic, social, and political aspects of immigration have caused controversy regarding such issues as maintaining ethnic homogeneity, workers for employers versus jobs for non-immigrants, settlement patterns, impact on upward social mobility, crime, and voting behavior.

Between 1921 and 1965, policies such as the national origins formula limited immigration and naturalization opportunities for people from areas outside Western Europe. Exclusion laws enacted as early as the 1880s generally prohibited or severely restricted immigration from Asia, and quota laws enacted in the 1920s curtailed Eastern European immigration. The civil rights movement led to the replacement of these ethnic quotas with per-country limits for family-sponsored and employment-based preference visas. Since then, the number of first-generation immigrants living in the United States has quadrupled.

Research suggests that immigration to the United States is beneficial to the U.S. economy. With few exceptions, the evidence suggests that on average, immigration has positive economic effects on the native population, but it is mixed as to whether low-skilled immigration adversely affects low-skilled natives. Studies also show that immigrants have lower crime rates than natives in the United States.

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