The history of immigration in the United States extends back to the earliest inhabitants who migrated from Asia. European exploration and settlement brought another wave of immigration, which has fluctuated greatly over the centuries. Today, American immigration policy is at the center of political and economic debates that center around some of the problems with U.S. immigration.
One potential disadvantage to immigration to the United States is the cost it places on government agencies and taxpayers. For the Department of Homeland Security, which administers U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to ensure that no immigrant represents a threat to the country requires expenditures at several stages, including background checks, personal interviews and processing citizenship and naturalization testing for new immigrants.
Immigrants who become taxpaying citizens contribute to the U.S. economy, but others place a financial strain on the system. These immigrants may move to impoverished cities or regions where they enter already-overcrowded job markets. Immigrants who fail to secure a means of support may be forced to rely on local and federal social services, such as food stamps or subsidized housing.
Though the United States does not recognize any official language, the de facto official language is English. This can represent a significant barrier for new immigrants who may have little familiarity with English besides that which is required for receiving resident status. The language barrier can make it more difficult for immigrants to integrate into American society and also poses a daily challenge of being unable to read product descriptions, restaurant menus or traffic control signs.
Despite federal control of many aspects of immigration, including the naturalization process and control of borders, states may adopt laws that restrict the rights of immigrants. One noteworthy example is Arizona's controversial law of 2010, which requires immigrants to show proof of legal status when asked to do so by police. The political tension that surrounds immigration policies can make the prospect of immigrating to the U.S. daunting for some, and anti-immigrant discrimination, though illegal, can make the experience even worse.