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America is a nation of immigrants,' says one. According to Wade (2010), the nation is made up of people or citizens who are not native to the country. Immigration is the movement of people from one location to another in search of better opportunities and to avoid hostilities, natural disasters, and war. Because of the development of modern transportation and communication systems, the rate of immigration in America has skyrocketed (Lind, 2015). Notably, many people continue to seek opportunities to live and work in America. America has grown to be a nation of immigrants because of the push and pull factors that have influenced most nations worldwide. Push factors that have led to mass immigration in the past include war and famine. These factors represent the negative aspects in the country of origin of an individual. Pull factors are the ones that favour the ease in the process of immigration and include laxity of immigration laws and presence of job opportunities. According to Duncan and Goddard (2013), the push and pull factors that have made people from Europe, Asia, and Africa to move to America are based on the economic imbalances. America is endowed with a well-established economy and job opportunities making it a popular destination for most of the immigration. This vast movement and incorporation of people from different countries have made America’s population be proportionally distributed between the natives and immigrants. This paper discusses the reasons and factual bases as to why America can be defined and described as a nation of immigrants.


Immigrants have gained entry to America both legally and illegally. Legal immigrants have some of the laid legal guidelines for gaining entry to the country. A legal immigrant follows the requirements of being registered with the American government and the declaration of desire to become an American citizen. A legal American immigrant can become a citizen of the state through naturalization. Naturalization is achievable if an individual decides to become a citizen and pledge allegiance to the state. Duncan and Goddard (2013) explain that the benefits of naturalization outline that constitution protects the individual and has the same rights as a natural-born citizen. On the other hand, illegal immigrants do not follow any of the established registration procedures. The illicit individuals are, therefore denied permission to stay in America. Moreover, they may have been given permit to stay legally but failed to follow the rules and regulations set by the law. These procedures of legality have seen a significant increase in immigration in America.

America has always been described as a nation of immigrants because, since the existence of America, its ancestral origin was made up of immigrants from Siberia (Hing, 2012). Every Native American trace their origin from ancestors in their family tree who were immigrants in America. For this reason, no individual in America can be described as a ‘pure-bred’ American. The growth of subsequent generations has maintained this philosophy of being an immigrant nation. Immigration accounts for the vast increase in the population after natural increases by birth in America. The population in America has been growing at an incremental rate for every decade at an approximate proportion of ten percent since 1920 (Duncan & Goddard, 2013). For a long time, America has been founded on a practical philosophy of immigration. Generations after generations have promoted this nation as a land of opportunities and freedom resulting to people from all over the world pursuing this exploration. Immigration increase from countries in the America continent such as Mexico, Cuba, Canada, and the Caribbean has been facilitated by the ability of the nation to accommodate immigrants because of its richness in natural resources and land. Additionally, immigration from Europe and Asia continues to proliferate as well (McKay, 2013).

Despite America being welcoming, the political system has seen much anti-immigration advocacy. The targets of this anti-immigration are the Jews, the Mexicans, Southern Asians, among others that have contributed to the high increase in the number of population in America (Griswold, 2002). The basis of the anti-immigration outline that these populations are aliens to the American culture. Also, they may fail to instill a positive impact on the economy of the nation. Moreover, illegal immigration through the American borders, especially the Hispanics from Mexico, have been a significant problem such that, America has faced significant constraints in education and welfare during difficult economic times (McKay, 2013). Following immigration, America has been heterogeneously populated and culturally diversified unlike nations in Europe and Asia.

The history of immigration in America dates long back in history. The first wave of immigration was when slaves from the African continent were brought to the America through Trans-Atlantic slave trade to work on the farms and the households. Slaves were also sourced from the Caribbean as well. Slaves provided intensive labour without being offered wages, and as a result of slave labour, America rose in an economy like no other nation in the world (Lind, 2015). After the end of the slave trade, these slaves remained in America and intermarried among themselves and the natives leading to increase in their population. These slaves were of the black race and as a result of the growth of subsequent generations, America in recent times has seen a significant number of Black people. This phenomenon has attributed to America being a nation of immigrants of African origin.

After the immigration through the slave trade, America also experienced a second wave of immigrants from Northern Europe. These people came from countries such as Britain, Germany, and the Scandinavia. Historians refer these second wave immigrants as ‘the old immigrants.' These immigrants from Northern Europe fled due to their cultural and religious indifference. They were being persecuted for their religion during the rise of Catholicism in Europe. According to Griswold (2002), both in the past and the present, there are many reasons why people migrated or still migrate to America. Among these reasons, include freedom of religion, fleeing from war in their country, economic disparities in their origin, and seeking labor to flee from their poverty. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw a tremendous increase in the immigration doubling after twenty-five years and after fifty years respectively (Duncan & Goddard, 2013).

