Just the Basics on Immigration

Welcome

Did you know that the vast majority of immigrants in the United States are here legally? That more than half of the immigrants living in the United States have already become U.S. citizens? Or that most unauthorized immigrants have lived here for more than a decade?

The Pew Research Center has put together a five-lesson mini-course on immigration basics. If you’ve wondered how many immigrants live in the United States and where they come from, how immigrants get green cards, who the unauthorized immigrants are, and how to put it all in historical context, this is the course for you! It’s free: just sign up and you’ll get lessons by email.

Here are a few other fast facts from the course:

  • In 2017, there were 44.4 million immigrants in the country, meaning almost one in every seven people living in the U.S. was born in another country and was not a U.S. citizen at birth. [Lesson 1]
  • About half of immigrants ages 5 and older are proficient English speakers. [Lesson 1]
  • Immigrants are more likely to be of working age (18 to 64) than people born in the U.S. In fact, they make up 17% of U.S. workers, higher than their share of the total population (14%). [Lesson 1]
  • Among immigrant adults who are eligible to become citizens, about two-thirds have done so, and the percentage has gone up in recent decades. [Lesson 2]
  • Immediate relatives of adult U.S. citizens – spouses, minor unmarried children and parents – received 46% of green cards in 2017. Another 21% of green cards went to other relatives of U.S. citizens, and to immediate relatives of legal permanent residents. [Lesson 2]
  • Annual quotas for family members result in long waiting lists, sometimes of 20 years or more.[Lesson 2]
  • The number of unauthorized immigrants peaked at more than 12 million in 2007, and has declined every year since then. [Lesson 3]
  • Unauthorized immigrants are parents to more than 5 million U.S. citizen children who live with them. [Lesson 3]
  • About 14 million immigrants arrived in the mid-1800s,  mainly from Germany, Ireland and other nations in Northern and Western Europe. [Lesson 4]
  • About 18 million immigrants came from Russia, Italy and the rest of Eastern and Southern Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s, with the largest percentage of immigrants in the U.S. population peaking at 15 percent in the early 1900s. [Lesson 4]
  • None of these immigrants needed visas. A country-specific restriction barred Chinese immigration in 1882, and was not lifted until 1945. A 1921 law imposed the first quotas on immigration and country-based restrictions designed to favor immigrants from northern Europe. Immigrants from the Western Hemisphere (Latin America, Caribbean, Canada) were exempt from quotas.

If you think immigrants are good for the country, you are in good company.

  • In 2017, 65% of the public said immigrants strengthen the country with their hard work and talents, compared with 26% who said they burden the country by taking jobs, housing and health care. That was a more positive assessment than at any point in the past two decades.[Lesson 5]

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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