Why People Immigrate

Posted on December 12, 2010

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In the previous post, I discussed the varied nature of the people who immigrate to the United States of America, showing that there are huge numbers of people from all over the world who want a chance to live in the US. What draws such crowds? Surely most people would prefer to stay where language, culture, friends, family, and even food are familiar and beloved. The question has two parts. We must think about what makes people leave their homes, and then also what makes them choose the United States to settle in.
People leave their homes because they can no longer tolerate some situation that leaves them desperate, and they have the resources and opportunity to travel somewhere else. People flee persecution of their religious and political beliefs in Iran, China, Cuba, North Korea and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. War drives them from Nigeria, the Congo, Sri Lanka and Sudan. Others are driven out by natural disasters; floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes. For the most part, however, people come from all over because they want to provide for their families but there is not enough work for them to do. If they were to stay, they would have to watch their families starve, or sicken, or simply wither, unable to prosper.
In contrast to this desperate picture, the US is an attractive prospect. The freedoms that many here are accustomed to are as alluring as ever. Here people can practice any religion or none and form communities to celebrate their culture or immerse themselves in what they find here. The recession and slow recovery have made most jobs hard to find. Immigrants willing to do any job, as long as they can work will, however, always find menial jobs like fruit picking and dishwashing that natives won’t do, or skilled ones, like nursing, that we can’t do. They work hard, pay taxes, and often send some of their wages back to their families at home. These remittances amounted to over $45 billion in 2009.
Next time I’ll discuss the effects of immigration, both positive and negative.

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