The history of immigration in the United States extends back to the earliest inhabitants migrating from Asia. European exploration and settlement brought another wave of immigration with levels fluctuating greatly over the centuries. In spite of a long history of immigration, the United States has frequently changed policies, approach and idealogical opinions on immigration. Today, American immigration policy is at the center of political and economic debates centering around some of the challenges and resources associated with immigration in the United States. With one-fifth or approximately 44 million of the world's international immigrants living in the United States, there are important issues to look at through economic, social, humanitarian and and security issues related to 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 can place a perceived financial strain on the system. These immigrants may move to impoverished cities or regions where they enter already-overcrowded job markets or stress the housing market. Legal 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. Illegal immigrants are not able to sign up for or receive social services such as food stamps from the United States government.
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 the daily challenge of being unable to read product descriptions, restaurant menus or traffic control signs.
Despite federal control of many immigration aspects like the naturalization process and border control, states may still adopt laws that restrict the rights of immigrants. A 2017 Texas immigration law in part penalizes sanctuary jurisdictions and overall passes sweeping laws focused on illegal immigration. Many other states are introducing or enacting similar illegal immigration enforcement laws and policies. The political tension that surrounds immigration policies and the often-long process toward legal immigration can make the prospect of immigrating to the U.S. daunting. Anti-immigrant discrimination and public opinion, can add to the this negative outlook for prospective immigrants, making the United States a less welcoming option for immigrants.
- Balanced Politics: Should America Maintain/Increase the Level of Legal Immigration?
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: Citizenship Through Naturalization
- Migration Policy Institute: Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States
- Migration Policy Institute: Texas Leads Resurgence in Restrictive State Actions on Immigration Enforcement