Immigration

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Introduction: Why US?

Immigrant: A person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence.

Immigration in America began the moment the first explorers set foot in the new world and began colonizing. As our nation matured, the idea of American citizenship developed into what it is today. This web quest will help you understand a little bit more about the history of immigration in the United States, define the different stages of becoming a citizen and give you a chance to take the test given to those applying for citizenship.  

Check out the link to learn why three kids and their families left their homelands and what it's like to be a newcomer in America in the 2000s.

Push-Pull Factors

When people migrate, they don’t just leave one place and magically arrive somewhere else. Often, migrants are pushed out of their native lands and pulled toward a new place. This idea is called the push-pull factor.

Push factors are the facts of life that make a person want to leave. Don’t have a job? Treated badly by your government? Lose all of your crops in a drought? These problems can lead someone to look for a better life in another country. 

Pull factors are what attract migrants to come and live in one country over another. America’s popularity as an immigrant destination is due to our democratic government, industry, and general security.

Follow the link to read more about push-pull factors.

Opening and Shutting Doors

America’s first immigrants were primarily Protestant, English farmers. Later, German, Irish-Catholic, Italian, Russian, Jewish, and Chinese immigrants began to enter the country in greater numbers. The changing nature of immigrant populations caused concern. Differences in language, religion and culture created anxiety for some and resulted in a variety of immigration restrictions over the history of our nation. 

Congress did not try to regulate immigration until 1882 when they passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. By 1920, this law blocked over 30 separate groups including, convicts, lunatics, immoral persons, and illiterates, as well as people of certain nationalities. Immigration laws passed between 1920 and 1929 assigned each country in Europe a quota to limit the number of immigrants entering the US annually.

Read the linked article and look closely at the political cartoon on this page.

Are There Aliens Among Us?

When people think of aliens, they usually picture little green men. The term alien technically means anything that is in one place but comes from another. Alien can also refer to a citizen of one country who lives in another country. Here are some other immigration definitions you need to know.

Citizen: member of a nation with full rights and responsibilities under law

Naturalized Citizen: someone who becomes a citizen through a process other than birth

Legal Permanent Resident: alien admitted to the US to live and work permanently, holds a Green Card

Illegal Alien: non-citizen who is in another country without permission

Undocumented Immigrant: a foreign-born person to lacks a right to be in the United States. They may have entered the country without permission, or have stayed beyond their visitor status.

There are many conditions that must be met to become a naturalized citizen. Follow the link and check out the basic requirements.

Are Green Cards Really Green?

As an immigrant, you must obtain a Green Card/Permanent Resident Card and meet other requirements before you can become a naturalized citizen.

Green Cards are given to non-citizens as proof of a person's lawful permanent resident status in the United States. With a Green Card you have the right to live and work permanently in the US, to travel abroad for a certain period of time, and to apply for your spouse and children to get Green Cards. You can also apply for citizenship after a certain number of years. A naturalized citizen has the same rights as a citizen by birth, but cannot become President or Vice President.

Take a look at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services webiste to answer the question. 

Can YOU Pass The Test?

The U.S. Citizenship Test is an important step towards becoming an American citizen. During the citizenship interview, a US citizenship and immigration officer will ask the applicant ten questions. The applicant must answer six out of the ten questions correctly in order to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test.

Follow the link, select your state and try to answer FIVE questions.

Facts and Figures

In 2012, a total of 1,031,631 people became legal permanent residents of the US. 66% were sponsored by family in the US, 14% entered through work-based agreements, and 15% were granted refugee or asylum status. Almost a quarter of legal permanent residents were between the ages of 25 and 34.

The average naturalized citizen spent seven years in legal permanent resident status before completing the process.

757,434 people became naturalized US citizens in 2012. 34% were from Asia, 35% from North America, 11% from Europe, 10% from South America and 10% from Africa. Over half of new citizens were between the ages of 25 and 44.

Watch the video with interviews of new Americans.

How did the new citizens feel about their future in America?

Immigration Today

Border states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas have the unique task of managing the influx of legal visitors from Mexico, as well as limiting the numbers of immigrants illegally entering the country. Less than 700 miles of the 1,969 miles of the US/Mexico border is considered ‘effectively controlled’ by the U.S. Border Patrol.


Read the first three sections of the New York Times article in the link.

Youth and Immigration

One of every 12 babies born in the United States in 2009 was the child of illegal immigrants. The 14th Amendment  automatically provides those babies with U.S. citizenship. The status of these children complicates the debate over immigration policies aimed at their parents.


Another group of young people brought into the immigration debate are those who were brought into the country illegally as small children. They did not make the choice to immigrate, but face the same challenges as someone who knowingly broke US law.

Amnesty- a period when offenders are exempt from punishment

Follow the link to listen to or read the NPR story on the Dream Act.