The Irish are known to have fled from Ireland following the potato famine that resulted from a fungal attack on the potatoes, leaving many in the face of starvation because potatoes were their staple food then. However, there were parties in America that advocated against their immigration. The immigrants were assembled in slums and paid low wages for their labour (Duncan & Goddard, 2013). The Irish being Catholics were rivals to native Protestant Americans thereby further adding to their mistreatment. Many of the Chinese as well fled starvation as a result of drought. To present, America is composed of populations whose ancestral origin is from Ireland and being in America; it makes them immigrants despite being natives.

Another wave of immigration experienced was the incoming of ‘new immigrants’ from Southern and Eastern Europe such as the Polish and the Hungarians. The reason they fled from these regions was that they were of different cultures, religion. Griswold (2002) argues that being in such state was unfortunate. Therefore, they were unwanted in their countries. The mis-handling forced the victims to flee to America away from this oppression and re-establish themselves in the welcoming nation (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, 2012). In the seventeenth century, many immigrants moved into the United States with a notion in their minds of the most significant possibilities of a better life should they move to America. This outcome has represented America as the most preferred destination of about twenty percent of immigrants globally as a place where children can grow up with better lives, freedom, and unity. These new immigrants were assimilated into the American culture, and they have continued to grow in population as Americans despite being historically immigrants.

America continued to prove its ideology of being a land of opportunities in the nineteenth century when America underwent a revolution that saw a rise in the industrialization as a result of Agrarian Revolution. New machines were introduced to work in the farms, and new industries were developed to process food and manufactured items. This revolution resulted in an increased demand for manual labour, which attracted many immigrants to come to America seeking work and rise from their poverty lanes (Griswold, 2002). The era saw innovations being developed resulting in the production of new products and equipment and for these businesses to grow, they needed more workers. The rate of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe was so high to be termed as ‘mass immigration.' The effect of mass immigration saw a significant shift in both the culture and religion in the American Society (Duncan & Goddard, 2013; The Gilder Lehrman Institute, 2012).

America has favorable policies that favour increase in immigration. John F. Kennedy published a volume called ‘A Nation of Immigrants’ that resulted in the move of changing the immigration policies (Martin, 2010). The laws and regulations regarding immigration in America have significantly affected the rate at which people from other nations migrate to America. However, these policies have been both discriminatory and inclusive with efforts to bar some groups while others to ban immigration entirely (Duncan & Goddard, 2013). For instance, the abolishment of the quota system policy in 1965 saw an increase in immigration flow with the increased annual applications of individuals to live in America. Under this legislation, the quotas based on national origins were eliminated together with immigration bans from some regions and countries were uplifted. As a result, both skilled and unskilled individuals were admitted with many acquiring family unification visas. This policy led to an increased population of immigrants into America.

In the past, the United States of America has seen barring immigrants based on nationality and race mainly the Chinese. However, criticism has befallen these policies stating that immigration of poor and un-educated people affects the wages of labor and direct most funds to welfare. Furthermore, the poor are said to reduce quality of life in America. Other policies, however, with the increased growth of firms and economy as a whole, demands new skills from all over the globe. These immigrants are found in all job levels and most importantly bring more good than bad regarding provision of labour and skills. In the eighteenth century, the American Congress passed legislation stating that all individuals born in the United States by then would be automatically citizens of the nation (Griswold, 2002). Additionally, laws of immigration were put in place to ban the entry of prostitutes and criminals into America. Policies regarding immigration could either define an immigrant as permanent or temporary. Permanent immigrants were provided with a permanent residence permit, a green card, permission to work, and ability to apply for citizenship as well. Temporary immigration, on the other hand, has a limited time and purpose. Temporary immigration permit is only provided for a short time to work, visit families or tourism.

Immigration policies do have their own goals. First, such frameworks make America a diversified nation with different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. Second, the rules allows outsourcing of a wide range of skilled labour from immigrating individuals hailing from different nations (Griswold, 2002). Third, policies reunite family members who have been separated from one another or due to limitations of the law. Finally, America being the land of freedom, the ordinances enable the nation to accommodate individuals who flee from their countries as a result of civil war or religious persecutions. Despite these policies and goals being in place, immigration is limited in that; not everyone is allowed to acquire residence in America. Limitations placed include health status of an individual, whether an individual has a criminal record history, and terrorism-related concerns (Hing, 2012).

