Immigrants have helped shape the United States into the country it is today. The U.S. has more immigrants than any other country in the world! More than 40 million people living in the U.S. today were born in another country. These immigrants make up over 13% of the population.
People come from all over the world to the U.S. for many different reasons. Some people come to study, work, or be reunited with family. These immigrants choose to come and settle in the U.S. Others are escaping war, natural disasters, or harsh governments. These people are called refugees.
Where do immigrants come from? A survey in 2018 showed that about 25% of all U.S. immigrants had come from Mexico. The next largest groups of immigrants had come from China (6%), India (6%), the Philippines (5%), and El Salvador (3%).
Where do most immigrants live? Most immigrants end up settling in larger cities, such as New York City and Los Angeles. There are more jobs available in cities than in rural areas. In 2018, about half of all immigrants were living in only three states: California, Texas, and Florida. California had the most with a little more than 10 million immigrants. Texas and Florida each had more than 4 million immigrants. New York state also had more than 4 million.
Many immigrants decide to become U.S. citizens. There are a few ways immigrants can become citizens. In the most common way, immigrants must first become lawful permanent U.S. residents. When they do this, they are given permanent resident cards, also known as “green cards.” A green card allows an immigrant to work and live permanently in the United States. Sometimes, it takes years to get a green card. Immigrants can apply for citizenship after living in the U.S. for five years with a green card. After they apply and meet other requirements, they can become U.S. citizens. These new citizens can vote in elections and run for political office. In 2020, 14 members of Congress were immigrants born outside of the United States. They became U.S. citizens and decided to get involved in their national government.
Some immigrants come to the United States in hopes of a better life. Many of them still face struggles in their new country, including discrimination. Still, immigrants continue to arrive in the United States and build their lives within their new borders. They share their culture with their new community and add to the diverse experiences of those living in the United States.