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U.S. immigration/migration - statistics & facts

Immigration is the act of non-native people moving to a country in order to permanently settle there. Motives for immigration are varied and often divided into two main categories: push factors are those factors that drive people away from their home country, such as persecution, poverty, and oppression; pull factors are those that pull people towards their target country, such as family reunification, better education, or employment opportunities.

Immigration and politics

The United States has a long history with immigration, with the vast majority of the current population coming from some form of immigrant background – that being all Americans other than those who are American Indian or Alaska Native. The economic strength of the United States, alongside the mammoth degree of soft power possessed by the country, means that demand for so-called ‘green cards’ (permanent residence visas) is high. Since 2007, the United States has approved around one million green cards per year. Nearly one fifth of the permanent residency approvals in 2020 were for persons residing in California.

Despite the United States weaving the features of hard working immigrants escaping oppression in Europe into the fabric of their national identity, immigration is a divisive political issue. At the center of the public debate is illegal immigration. Although the amount of illegal immigrants apprehended has fallen since a peak at the turn of the millennium, U.S. officials still apprehended 518,597 people in 2020. Due to the economic disparities between Mexico and the United States, as well as the shared border, illegal immigration from Mexico accounts for the highest amount of illegal immigration into the United States.

Refugees in the United States

Illegal immigration is not the only immigration source to have been brought into the political discourse in recent years. The refugee policies of the United States have also been questioned by both members of the public and political leaders. Despite the intense degree of vetting required to successfully obtain refugee status in the United States, there is still a large amount of refugees entering the country on a regular basis. During the fiscal year 2021, there were over 1,200 refugees from Syria alone.

The acceptance of refugees has been a tense topic in the U.S. for as long as it's been an issue. However, recent conflicts in Europe have presented a potential change in the hearts of Americans. According to a survey in early 2022, the majority of Americans believe Ukrainian refugees should be accepted in the U.S. This represents the great change in opinion and a new hope for those fleeing violence.

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