We are a nation of immigrants.
Coming to America
People have chosen to come to these shores for many reasons. Better opportunities and living conditions, fleeing persecution and oppression, and seeking religious freedom. Others were brought against their will. People have come from many different countries often in waves.
This video by Metrocosm graphically shows emigration to the United States from country of origin between 1820 to 2013 with 1 dot representing 10,000 people. The brightness of a country corresponds to its total migration to the U.S. at the given time.
This animated map from Business Insider shows the history of immigration from the first permanent settlement in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 to the 2000s.
“Today, more than 1 in 8 Americans are immigrants, and almost all are descendants of those born in foreign lands.”
States regulated immigration until the opening of the first federal immigration station at Ellis Island, New York in 1892. Between 1892 to 1954 there were 12 million immigrants who entered, lighted to our shores by Lady Liberty’s torch. In 1965, Congress passed the “Immigration and Nationality Act”, which allowed sponsoring of family members. There has also been illegal / undocumented immigration into the country by overstaying of tourist visas or entry through the open borders.
As Neil Diamond lyrics in the song, “Coming to America”, tell of the story: “We’ve been travelling far. / Only want to be free. / Everywhere around the world. / Got a dream they’ve come to share. They’re coming to America.”
Those already in the United States would sometimes throw up blocks to entry to slow the influx. Quotas have been implemented by various criteria. In 1882 the first specific ethnic group was blocked preventing more Chinese laborers from entry.
There has been discrimination against immigrants for their religious beliefs, country of origin, race, and concern they may compete for jobs. During WWII some Japanese were kept in camps out of fears of their loyalty. Blacks brought to our shores as slaves, even after their freedom, have faced ongoing discrimination.
The question of what to do about the millions of undocumented immigrants and their children, which have been called “illegal aliens”, has led to calls to “build a wall” on the southern border with Mexico to block further entry. Refugees from wars in the Middle East sparked a backlash to block some countries out of fear that terrorists may be among them. There are calls for extensive vetting and quotas of Muslim immigrants from several Middle Eastern countries. There were about 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States in 2015, which is about 1% of the total U.S. population.
The debate continues…
Center for American Progress: The Facts on Immigration Today (as of October 2014)