There are hotter issues in the United States today than that of immigration. Depending on whom you ask, immigration is either one of the finest aspects of our nation about which Americans may justifiably express pride, or else it is a tricky idea at the best of times and a job-jeopardizing endeavor in recessions such the one from which we are still recovering today.
Our stance here is clear—immigration is a good thing, and while the United States’ history with it has been sketchy at times, the same may be said about most nations, and America’s ability to offer a “Land of Opportunity” has, as much as anything else, helped it to shape its identity.
All that being said—what are the facts when it comes to US immigration? How can you separate the myth from the truth, and as a result come away more informed, either as a citizen thinking about these issues or a potential immigrant deciding whether to heed the call of Lady Liberty (or Neil Diamond) and come to America?
Here are 10 fast facts on immigration to the United States.
A New Era for American Women
Female Police [Public Domain]
According to a study by the Department of Homeland Security, the majority of immigrants currently obtaining or seeking permanent legal residence in the United States are 1) younger than in previous years, 2) more likely to be married, and 3) largely female.
This may be seen as part of a new era in the ongoing push for equality and recognition on the part of American women. As feminist ideology more and more comes to embrace intersectionality and diversify along racial and cultural lines, it likewise has its impact grow and, happily, the voice of those hoping to see that ever-elusive equality finally obtained. Women still make less than men while working the same jobs in the United States, and cases involving rape and sexual as well as domestic abuse—such as the ongoing turmoil regarding the formerly-of-the-NFL Ray Rice—are largely issues.
For all that, however, both the United States and Canada have seen massive and hard-won improvements over the years, as both have taken steps towards making their joint progress of equality, opportunity, and freedom a reality for all—and immigrants have taken notice. From 1989 to 1991, the US saw a huge spike in legal immigration, and that initial wave has spurred on further immigrants from Latin America and, to a lesser extent, Asia. Much of this is due to the opportunity offered by the US, but some of it is due to the social progress we have made—and must continue to make—in the name of equality.
A Latin Joy
Latin American immigrants are, as reported by CNN, the majority of immigrants into the United States are Latin American. This has led to Latin Americans making up the single largest minority, and a huge increase in Spanish-speakers and Catholics in the US, particularly in hotbeds such as…
Where Do Most Immigrants go?
With the knowledge that the majority of immigrants are Latin American, might you then make an educated guess as to where those immigrants largely go?
If you guessed Latino-heavy California, Cuban-flavored Florida, and immigrant-happy New York, you would be correct! The rest of the Top 5 follows the same general pattern—Texas cracks the list owing to the large number of largely-Mexican immigrants that immigrate in one way or another across the Mexico-Texas border, and New Jersey, being right next to New York, has likewise historically seen its fair share of immigration over the years.
The Trouble with Illegal Immigration Figures
While that same CNN report asserts that nearly 60% of the illegal immigrants who have come streaming into the United States in recent years hail from Mexico, and the overwhelming majority of such immigrants from Latin American nations in general, exact figures can be hard to pinpoint given the nature of this form of immigration. After all, it’s not as if illegal immigrants make a habit of letting themselves be counted in a census.
Now, many accuse illegal immigrants of “stealing” American jobs, while defenders claim they contribute to the US economy as consumers and, by and large, work jobs most naturalized Americans don’t want. Both sides have points—immigrants do come here to work, naturally, and likewise do add to the economy by consuming products. That being said, it’s important to remember where these immigrants largely come from…
US Immigration Rate 2001-2005 [Public Domain]
Many immigrants come from nations where there are economic or political hardships.
Economic prosperity is the lifeblood of any successful civilization, but compassion must likewise be rooted in its soul. Whatever side you take on the issue of illegal immigration, remember—
These are human beings, searching for what we already have—security, opportunity, and freedom from persecution and, as Tennyson said, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not yield.”
That’s perhaps the most important fact to keep in mind—whatever economic hardships we may face, and however you may feel about illegal immigration, these are human beings, often fleeing poverty or cruel dictatorships. They’re human beings, so remember, when considering the question of immigration, to look past the raw data and towards the human equation as well.
An Influx from the East
Asian Population of the US [Public Domain]
In addition to the huge amount of immigrants streaming into the United States from Latin America, a sizeable percentage of the immigrants coming to America in the last few years have likewise hailed from the East, most notably countries such as China, India, and the Philippines. A lot of the younger set of these immigrants come to the United States looking for a first-class education. As stated above, younger immigrants are more and more becoming the norm when it comes to US immigration, and that comes down in part to youngsters looking to make their name in business, medicine, engineering, the humanities, or other such fields in America.
The Pacific Northwest
Many of those immigrants who come to the United States settle down in the Pacific Northwest. San Francisco is one of if not the most famous hubs for Asian-Americans in the US, particularly those of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent, but there are large numbers of Asian immigrants in Seattle and, indeed, Vancouver and the greater British Colombia area as well up in Canada.
From Damascus to Detroit
The majority of Middle Eastern immigrants who come to the US and Canada settle down in the greater Detroit and Montreal areas. Detroit is home to the largest Arab population in America, and Montreal has a prominent Lebanese population. There are also large Arab populations in New York and California, hardly surprising given those states’ historic connections to immigration.
From Tel Aviv to Times Square
It’s no secret that most American Jews, immigrants or otherwise, live in New York or California, especially Southern California. Only Israel itself hosts a larger percentage of the worldwide Jewish population than America, and American Jews have down a fantastic job carving out a niche for themselves in America and making their name known, be it in film, literature, business, politics, medicine, and a whole range of different professions.
Two of the biggest draws for this set of immigrants tend to be both the quality colleges America has to offer as well as the high demand for skilled engineers and medical personnel, both of which China and India produce in great numbers each year. If you’re an engineer—particular in a computer-heavy field—or are otherwise a trained medical professional, you’ll be happy to know that, as the markets for both all things tech and medical assistance for Baby Boomers continue to boom, so too has the demand (and pay) grown for those who can excel in these fields. The same holds true for Canada in this regard, so if you’re looking to cash in on your talents, both the US and her Neighbor to the North stand as two excellent immigration choices.
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