18 Essays About The Immigrant Experience You Need To Read

These stories illuminate what it takes, and what it means, to uproot your life in one country and begin it again in a new one.

Rachel Sanders

BuzzFeed Staff

Growing Up American In Gaza Taught Me What We Owe To Refugees — Rebecca Peterson Zeccola

immigration life essay

"In Palestine, we could so easily have been treated as the enemy, but we were welcomed like family."

I’m Not OK With Being One Of The Lucky Muslims — Romaissaa Benzizoune

immigration life essay

"This weekend’s immigration order doesn’t apply to me or my family; I’ll be fine. But so many others I know and love will not."

I Grew Up In The Rust Belt, But I'm Not In Any Of The Stories About It — Alia Hanna Habib

immigration life essay

"It’s strange to see the media turn its attention to places like my hometown in coal-country Pennsylvania and find that my experience there, as part of the non -white working class, is still invisible."

Here’s What I’m Telling My Brown Son About Trump’s America — Mira Jacob

immigration life essay

"Sometimes I wish I could ask America when, exactly, it made its mind up about us. The myth, of course, is that it hasn’t, that there is still a chance to mollify those who dictate the terms of our experience here, and then be allowed to chase success unfettered by their paranoia. To live, as it’s more commonly known, the American dream."

There’s No Recipe For Growing Up — Scaachi Koul

immigration life essay

"My mom’s Kashmiri cooking has always tethered me to home. So it’s no wonder she won’t give me (all) the secrets to doing it myself."

How I Learned That Beauty Doesn’t Have To Hurt — Sonya Chung

immigration life essay

"Growing up in a Korean American family, I absorbed the idea that any feeling of pleasure comes at a cost. But as I get older, I’m realizing it doesn’t have to work that way."

Why Brexit Has Broken My Heart — Bim Adewunmi

immigration life essay

"As a child of immigrants, I am deeply ashamed that this is who we are."

I Found A Home In Clubs Like Pulse, In Cities Like Orlando — Rigoberto González

immigration life essay

"I cherish the time I have spent in clubs like Pulse in cities like Orlando, where gay Latinos — the immigrants, the undocumented, and the first-generation Americans alike — gravitate because we love men and we love our homelands, and that’s one of the places our worlds converge."

Making Great Pho Is Hard, But Making A Life From Scratch Is Harder — Nicole Nguyen

immigration life essay

"After fleeing Vietnam, my parents turned to food to teach us about what it means to be Vietnamese."

When Home Is Between Different Countries And Genders — Meredith Talusan

immigration life essay

"I moved to the U.S. from the Philippines when I was 15, where I had been raised as a boy. About a decade later, I started to live as a woman and eventually transitioned. I think of migration and transition as two examples of the same process – moving from one home, one reality, to another."

I Found The House My Grandparents Abandoned in 1947 — Ahmed Ali Akbar

immigration life essay

"So many Americans go to India to find themselves. But I went to find the history my family lost in the subcontinent’s Partition."

How I Became A Southern-Fried Nigerian — Israel Daramola

immigration life essay

"I once felt torn between Nigeria and Florida, between jollof rice and fried alligator, but there is no real me without both."

Learning To Mourn In My Father's Country — Reggie Ugwu

immigration life essay

"After my brother died and my father was partially paralyzed, my family traveled 7,000 miles in search of an old home, a new house, and the things we’d lost on the road in between."

How To Get Your Green Card In America — Sarah Mathews

immigration life essay

"When you perform the act of audacity that is consolidating an entire life into a couple of suitcases and striking out to make your way, what is not American about that? When you leave the old country so that your daughters can have a good education and walk down their streets without fear, what is not American about that? When you flee violence and poverty to come to a land of plenty, when you are willing to learn new languages, to haul ass, to do twice as much work, what is not American about that?"

A Childhood Spent Inside A Chinese Restaurant — Susan Cheng

immigration life essay

"Being one of the few Asians in my school was hard enough. Working at my parents’ Chinese restaurant didn’t make it any easier."

How I Learned To Celebrate Eid Al Adha In America — Zainab Shah

immigration life essay

"I bent over backward to explain myself. 'From Pakistan,' I would say. 'Not a terrorist,' I almost added. But I didn’t — the joke would only be funny if racial profiling didn’t exist."

Texts From My Parents: What It Was Like To Leave Vietnam — Nicole Nguyen

immigration life essay

"They did it for us, and I'll spend the rest of my life trying to make the most of it."

What It’s Like Speaking A Different Language From Your Parents — Zakia Uddin

immigration life essay

"My parents and I communicate in an incomplete mash-up of Bengali and English. I sometimes wonder what we are missing."

Topics in this article

  • Immigration

Apr 10, 2023

How To Write Essays About Immigration (With Examples)

Immigrants bring diverse perspectives and skills that can enrich our societies and economies. If you want to gain insight into the impact of immigration on society and culture, keep reading!

Immigration, a subject deeply woven into the fabric of global discussions, touches on political, economic, and social nuances. As globalization propels many to seek new horizons, understanding the multifaceted impacts of migration is crucial. Crafting a compelling essay on such a vast topic requires more than just research; it demands the delicate weaving of insights into a coherent narrative. For those keen on delivering a polished essay on immigration, considering assistance from a reliable essay writing tool can be a game-changer. This tool not only refines the craft of writing but ensures your perspectives on immigration are articulated with clarity and precision.

Here are our Top 5 Essay Examples and Ideas about Immigration:

The economic impact of immigration on host countries, introduction.

In many nations, immigration has been a hotly debated issue, with supporters and opponents disputing how it would affect the home nation. The economic impact of immigration on host countries is one of the essential components of this discussion. Immigration's economic effects may be favorable or harmful, depending on many circumstances.

This article will examine the economic effects of immigration on the receiving nations, examining both the advantages and disadvantages that immigration may have. You will better know how immigration impacts a nation's economy and the variables that influence it after this article.

Immigration's effects on labor markets

An essential component of the total economic impact of immigration is how it affects labor markets. Immigration may affect labor markets, including shifting labor supply and demand, opening new job possibilities, and perhaps affecting local employees' earnings and prospects. This section will examine how immigration affects labor markets in receiving nations.

The shift in the labor supply is one of immigration's most apparent effects on labor markets. When more employees are available in the host nation due to immigration, there may be more competition for open positions. In fields that serve immigrant populations, such as ethnic food shops or language schools, immigrants can also generate new jobs.

