Picture Credit: Re-Imagining Migration
The United States of America, dubbed “the Land of Opportunity,” is home to generations of past and current immigrants. In 2019, over 44.9 million people in the States were immigrants from all over the world. Why is America such a popular destination for immigrants?
European settlers arrived in the 1600’s in search of new land, wealth and opportunity. They ultimately colonized the South for land and agriculture and the North for industry and business. The original American colonies became a place to start over where everything was new. Now, people move to America for a variety of reasons, including educational opportunities, political freedom, job and financial opportunities, and an overall better standard of living.
Mrs. Choi, a 70-year old Korean woman living in Southern California explained, “America had more opportunities and freedom than Korea where I came from over 40 years ago. We started off living in Canada for around nine years and then moved here to California.”
America has always had strict requirements for immigration and citizenship. “We were really lucky to come here. It was really hard to get an immigrant visa. You had to have a relative living here or you had to have some special skill that was in short supply in America (such as medical degrees and skills),” commented Mrs. Choi. When immigrants first arrive, they have to have a green card for several years before being able to apply for citizenship. To become a citizen, you have to complete an interview and take a test regarding your knowledge of the United States. The entire process can take many years to complete.
Many first generation immigrants have to make significant sacrifices to move here, leaving behind friends and family to a place where they may not know the language, customs, processes and culture. But they come here because they believe America provides hope of a better life for themselves and their children.