A roadside sign just north of the Tijuana border crossing. (Credit: Flickr/Jonathon Mcintosh)
What’s the plan for America’s 11.1 million undocumented immigrants?
It’s the million dollar question, and the most divisive element of the Senate’s sprawling new effort to overhaul the country’s messy immigration system. After months of painstaking negotiation, a bipartisan group of senators, known as the “Gang of Eight”, recently unveiled a proposal to — among other things — create a path to citizenship for the millions who live here in the shadows. But legislators have made abundantly clear that this proposal is a far cry from “amnesty”. The path they outlined for almost all the undocumented (except for young “DREAMers” who would be on a streamlined 5-year path) is a tedious, decade-plus-long process full of steep hurdles and strict conditions, in which citizenship is a distant destination at the end of a long journey. Continue reading
Over the last 50 years, America’s foreign-born population has changed dramatically in size, origins, and geographic distribution. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1960 immigrants (both legal and undocumented) represented roughly 1 in 20 residents in the U.S. Most of them came from European countries and settled in the Northeast and Midwest. Today, it’s a whole new ballgame: about 1 in 8 U.S. residents are now foreign-born, the vast majority are from Latin America and Asia, and most live in the West and South.
The infographic below, produced by the Census Bureau, uses data from the decennial census and the American Community Survey to illustrate the massive changes that have occurred over the last half century. Continue reading
Includes interactive timeline and chart
Recently arrived Irish immigrants in the the mid-1800s.
Ever since the first Europeans landed here over four centuries ago, America has had a conflicted relationship with its newcomers. It’s a serial drama that continues today in the halls of Congress, as legislators wrestle over a new round of immigration reform. We are, of course, a nation of immigrants, a destination for huge numbers of people from around the world. And the vast majority of us – everyone, in fact, except for American Indians – can trace our roots to foreign lands. Despite that common thread, though, America has not always treated its newest residents with empathy.
There have been four major waves of immigration to America, the last of which – mainly from Mexico, other Latin American countries, and Asia – continues today. Several themes play out consistently in all four chapters:
- Each successive wave of immigrants has been, to an extent, a reflection of social and economic conditions elsewhere in the world, and within the U.S. itself.
- Nearly every cycle of newcomers has faced animosity and backlash from already assimilated communities.
- The history of America’s immigration policy is a swinging door that often opens during periods of economic prosperity and slams shut when times get tough.
Scroll through the timeline below to follow the tangled history of America’s ever-changing immigration policies. (Easiest to view in full-screen mode) The interactive chart beneath it shows rates of legal immigration from 1820 to the present (use the scroll bar to zoom into specific chunks of time).
Immigrants obtaining legal permanent residency, 1820 to 2012
Note: In 1820, 8,385 immigrants legally entered the United States. The Census from that same year listed the total U.S. population at 9,638,453 (of which 1,538,022 were slaves.) In 2012, the U.S. population was 312,780,968, and there were 1,031,631 legal immigrants.
View data table
One of the final requirements in the long road to becoming an American citizen (in addition to an application, an FBI background check, and a three-part English language exam) is passing a short civics test. Applicants are given 10 questions about American history and government (randomly selected from a batch of 100 questions that they are allowed to preview beforehand). The test is given orally, so unlike the quiz below, there is no multiple choice. To pass, applicants must answer at least six questions correctly. The questions in this quiz are adapted from the list of 100 possible questions that could be asked.
So … how would you do? Give it a shot!
As Congress haggles over comprehensive immigration reform, it’s worth taking a look who America’s immigrant population actually is. The following infographics, compiled and designed by the Pew Research Hispanic Center, illustrate findings from its analysis of the nation’s foreign-born population. The information is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey, which counts both legal and undocumented immigrants. Continue reading
Correction note: The original version of this post stated incorrect information about the history of Labor Day. It was established in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland (not 1955). The information has been updated to reflect this change.
The Haymarket affair, as depicted in a Harper’s Magazine engraving (Wikimedia Commons)
For some, May Day means prancing awkwardly around a feather-wreathed pole.
But that ancient Druid rite of Spring is likely not what today’s immigrant rights protestors have in mind.
In about 80 countries throughout the world, May Day is actually an official labor holiday, often commemorated with large strikes, rallies, and demonstrations in support of workers rights. The day’s roots date back to a heated struggle for something that most of us now take for granted: the eight-hour work day. Continue reading
Includes: Q&A; NPR clip; Colbert Report clip
John Moore/Getty Images
The message was short but – for a lot of young people – pretty sweet:
“Effective immediately, up to 800,000 young people living in the U.S. illegally will no longer be subject to automatic deportation.”
And with that executive order, announced June 15, President Obama shook up in America’s immigration policy.
At least a little bit. Continue reading
Includes: interactive maps
(Click on each state for population estimates of the undocumented immigrant community; source: Pew Hispanic Center)
Although the vast majority of immigrants in California came here legally, the state still has by far the largest undocumented immigrant population in the country, many of whom are young. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 350,000 young undocumented immigrants living in California are eligible for deferred deportation and work authorization, as a result of the Obama administration’s recent policy shift, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Continue reading