Another significant impact of immigration on labor markets is its effect on wages and income distribution. Some studies have suggested that immigration can reduce wages for native workers, particularly those who are less educated or have lower skill levels. 

Immigrants can also contribute to economic growth and innovation, which can positively impact labor markets. Immigrants often have unique skills, experiences, and perspectives that can help drive innovation and create new job opportunities in the host country. Furthermore, immigrants are often more entrepreneurial and more likely to start businesses, which can generate new jobs and contribute to economic growth.

The effect of immigration on wages and income distribution

The effect of immigration on wages and income distribution is a crucial area of concern in the overall economic impact of immigration. Immigration can affect wages and income distribution in various ways, which can have significant implications for both native workers and immigrants. In this section, we will explore the effect of immigration on wages and income distribution in host countries.

One of the primary ways that immigration can impact wages and income distribution is by changing the supply and demand of labor. With an influx of immigrants, the labor supply increases, which can lead to increased competition for jobs. Some studies suggest that immigration harms wages for native workers, while others offer no significant effect.

Another way that immigration can impact wages and income distribution is through its effect on the composition of the workforce. Immigrants often fill low-skilled jobs in industries such as agriculture, construction, and hospitality, which tend to pay lower wages. 

Immigration can also impact income distribution by contributing to the overall level of economic inequality in a host country. While immigration can lead to lower wages for some native workers, it can also lead to higher wages and increased economic mobility for some immigrants. Furthermore, immigrants may face various barriers to upward mobility, such as discrimination or lack of access to education and training. This can lead to increased income inequality between native and immigrant workers.

The contribution of immigrants to economic growth and innovation

Immigrants have historically played a significant role in driving economic growth and innovation in host countries. In this section, we will explore the contribution of immigrants to economic growth and innovation and the factors that enable them to do so.

One of the primary ways that immigrants contribute to economic growth is through their entrepreneurial activities. Immigrants are often more likely to start their businesses than native-born individuals, and these businesses can create jobs and drive economic growth. Immigrant entrepreneurs have contributed to developing industries such as technology, healthcare, and hospitality. Additionally, immigrants are often overrepresented in STEM fields, which is critical to driving innovation and economic growth.

Another way that immigrants contribute to economic growth is through their impact on the labor force. Immigrants tend to be more mobile than native-born individuals, which can lead to a more flexible and adaptable workforce. Immigrants also tend to fill critical roles in industries such as healthcare and agriculture, which are essential to maintaining the functioning of the economy. By filling these roles, immigrants contribute to the overall productivity and growth of the economy.

The costs and benefits of social welfare programs for immigrants

The issue of social welfare programs for immigrants has been a controversial topic in many host countries. In this section, we will explore the costs and benefits of social welfare programs for immigrants and the policy implications.

One of the primary benefits of social welfare programs for immigrants is that they can help reduce poverty and promote social inclusion. Immigrants often face significant barriers to economic mobility, such as language barriers and discrimination. Social welfare programs can help provide a safety net for those struggling to make ends meet and promote social cohesion by reducing inequalities.

However, social welfare programs for immigrants also come with costs. One concern is that these programs may attract immigrants primarily seeking to access social welfare benefits rather than contributing to the economy. This can strain public finances and create resentment among native-born individuals who feel their tax dollars are being used to support immigrants.

Another concern is that social welfare programs may create disincentives for immigrants to work and contribute to the economy. If the benefits of social welfare programs are too generous, some immigrants may choose to rely on them rather than seek employment. This can create long-term dependence and reduce overall economic productivity.

The impact of immigration on public finances and fiscal policies

The effect of immigration on public finances and fiscal policies is a topic of significant interest and debate. This section will explore how immigration affects public finances and how host countries can implement budgetary policies to manage the impact.

One way that immigration can impact public finances is through taxes. Immigrants who are employed and pay taxes can contribute to the tax base of the host country, which can provide additional revenue for public services and infrastructure. However, immigrants who are not employed or earn low wages may contribute fewer taxes, which can strain public finances. 

Fiscal policies can be used to manage the impact of immigration on public finances. One guideline is to increase taxes on immigrants to offset the costs of public services they use. However, this can create a disincentive for highly skilled and educated immigrants to migrate to the host country. Another policy is to increase spending on public services to accommodate the needs of immigrants. However, this can strain public finances and lead to resentment among native-born individuals who feel their tax dollars are being used to support immigrants.

In conclusion, the economic impact of immigration is a complex issue with both costs and benefits for host countries. Immigration can impact labor markets, wages and income distribution, economic growth and innovation, social welfare programs, public finances, and fiscal policies. 

The social and cultural implications of immigration

Immigration has social and cultural implications that affect both immigrants and host countries. The movement of people from one place to another can result in a blending of cultures, traditions, and ideas. At the same time, immigration can also result in social and cultural tensions as different groups struggle to integrate and adjust to new environments. 

The social and cultural implications of immigration have become increasingly important in today's globalized world as the movement of people across borders has become more common. In this article, we will explore the various social and cultural implications of immigration and how they impact immigrants and host communities.

The impact of immigration on social cohesion and integration

Immigration has a significant impact on social cohesion and integration in host countries. Social cohesion refers to the degree to which members of a society feel connected and share a sense of belonging. In contrast, integration refers to the process by which immigrants become a part of the host society. Immigration can either enhance or hinder social cohesion and integration, depending on how it is managed and perceived by the host society.

Another factor that can impact social cohesion and integration is the level of diversity within the host society. Increased diversity can lead to greater cultural exchange and understanding but also social tensions and the formation of segregated communities. Promoting social interaction and cooperation among diverse groups can help mitigate these tensions and promote social cohesion.

The perception of immigrants by the host society also plays a significant role in social cohesion and integration. Negative stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes can hinder integration and create barriers to social cohesion. On the other hand, positive attitudes towards immigrants and their contributions to society can facilitate integration and promote social cohesion.

The role of language and communication in the integration of immigrants

Language and communication play a crucial role in integrating immigrants into host societies. Immigrants may need the ability to communicate effectively with others to overcome significant barriers to social and economic integration. Language and communication skills are essential for accessing education, finding employment, and participating in civic life.

Language is one of the primary barriers immigrants face when integrating into a new society. Without proficiency in the host country's language, immigrants may struggle to understand instructions, participate in conversations, and access essential services. This can lead to social isolation and hinder economic opportunities.