Many Native Americans disapprove immigration on the basis that they bring about brain drain in the economy of the state as well as competition in the employment opportunities. However, the difference in skills is the only factor that determines the competition. Skilled immigrants and skilled Native Americans compete at the same level, and therefore, the preferable one secures the job. Many of the immigrants take jobs with lower wages so that they can sustain themselves and their families. Throughout the American history, it has been demonstrated as a country with the leadership and the initiative to welcome immigrants from all over the world (Griswold, 2002). This initiative has been one of the most significant core value of the nation. America documented a population of 46,630,000 people in 2015 who were considered as immigrants having been born in different countries (McCarthy, 2017). This number represents about one-fifth of the American population being immigrants (Hirschman, 2006). However, this American value is on the verge of being eroded by the newly elected President Trump with his ambition to make ‘America first’ regarding the making of state policies. This has been seen from the incremental abolishment and immigration ban on people originating from several Middle-Eastern nations. In this view, America is portrayed as a nation which is full of non-native American populations who are seen as a threat to the American economy (McCarthy, 2017).

America being a land of immigrants has come with a great deal of benefit such that, these immigrants have seen the economic growth of the nation, cultural diversity, and affected the political system as well. America has acquired a competitive edge in the global economy. This achievement has been as a result of the innovative ideology and the entrepreneurial spirit that these immigrants come with to America. Notably, some of the benefits immigrants bring about include making America able to invest profitably and respond to changes in market demands by keeping product prices lower. It is, therefore, correct to say that immigration has had more positive impact on the economy than the perceived economic drains by the anti-immigrants (Griswold, 2002).

The fact that most immigrants fit in a diverse spectrum of skills cancels out the real myth that immigrants seek to push the natives out of the job market. The truth of the matter is, they do not, and this is attributed to the view that, immigrants fit into different levels of work hierarchy that the natives cannot (Griswold, 2002). For instance, the immigrants can fit into the high skill levels such as medicine, engineering, computing and into the lower skill job levels such as catering, construction, and cleaning services. Additionally, the increased number of immigration increases the demand for goods. In the recent era, America has grown to be the most technologically advanced nation globally. The contribution of immigrants in this sector together with the knowledge-based sector has been demonstrated to be significant. Through advancements and development of new technologies by most immigrants, many Americans have been employed as a result and have had right livelihoods and also boosted the economy at an exponential scale (Griswold, 2002). Multi-billion corporations such as Apple Inc., Amazon, and Google Inc. have been the leading examples of the most successful companies in the technology sector.


America is indeed a nation of immigrants- being evidently demonstrated with the ever-rising population of immigrants from other nations. From the ancestral origin, every Native American trace back to the family ancestry who were immigrants. America has been depicted as a land of opportunities and freedom. This reason has seen many moving from their countries to come to America to explore this aspect. Reasons that have led to the rise of immigration since long time back in history include seeking labour and better lives, fleeing from religious persecution, war, and starvation. The immigration waves began back during the slave trade followed by Northern Europeans who fled starvation and religious persecutions. After some time, the Southern and the Eastern Europeans moved into America to flee from poverty and seek better lives.

The American policies have majorly contributed to immigration courtesy of their exclusive nature. They have been developed with an objective of diversifying America, unifying immigrants with their families, filling the labour gap, and accommodating war refugees. America being a land of immigrants has seen tremendous growth in its economy as a result of new immigrants incorporating their new ideas and high-level skills. They have also created a considerable demand for goods and created a competitive market that has outshined the rest of the global market. Summarily, putting all these historical aspects and American policies and values into consideration, America may be demonstrated as a nation of immigrants.


Duncan, R. & Goddard, J. 2013. Google-Books-ID: cE8dBQAAQBAJ. Contemporary America. Palgrave Macmillan.

Griswold, D. 2002. Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World. [Online]. 18 February 2002. Cato Institute. Available from: culture-enhanced-our-influence-world [Accessed: 20 November 2017].

Hing, B.O. 2012. Google-Books-ID: ypfPMhkLPgAC. Defining America: Through Immigration Policy. Temple University Press.

Hirschman, C. 2006. The Impact of Immigration on American Society: Looking Backward to the Future. [Online]. 2006. Available from: [Accessed: 20 November 2017].

Lind, D. 2015. 37 maps that explain how America is a nation of immigrants. [Online]. 12 January 2015. Vox. Available from: [Accessed: 20 November 2017].

Martin, S.F. 2010. Google-Books-ID: qBmnUlvVOIIC. A Nation of Immigrants. Cambridge University Press.

McCarthy, N. (2017) The United States Is A Nation Of Immigrants [Infographic]. [Online]. 2017. Forbes. Available from: of-immigrants-infographic/ [Accessed: 20 November 2017].

McKay, D. (2013) Google-Books-ID: 7Js8qMvB9XUC. American Politics and Society. John Wiley & Sons.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute (2012) History Times: A Nation of Immigrants | The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. [Online]. 12 April 2012. Available from: migration/essays/history-times-nation-immigrants [Accessed: 20 November 2017].

Wade, L. (2010) The United States: A Nation of Immigrants? - Sociological Images. [Online]. Available from: united-states-a-nation-of-immigrants/ [Accessed: 20 November 2017].

May 02, 2023

Immigration Identity

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