Immigration into the United States is a topic that many Americans, from politicians to the ordinary man-on-the-street, have strong ideas about. Illegal immigration is a strongly controversial subject, but even legal immigration can cause debate. America views itself as a country of immigrants, and many Americans support the idea that the United States is the land of freedom and opportunity for the oppressed masses from around the world. Immigration is especially controversial during a tough economy like the United States has been experiencing since 2008. Many Americans feel that their jobs and income are threatened by immigrants who may arrive in the United States willing to labor in poor working conditions for low wages. Yet, immigrants, even illegal immigrants, don't come to the United States simply to "steal" jobs from Americans. The reasons that immigrants want to live in the United States are more complex than many Americans envision, and are different for various groups of people from different points of origin.
Religious oppression in the country of origin is the very oldest reason anyone set out for North America, and remains a solid reason for immigration today. Many people find religion to be extremely important to their personal identity, their family life, and their relationship with the world. Religion shapes how its followers view the world and affects their moral and political beliefs. It is also one of the ways humans define social groups, and in many countries where religious freedom is not guaranteed or where the society is dominated by one religion, people who adhere to minority religions find themselves in a hard position. Followers of minority religions might be harassed or even physically harmed, their job opportunities limited, or worse. If one's religion places them in a poor position to thrive or survive in their native country, immigrating to the United States can sound appealing because the constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of religion to residents of the United States. Even though Americans aren't perfectly accepting of other religions, and adherents to minority religions may still feel out of step with the dominant culture, immigrants still experience much more freedom of religion than is available in many other countries.
Political persecution is also a common reason for immigrating to the United States. Under many governments, political dissention is not well-tolerated and people who attempt to disagree with the dominant political power find themselves oppressed, or something even jailed, tortured, or killed. America provides great freedom of political expression, and perhaps more important to immigrants, it is sympathetic to those who suffered in their homeland due to their political expression. Immigrants have been coming to the United States to escape oppression almost since the United States was formed. Countries of origin for immigrants who come to the United States due to political persecution are varied, but such immigrants tend to come in waves as political changes occur around the world. In the early 19th century, British arrived in the United States in large numbers, whereas in the mid-20th century, immigrants fled from Communist nations like Cuba and Hungary, and in the 1980s and 1990s, many fled harsh regimes in South American nations (Hatch, 2011, p2-3). Where ever their country of origin, political dissidents and those caught up in political upheaval come to the United States seeking to escape the oppression they suffered in their native lands.
For some immigrants, being separated from family is a hardship they must endure to enter the United States. Fortunately, the United States also makes special allowances to for immigrants who are entering the United States to join their immediate family. Family reunification immigration is limited to immigrants who have certain relationships, such as spouses, children, or siblings of citizens or permanent residents of the United States. In 2001, family reunification immigration accounted for 63.44% of all legal immigration into the United States (McKay, 2003, table 2). People engaged to be married to citizens can also be admitted to the United States to join their citizen fiance to be married. Immigrations who enter due to marriage are tracked separately from other family reunification immigrants and are not subject to immigration quotas like most other groups.
When asked to name reasons for immigration, it probably wouldn't occur to most Americans to consider adoption, yet adoption is the route…