Language training programs are one way to address this issue. Effective language training programs can help immigrants learn the host country's language and develop the communication skills necessary for successful integration. These programs can also give immigrants the cultural knowledge and understanding essential to navigate the host society.

The effect of immigration on cultural diversity and identity

Immigration can significantly impact the cultural diversity and identity of both host societies and immigrant communities. The cultural exchange resulting from immigration can enrich societies and provide opportunities for learning and growth. However, immigration can also pose challenges to preserving cultural identities and maintaining social cohesion.

One of the primary ways in which immigration affects cultural diversity and identity is through the introduction of new customs, traditions, and beliefs. Immigrant communities often bring unique cultural practices, such as food, music, and art, that can enhance the cultural landscape of the host society. Exposure to new cultures can broaden the perspectives of individuals and communities, leading to greater tolerance and understanding.

The challenges and benefits of multiculturalism in host countries

Multiculturalism refers to the coexistence of different cultural groups within a society. It is a concept that has become increasingly important in modern societies characterized by race, ethnicity, religion, and language diversity. 

Multiculturalism is often promoted to promote tolerance, social cohesion, and the celebration of diversity. 

Challenges of multiculturalism

Multiculturalism presents a range of challenges that can impact host societies. These challenges include social division, discrimination, language barriers, and cultural clashes. For example, when immigrants share different values or traditions than the host society, this can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Similarly, language barriers can limit communication and make it difficult for immigrants to integrate into the host society.

Benefits of multiculturalism

Multiculturalism can also bring a range of benefits to host societies. These benefits include increased cultural awareness and sensitivity, economic growth, and exchanging ideas and perspectives. For example, cultural diversity can provide opportunities for host societies to learn from different cultural practices and approaches to problem-solving. This can lead to innovation and growth.

Social cohesion

Social cohesion refers to the ability of a society to function harmoniously despite differences in culture, ethnicity, religion, and language. Multiculturalism can pose a challenge to social cohesion, but it can also promote it. Host societies can foster social cohesion by promoting the acceptance and understanding of different cultural groups. This can be achieved through policies and programs that promote intercultural dialogue, education, and community-building.

Discrimination and prejudice

Multiculturalism can also increase the risk of discrimination and prejudice. Discrimination can take many forms, including racial, religious, and cultural bias. Host societies can combat discrimination by implementing anti-discrimination laws and policies and promoting diversity and inclusion.

Economic benefits

Multiculturalism can also bring economic benefits to host societies. The presence of a diverse range of skills and talents can lead to innovation and economic growth. Immigrants can also get various skills and experiences contributing to the host society's economic development.

In conclusion, immigration has significant social and cultural implications for both host countries and immigrants. It affects social cohesion, integration, cultural diversity, and identity. Host countries face challenges and benefits of multiculturalism, including economic growth, innovation, and social change.

The role of immigration in shaping national identity

Immigration has always been a significant driver of cultural and social change, with immigrants often bringing their unique identities, values, and traditions to their new homes. As a result, immigration can play a crucial role in shaping national identity, as it challenges existing cultural norms and values and introduces new ideas and perspectives. 

In this article, we will explore the role of immigration in shaping national identity, including its effects on cultural diversity, social cohesion, and political discourse. We will also discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by immigration to national identity and the importance of embracing a diverse and inclusive national identity in today's globalized world.

Immigration and the evolution of national identity

The relationship between immigration and national identity is complex, as immigration can challenge and reinforce existing national identities. As immigrants bring new cultural practices and values, they challenge the existing norms and values of the host society, prompting a re-evaluation of what it means to be part of that society. This can create a more inclusive and diverse national identity as different cultural traditions and practices are recognized and celebrated.

At the same time, the influx of new immigrants can also create a sense of fear and anxiety among some members of the host society, who may view the changes brought about by immigration as a threat to their cultural identity. This can lead to calls for stricter immigration policies and a more limited definition of national identity, which can exclude or marginalize certain groups.

The role of immigrants in shaping cultural diversity

Immigrants have played a significant role in shaping cultural diversity in many countries. Their arrival in a new land brings their customs, traditions, beliefs, and practices, which contribute to society's richness and vibrancy. 

One of the key ways in which immigrants have shaped cultural diversity is through their contributions to the local community. Immigrants bring a wealth of knowledge, skills, and talents that can benefit the societies they move to. For example, they may introduce new cuisines, music, art, and literature that add to the cultural landscape of their new home. This can create a more diverse and inclusive society where different cultures are celebrated and appreciated.

Another important aspect of cultural diversity is the challenges immigrants face when adapting to a new culture. Moving to a new country can be a daunting experience, especially if the culture is vastly different from one's own. Immigrants may struggle with language barriers, cultural norms, and social customs that are unfamiliar to them. This can lead to feelings of isolation and exclusion, which can negatively impact their mental health and well-being.

The challenges of maintaining social cohesion amidst diversity

Strengthening social cohesion amidst diversity is a complex challenge many societies face today. Cultural, ethnic, religious, and language diversity can lead to tensions and conflicts if managed poorly. 

One of the main challenges of maintaining social cohesion amidst diversity is the need to balance the interests of different groups. This involves recognizing and respecting the cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity of society while also promoting a sense of shared identity and common values. This can be particularly challenging in contexts with competing interests and power imbalances between different groups.

Another challenge is the need to address discrimination and prejudice. Discrimination can take many forms, including unequal access to education, employment, housing, hate speech, and violence. Prejudice and stereotypes can also lead to social exclusion and marginalization of certain groups. Addressing these issues requires a concerted effort from the government, civil society, and individuals to promote tolerance and respect for diversity.

Promoting inclusive policies is another crucial factor in maintaining social cohesion amidst diversity. This includes policies promoting equal opportunities for all, regardless of background. This can involve affirmative action programs, targeted social policies, and support for minority groups. Inclusive policies can also create a sense of belonging and ownership among different groups, which helps foster social cohesion.

In conclusion, immigration profoundly influences the formation of national identity. As individuals from various backgrounds merge into a new country, they not only introduce their distinct cultural and ethnic traits but also embark on a journey of personal growth and adaptation. This process mirrors the development of key skills such as leadership, character, and community service, essential for thriving in diverse environments. These attributes are not only vital for immigrants as they integrate into society but are also exemplified in successful National Honor Society essays , where personal growth and societal contribution are celebrated. Thus, the experiences of immigrants significantly enrich the societal tapestry, reflecting in our collective values, beliefs, and practices.

To sum it all up:

To recapitulate writing a five-paragraph essay about immigration can be challenging, but with the right approach and resources, it can be a rewarding experience. Throughout this article, we have discussed the various aspects of immigration that one can explore in such an essay, including the economic impact, social and cultural implications, and the evolution of national identity. 

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  • Student Writing Contest

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Eight brilliant student essays on immigration and unjust assumptions.

Read winning essays from our winter 2019 “Border (In)Security” student writing contest.

map-usa .jpeg

For the winter 2019 student writing competition, “Border (In)Security,” we invited students to read the YES! Magazine article “Two-Thirds of Americans Live in the “Constitution-Free Zone” by Lornet Turnbull and respond with an up-to-700-word essay. 

Students had a choice between two writing prompts for this contest on immigration policies at the border and in the “Constitution-free zone,” a 100-mile perimeter from land and sea borders where U.S. Border Patrol can search any vehicle, bus, or vessel without a warrant. They could state their positions on the impact of immigration policies on our country’s security and how we determine who is welcome to live here. Or they could write about a time when someone made an unfair assumption about them, just as Border Patrol agents have made warrantless searches of Greyhound passengers based simply on race and clothing.

The Winners

From the hundreds of essays written, these eight were chosen as winners. Be sure to read the author’s response to the essay winners and the literary gems that caught our eye.

Middle School Winner: Alessandra Serafini

High School Winner: Cain Trevino

High School Winner: Ethan Peter

University Winner: Daniel Fries

Powerful Voice Winner: Emma Hernandez-Sanchez

Powerful Voice Winner: Tiara Lewis

Powerful Voice Winner: Hailee Park

Powerful Voice Winner: Aminata Toure

From the Author Lornet Turnbull

Literary Gems

Middle school winner.

Alessandra Serafini

Brier Terrace Middle School, Brier, Wash.

immigration life essay

Broken Promises

“…Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These words were written by Emma Lazarus and are inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. And yet, the very door they talk about is no longer available to those who need it the most. The door has been shut, chained, and guarded. It no longer shines like gold. Those seeking asylum are being turned away. Families are being split up; children are being stranded. The promise America made to those in need is broken.

Not only is the promise to asylum seekers broken, but the promises made to some 200 million people already residing within the U.S. are broken, too. Anyone within 100 miles of the United States border lives in the “Constitution-free zone” and can be searched with “reasonable suspicion,” a suspicion that is determined by Border Patrol officers. The zone encompasses major cities, such as Seattle and New York City, and it even covers entire states, such as Florida, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. I live in the Seattle area, and it is unsettling that I can be searched and interrogated without the usual warrant. In these areas, there has been an abuse of power; people have been unlawfully searched and interrogated because of assumed race or religion.

The ACLU obtained data from the Customs and Border Protection Agency that demonstrate this reprehensible profiling. The data found that “82 percent of foreign citizens stopped by agents in that state are Latino, and almost 1 in 3 of those processed are, in fact, U.S. citizens.” These warrantless searches impede the trust-building process and communication between the local population and law enforcement officers. Unfortunately, this lack of trust makes campaigns, such as Homeland Security’s “If You See Something, Say Something,” ineffective due to the actions of the department’s own members and officers. Worst of all, profiling ostracizes entire communities and makes them feel unsafe in their own country.

Ironically, asylum seekers come to America in search of safety. However, the thin veil of safety has been drawn back, and, behind it, our tarnished colors are visible. We need to welcome people in their darkest hours rather than destroy their last bit of hope by slamming the door in their faces. The immigration process is currently in shambles, and an effective process is essential for both those already in the country and those outside of it. Many asylum seekers are running from war, poverty, hunger, and death. Their countries’ instability has hijacked every aspect of their lives, made them vagabonds, and the possibility of death, a cruel and unforgiving death, is real. They see no future for their children, and they are desperate for the perceived promise of America—a promise of opportunity, freedom, and a safe future. An effective process would determine who actually needs help and then grant them passage into America. Why should everyone be turned away? My grandmother immigrated to America from Scotland in 1955. I exist because she had a chance that others are now being denied.

Emma Lazarus named Lady Liberty the “Mother of Exiles.” Why are we denying her the happiness of children? Because we cannot decide which ones? America has an inexplicable area where our constitution has been spurned and forgotten. Additionally, there is a rancorous movement to close our southern border because of a deep-rooted fear of immigrants and what they represent. For too many Americans, they represent the end of established power and white supremacy, which is their worst nightmare. In fact, immigrants do represent change—healthy change—with new ideas and new energy that will help make this country stronger. Governmental agreement on a humane security plan is critical to ensure that America reaches its full potential. We can help. We can help people in unimaginably terrifying situations, and that should be our America.

Alessandra Serafini plays on a national soccer team for Seattle United and is learning American Sign Language outside of school. Her goal is to spread awareness about issues such as climate change, poverty, and large-scale political conflict through writing and public speaking.

  High School Winner

Cain Trevino

North Side High School, Fort Worth, Texas

immigration life essay

Xenophobia and the Constitution-Free Zone

In August of 2017, U.S. Border Patrol agents boarded a Greyhound bus that had just arrived at the White River Junction station from Boston. According to Danielle Bonadona, a Lebanon resident and a bus passenger, “They wouldn’t let us get off. They boarded the bus and told us they needed to see our IDs or papers.” Bonadona, a 29-year-old American citizen, said that the agents spent around 20 minutes on the bus and “only checked the IDs of people who had accents or were not white.” Bonadona said she was aware of the 100-mile rule, but the experience of being stopped and searched felt “pretty unconstitutional.”

In the YES! article “Two-Thirds of Americans Live in the ‘Constitution-Free Zone’” by Lornet Turnbull, the author references the ACLU’s argument that “the 100-mile zone violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.” However, the Supreme Court upholds the use of immigration checkpoints for inquiries on citizenship status. In my view, the ACLU makes a reasonable argument. The laws of the 100-mile zone are blurred, and, too often, officials give arbitrary reasons to conduct a search. Xenophobia and fear of immigrants burgeons in cities within these areas. People of color and those with accents or who are non-English speakers are profiled by law enforcement agencies that enforce anti-immigrant policies. The “Constitution-free zone” is portrayed as an effective barrier to secure our borders. However, this anti-immigrant zone does not make our country any safer. In fact, it does the opposite.

As a former student from the Houston area, I can tell you that the Constitution-free zone makes immigrants and citizens alike feel on edge. The Department of Homeland Security’s white SUVs patrol our streets. Even students feel the weight of anti-immigrant laws. Dennis Rivera Sarmiento, an undocumented student who attended Austin High School in Houston, was held by school police in February 2018 for a minor altercation and was handed over to county police. He was later picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and held in a detention center. It is unfair that kids like Dennis face much harsher consequences for minor incidents than other students with citizenship.

These instances are a direct result of anti-immigrant laws. For example, the 287(g) program gives local and state police the authority to share individuals’ information with ICE after an arrest. This means that immigrants can be deported for committing misdemeanors as minor as running a red light. Other laws like Senate Bill 4, passed by the Texas Legislature, allow police to ask people about their immigration status after they are detained. These policies make immigrants and people of color feel like they’re always under surveillance and that, at any moment, they may be pulled over to be questioned and detained.

During Hurricane Harvey, the immigrant community was hesitant to go to the shelters because images of immigration authorities patrolling the area began to surface online. It made them feel like their own city was against them at a time when they needed them most. Constitution-free zones create communities of fear. For many immigrants, the danger of being questioned about immigration status prevents them from reporting crimes, even when they are the victim. Unreported crime only places more groups of people at risk and, overall, makes communities less safe.

In order to create a humane immigration process, citizens and non-citizens must hold policymakers accountable and get rid of discriminatory laws like 287(g) and Senate Bill 4. Abolishing the Constitution-free zone will also require pressure from the public and many organizations. For a more streamlined legal process, the League of United Latin American Citizens suggests background checks and a small application fee for incoming immigrants, as well as permanent resident status for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients. Other organizations propose expanding the green card lottery and asylum for immigrants escaping the dangers of their home countries.

Immigrants who come to the U.S. are only looking for an opportunity to provide for their families and themselves; so, the question of deciding who gets inside the border and who doesn’t is the same as trying to prove some people are worth more than others. The narratives created by anti-immigrant media plant the false idea that immigrants bring nothing but crime and terrorism. Increased funding for the border and enforcing laws like 287(g) empower anti-immigrant groups to vilify immigrants and promote a witch hunt that targets innocent people. This hatred and xenophobia allow law enforcement to ask any person of color or non-native English speaker about their citizenship or to detain a teenager for a minor incident. Getting rid of the 100-mile zone means standing up for justice and freedom because nobody, regardless of citizenship, should have to live under laws created from fear and hatred.

Cain Trevino is a sophomore. Cain is proud of his Mexican and Salvadorian descent and is an advocate for the implementation of Ethnic Studies in Texas. He enjoys basketball, playing the violin, and studying c omputer science. Cain plans to pursue a career in engineering at Stanford University and later earn a PhD.  

High School Winner

Ethan Peter

Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

immigration life essay

I’m an expert on bussing. For the past couple of months, I’ve been a busser at a pizza restaurant near my house. It may not be the most glamorous job, but it pays all right, and, I’ll admit, I’m in it for the money.

I arrive at 5 p.m. and inspect the restaurant to ensure it is in pristine condition for the 6 p.m. wave of guests. As customers come and go, I pick up their dirty dishes, wash off their tables, and reset them for the next guests. For the first hour of my shift, the work is fairly straightforward.

I met another expert on bussing while crossing the border in a church van two years ago. Our van arrived at the border checkpoint, and an agent stopped us. She read our passports, let us through, and moved on to her next vehicle. The Border Patrol agent’s job seemed fairly straightforward.

At the restaurant, 6 p.m. means a rush of customers. It’s the end of the workday, and these folks are hungry for our pizzas and salads. My job is no longer straightforward.

Throughout the frenzy, the TVs in the restaurant buzz about waves of people coming to the U.S. border. The peaceful ebb and flow enjoyed by Border agents is disrupted by intense surges of immigrants who seek to enter the U.S. Outside forces push immigrants to the United States: wars break out in the Middle East, gangs terrorize parts of Central and South America, and economic downturns force foreigners to look to the U.S., drawn by the promise of opportunity. Refugees and migrant caravans arrive, and suddenly, a Border Patrol agent’s job is no longer straightforward.

I turn from the TVs in anticipation of a crisis exploding inside the restaurant: crowds that arrive together will leave together. I’ve learned that when a table looks finished with their dishes, I need to proactively ask to take those dishes, otherwise, I will fall behind, and the tables won’t be ready for the next customers. The challenge is judging who is finished eating. I’m forced to read clues and use my discretion.

Interpreting clues is part of a Border Patrol agent’s job, too. Lornet Turnbull states, “For example, CBP data obtained by ACLU in Michigan shows that 82 percent of foreign citizens stopped by agents in that state are Latino, and almost 1 in 3 of those processed is, in fact, a U.S. citizen.” While I try to spot customers done with their meals so I can clear their part of the table, the Border Patrol officer uses clues to detect undocumented immigrants. We both sometimes guess incorrectly, but our intentions are to do our jobs to the best of our abilities.

These situations are uncomfortable. I certainly do not enjoy interrupting a conversation to get someone’s dishes, and I doubt Border Patrol agents enjoy interrogating someone about their immigration status. In both situations, the people we mistakenly ask lose time and are subjected to awkward and uncomfortable situations. However, here’s where the busser and the Border Patrol officer’s situations are different: If I make a mistake, the customer faces a minor inconvenience. The stakes for a Border Patrol agent are much higher. Mistakenly asking for documentation and searching someone can lead to embarrassment or fear—it can even be life-changing. Thus, Border Patrol agents must be fairly certain that someone’s immigration status is questionable before they begin their interrogation.

To avoid these situations altogether, the U.S. must make the path to citizenship for immigrants easier. This is particularly true for immigrants fleeing violence. Many people object to this by saying these immigrants will bring violence with them, but data does not support this view. In 1939, a ship of Jewish refugees from Germany was turned away from the U.S.—a decision viewed negatively through the lens of history. Today, many people advocate restricting immigration for refugees from violent countries; they refuse to learn the lessons from 1939. The sad thing is that many of these immigrants are seen as just as violent as the people they are fleeing. We should not confuse the oppressed with the oppressor.

My restaurant appreciates customers because they bring us money, just as we should appreciate immigrants because they bring us unique perspectives. Equally important, immigrants provide this country with a variety of expert ideas and cultures, which builds better human connections and strengthens our society.

Ethan Peter is a junior. Ethan writes for his school newspaper, The Kirkwood Call, and plays volleyball for his high school and a club team. He hopes to continue to grow as a writer in the future. 

University Winner

Daniel Fries

Lane Community College, Eugene, Ore.

immigration life essay

Detained on the Road to Equality

The United States is a nation of immigrants. There are currently 43 million foreign-born people living in the U.S. Millions of them are naturalized American citizens, and 23 million, or 7.2 percent of the population, are living here without documentation (US Census, 2016). One in seven residents of the United States was not born here. Multiculturalism is, and always has been, a key part of the American experience. However, romantic notions of finding a better life in the United States for immigrants and refugees don’t reflect reality. In modern history, America is a country that systematically treats immigrants—documented or not—and non-white Americans in a way that is fundamentally different than what is considered right by the majority.

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment states,“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” When a suspected undocumented immigrant is detained, their basic human rights are violated. Warrantless raids on Greyhound buses within 100 miles of the border (an area referred to by some as the “Constitution-free zone”) are clear violations of human rights. These violations are not due to the current state of politics; they are the symptom of blatant racism in the United States and a system that denigrates and abuses people least able to defend themselves.

It is not surprising that some of the mechanisms that drive modern American racism are political in nature. Human beings are predisposed to dislike and distrust individuals that do not conform to the norms of their social group (Mountz, Allison). Some politicians appeal to this suspicion and wrongly attribute high crime rates to non-white immigrants. The truth is that immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. In fact, people born in the United States are convicted of crimes at a rate twice that of undocumented non-natives (Cato Institute, 2018).

The majority of immigrants take high risks to seek a better life, giving them incentive to obey the laws of their new country. In many states, any contact with law enforcement may ultimately result in deportation and separation from family. While immigrants commit far fewer crimes, fear of violent crime by much of the U.S. population outweighs the truth. For some politicians, it is easier to sell a border wall to a scared population than it is to explain the need for reformed immigration policy. It’s easier to say that immigrants are taking people’s jobs than explain a changing global economy and its effect on employment. The only crime committed in this instance is discrimination.

Human rights are violated when an undocumented immigrant—or someone perceived as an undocumented immigrant—who has not committed a crime is detained on a Greyhound bus. When a United States citizen is detained on the same bus, constitutional rights are being violated. The fact that this happens every day and that we debate its morality makes it abundantly clear that racism is deeply ingrained in this country. Many Americans who have never experienced this type of oppression lack the capacity to understand its lasting effect. Most Americans don’t know what it’s like to be late to work because they were wrongfully detained, were pulled over by the police for the third time that month for no legal reason, or had to coordinate legal representation for their U.S. citizen grandmother because she was taken off a bus for being a suspected undocumented immigrant. This oppression is cruel and unnecessary.

America doesn’t need a wall to keep out undocumented immigrants; it needs to seriously address how to deal with immigration. It is possible to reform the current system in such a way that anyone can become a member of American society, instead of existing outside of it. If a person wants to live in the United States and agrees to follow its laws and pay its taxes, a path to citizenship should be available.

People come to the U.S. from all over the world for many reasons. Some have no other choice. There are ongoing humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen, and South America that are responsible for the influx of immigrants and asylum seekers at our borders. If the United States wants to address the current situation, it must acknowledge the global factors affecting the immigrants at the center of this debate and make fact-informed decisions. There is a way to maintain the security of America while treating migrants and refugees compassionately, to let those who wish to contribute to our society do so, and to offer a hand up instead of building a wall.

Daniel Fries studies computer science. Daniel has served as a wildland firefighter in Oregon, California, and Alaska. He is passionate about science, nature, and the ways that technology contributes to making the world a better, more empathetic, and safer place.

Powerful Voice Winner

Emma Hernandez-Sanchez

Wellness, Business and Sports School, Woodburn, Ore.

immigration life essay

An Emotion an Immigrant Knows Too Well

Before Donald Trump’s campaign, I was oblivious to my race and the idea of racism. As far as I knew, I was the same as everyone else. I didn’t stop to think about our different-colored skins. I lived in a house with a family and attended school five days a week just like everyone else. So, what made me different?

Seventh grade was a very stressful year—the year that race and racism made an appearance in my life. It was as if a cold splash of water woke me up and finally opened my eyes to what the world was saying. It was this year that Donald Trump started initiating change about who got the right to live in this country and who didn’t. There was a lot of talk about deportation, specifically for Mexicans, and it sparked commotion and fear in me.

I remember being afraid and nervous to go out. At home, the anxiety was there but always at the far back of my mind because I felt safe inside. My fear began as a small whisper, but every time I stepped out of my house, it got louder. I would have dreams about the deportation police coming to my school; when I went to places like the library, the park, the store, or the mall, I would pay attention to everyone and to my surroundings. In my head, I would always ask myself, “Did they give us nasty looks?,” “Why does it seem quieter?” “Was that a cop I just saw?” I would notice little things, like how there were only a few Mexicans out or how empty a store was. When my mom went grocery shopping, I would pray that she would be safe. I was born in America, and both my parents were legally documented. My mom was basically raised here. Still, I couldn’t help but feel nervous.

I knew I shouldn’t have been afraid, but with one look, agents could have automatically thought my family and I were undocumented. Even when the deportation police would figure out that we weren’t undocumented, they’d still figure out a way to deport us—at least that was what was going through my head. It got so bad that I didn’t even want to do the simplest things like go grocery shopping because there was a rumor that the week before a person was taken from Walmart.

I felt scared and nervous, and I wasn’t even undocumented. I can’t even imagine how people who are undocumented must have felt, how they feel. All I can think is that it’s probably ten times worse than what I was feeling. Always worrying about being deported and separated from your family must be hard. I was living in fear, and I didn’t even have it that bad. My heart goes out to families that get separated from each other. It’s because of those fears that I detest the “Constitution-free zone.”

Legally documented and undocumented people who live in the Constitution-free zone are in constant fear of being deported. People shouldn’t have to live this way. In fact, there have been arguments that the 100-mile zone violates the Fourth Amendment, which gives people the right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld these practices.

One question that Lornet Turnbull asks in her YES! article “Two-Thirds of Americans Live in the ‘Constitution-Free Zone’” is, “How should we decide who is welcome in the U.S and who is not?” Instead of focusing on immigrants, how about we focus on the people who shoot up schools, rape girls, exploit women for human sex trafficking, and sell drugs? These are the people who make our country unsafe; they are the ones who shouldn’t be accepted. Even if they are citizens and have the legal right to live here, they still shouldn’t be included. If they are the ones making this country unsafe, then what gives them the right to live here?

I don’t think that the Constitution-free zone is an effective and justifiable way to make this country more “secure.” If someone isn’t causing any trouble in the United States and is just simply living their life, then they should be welcomed here. We shouldn’t have to live in fear that our rights will be taken away. I believe that it’s unfair for people to automatically think that it’s the Hispanics that make this country unsafe. Sure, get all the undocumented people out of the United States, but it’s not going to make this country any safer. It is a society that promotes violence that makes us unsafe, not a race.

Emma Hernandez-Sanchez is a freshman who is passionate about literature and her education. Emma wan ts to inspire others to be creative and try their best. She enjoys reading and creating stories that spark imagination. 

  Powerful Voice Winner

Tiara Lewis

Columbus City Preparatory Schools for Girls,

Columbus, Ohio

immigration life essay

Hold Your Head High and Keep Those Fists Down

How would you feel if you walked into a store and salespeople were staring at you? Making you feel like you didn’t belong. Judging you. Assuming that you were going to take something, even though you might have $1,000 on you to spend. Sometimes it doesn’t matter. This is because people will always judge you. It might not be because of your race but for random reasons, like because your hair is black instead of dirty blonde. Or because your hair is short and not long. Or just because they are having a bad day. People will always find ways to bring you down and accuse you of something, but that doesn’t mean you have to go along with it.

Every time I entered a store, I would change my entire personality. I would change the way I talked and the way I walked. I always saw myself as needing to fit in. If a store was all pink, like the store Justice, I would act like a girly girl. If I was shopping in a darker store, like Hot Topic, I would hum to the heavy metal songs and act more goth. I had no idea that I was feeding into stereotypes.

When I was 11, I walked into Claire’s, a well-known store at the mall. That day was my sister’s birthday. Both of us were really happy and had money to spend. As soon as we walked into the store, two employees stared me and my sister down, giving us cold looks. When we went to the cashier to buy some earrings, we thought everything was fine. However, when we walked out of the store, there was a policeman and security guards waiting. At that moment, my sister and I looked at one another, and I said, in a scared little girl voice, “I wonder what happened? Why are they here?”

Then, they stopped us. We didn’t know what was going on. The same employee that cashed us out was screaming as her eyes got big, “What did you steal?” I was starting to get numb. Me and my sister looked at each other and told the truth: “We didn’t steal anything. You can check us.” They rudely ripped through our bags and caused a big scene. My heart was pounding like a drum. I felt violated and scared. Then, the policeman said, “Come with us. We need to call your parents.” While this was happening, the employees were talking to each other, smiling. We got checked again. The police said that they were going to check the cameras, but after they were done searching us, they realized that we didn’t do anything wrong and let us go about our day.

Walking in the mall was embarrassing—everybody staring, looking, and whispering as we left the security office. This made me feel like I did something wrong while knowing I didn’t. We went back to the store to get our shopping bags. The employees sneered, “Don’t you niggers ever come in this store again. You people always take stuff. This time you just got lucky.” Their faces were red and frightening. It was almost like they were in a scary 3D movie, screaming, and coming right at us. I felt hurt and disappointed that someone had the power within them to say something so harsh and wrong to another person. Those employees’ exact words will forever be engraved in my memory.

In the article, “Two-Thirds of Americans Live in the ‘Constitution-Free Zone’,” Lornet Turnbull states, “In January, they stopped a man in Indio, California, as he was boarding a Los Angeles-bound bus. While questioning this man about his immigration status, agents told him his ‘shoes looked suspicious,’ like those of someone who had recently crossed the border.” They literally judged him by his shoes. They had no proof of anything. If a man is judged by his shoes, who else and what else are being judged in the world?

In the novel  To Kill a Mockingbird , a character named Atticus states, “You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let’em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change.” No matter how much you might try to change yourself, your hairstyle, and your clothes, people will always make assumptions about you. However, you never need to change yourself to make a point or to feel like you fit in. Be yourself. Don’t let those stereotypes turn into facts.

Tiara Lewis is in the eighth grade. Tiara plays the clarinet and is trying to change the world— one essay at a time. She is most often found curled up on her bed, “Divergent” in one hand and a cream-filled doughnut in the other.

Hailee Park

 Wielding My Swords

If I were a swordsman, my weapons would be my identities. I would wield one sword in my left hand and another in my right. People expect me to use both fluently, but I’m not naturally ambidextrous. Even though I am a right-handed swordsman, wielding my dominant sword with ease, I must also carry a sword in my left, the heirloom of my family heritage. Although I try to live up to others’ expectations by using both swords, I may appear inexperienced while attempting to use my left. In some instances, my heirloom is mistaken for representing different families’ since the embellishments look similar.

Many assumptions are made about my heirloom sword based on its appearance, just as many assumptions are made about me based on my physical looks. “Are you Chinese?” When I respond with ‘no,’ they stare at me blankly in confusion. There is a multitude of Asian cultures in the United States, of which I am one. Despite what many others may assume, I am not Chinese; I am an American-born Korean.

“Then… are you Japanese?” Instead of asking a broader question, like “What is your ethnicity?,” they choose to ask a direct question. I reply that I am Korean. I like to think that this answers their question sufficiently; however, they think otherwise. Instead, I take this as their invitation to a duel.

They attack me with another question: “Are you from North Korea or South Korea?” I don’t know how to respond because I’m not from either of those countries; I was born in America. I respond with “South Korea,” where my parents are from because I assume that they’re asking me about my ethnicity. I’m not offended by this situation because I get asked these questions frequently. From this experience, I realize that people don’t know how to politely ask questions about identity to those unlike them. Instead of asking “What is your family’s ethnicity?,” many people use rude alternatives, such as “Where are you from?,” or “What language do you speak?”

When people ask these questions, they make assumptions based on someone’s appearance. In my case, people make inferences like:

“She must be really good at speaking Korean.”

“She’s Asian; therefore, she must be born in Asia.”

“She’s probably Chinese.”

These thoughts may appear in their heads because making assumptions is natural. However, there are instances when assumptions can be taken too far. Some U.S. Border Patrol agents in the “Constitution-free zone” have made similar assumptions based on skin color and clothing. For example, agents marked someone as an undocumented immigrant because “his shoes looked suspicious, like those of someone who had recently crossed the border.”

Another instance was when a Jamaican grandmother was forced off a bus when she was visiting her granddaughter. The impetus was her accent and the color of her skin. Government officials chose to act on their assumptions, even though they had no solid proof that the grandmother was an undocumented immigrant. These situations just touch the surface of the issue of racial injustice in America.

When someone makes unfair assumptions about me, they are pointing their sword and challenging me to a duel; I cannot refuse because I am already involved. It is not appropriate for anyone, including Border Patrol agents, to make unjustified assumptions or to act on those assumptions. Border Patrol agents have no right to confiscate the swords of the innocent solely based on their conjectures. The next time I’m faced with a situation where racially ignorant assumptions are made about me, I will refuse to surrender my sword, point it back at them, and triumphantly fight their ignorance with my cultural pride.

Hailee Park is an eighth grader who enjoys reading many genres. While reading, Hailee recognized the racial injustices against immigrants in America, which inspired her essay. Hailee plays violin in her school’s orchestra and listens to and composes music. 

Aminata Toure

East Harlem School, New York City, N.Y.

immigration life essay

We Are Still Dreaming

As a young Muslim American woman, I have been labeled things I am not: a terrorist, oppressed, and an ISIS supporter. I have been accused of planning 9/11, an event that happened before I was born. Lately, in the media, Muslims have been portrayed as supporters of a malevolent cause, terrorizing others just because they do not have the same beliefs. I often scoff at news reports that portray Muslims in such a light, just as I scoff at all names I’ve been labeled. They are words that do not define me. 

In a land where labels have stripped immigrants of their personalities, they are now being stripped of something that makes them human: their rights. The situation described in Lornet Turnbull’s article, “Two-Thirds of Americans are Living in the ‘Constitution-Free Zone’,” goes directly against the Constitution, the soul of this country, something that asserts that we are all equal before the law. If immigrants do not have protection from the Constitution, is there any way to feel safe?

Although most insults are easy to shrug off, they are still threatening. I am ashamed when I feel afraid to go to the mosque. Friday is an extremely special day when we gather together to pray, but lately, I haven’t been going to the mosque for Jummah prayers. I have realized that I can never feel safe when in a large group of Muslims because of the widespread hatred of Muslims in the United States, commonly referred to as Islamophobia. Police surround our mosque, and there are posters warning us about dangerous people who might attack our place of worship because we have been identified as terrorists.

I wish I could tune out every news report that blasts out the headline “Terrorist Attack!” because I know that I will be judged based on the actions of someone else. Despite this anti-Muslim racism, what I have learned from these insults is that I am proud of my faith. I am a Muslim, but being Muslim doesn’t define me. I am a writer, a student, a dreamer, a friend, a New Yorker, a helper, and an American. I am unapologetically me, a Muslim, and so much more. I definitely think everyone should get to know a Muslim. They would see that some of us are also Harry Potter fans, not just people planning to bomb the White House.

Labels are unjustly placed on us because of the way we speak, the color of our skin, and what we believe in—not for who we are as individuals. Instead, we should all take more time to get to know one another. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his “I Have a Dream” speech, we should be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. To me, it seems Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is a dream that should be a reality. But, for now, we are dreaming.

Aminata Toure is a Guinean American Muslim student. Aminata loves spoken-word poetry and performs in front of hundreds of people at her school’s annual poetry slam. She loves writing, language, history, and West African food and culture. Aminata wants to work at the United Nations when she grows up.

From the Author 

Dear Alessandra, Cain, Daniel, Tiara, Emma, Hailee, Aminata and Ethan,

I am moved and inspired by the thought each of you put into your responses to my story about this so-called “Constitution-free zone.” Whether we realize it or not, immigration in this country impacts all of us— either because we are immigrants ourselves, have neighbors, friends, and family who are, or because we depend on immigrants for many aspects of our lives—from the food we put on our tables to the technology that bewitches us. It is true that immigrants enrich our society in so many important ways, as many of you point out.

And while the federal statute that permits U.S. Border Patrol officers to stop and search at will any of the 200 million of us in this 100-mile shadow border, immigrants have been their biggest targets. In your essays, you highlight how unjust the law is—nothing short of racial profiling. It is heartening to see each of you, in your own way, speaking out against the unfairness of this practice.

Alessandra, you are correct, the immigration system in this country is in shambles. You make a powerful argument about how profiling ostracizes entire communities and how the warrantless searches allowed by this statute impede trust-building between law enforcement and the people they are called on to serve.

And Cain, you point out how this 100-mile zone, along with other laws in the state of Texas where you attended school, make people feel like they’re “always under surveillance, and that, at any moment, you may be pulled over to be questioned and detained.” It seems unimaginable that people live their lives this way, yet millions in this country do.

You, Emma, for example, speak of living in a kind of silent fear since Donald Trump took office, even though you were born in this country and your parents are here legally. You are right, “We shouldn’t have to live in fear that our rights will be taken away.”

And Aminata, you write of being constantly judged and labeled because you’re a Muslim American. How unfortunate and sad that in a country that generations of people fled to search for religious freedom, you are ashamed at times to practice your own. The Constitution-free zone, you write, “goes directly against the Constitution, the soul of this country, something that asserts that we are all equal before the law.”

Tiara, I could personally relate to your gripping account of being racially profiled and humiliated in a store. You were appalled that the Greyhound passenger in California was targeted by Border Patrol because they claimed his shoes looked like those of someone who had walked across the border: “If a man is judged by his shoes,” you ask, “who else and what else are getting judged in the world?”

Hailee, you write about the incorrect assumptions people make about you, an American born of Korean descent, based solely on your appearance and compared it to the assumptions Border Patrol agents make about those they detain in this zone.

Daniel, you speak of the role of political fearmongering in immigration. It’s not new, but under the current administration, turning immigrants into boogiemen for political gain is currency. You write that “For some politicians, it is easier to sell a border wall to a scared population than it is to explain the need for reformed immigration policy.”

And Ethan, you recognize the contributions immigrants make to this country through the connections we all make with them and the strength they bring to our society.

Keep speaking your truth. Use your words and status to call out injustice wherever and whenever you see it. Untold numbers of people spoke out against this practice by Border Patrol and brought pressure on Greyhound to change. In December, the company began offering passengers written guidance—in both Spanish and English—so they understand what their rights are when officers board their bus. Small steps, yes, but progress nonetheless, brought about by people just like you, speaking up for those who sometimes lack a voice to speak up for themselves.

With sincere gratitude,

Lornet Turnbull

immigration life essay

Lornet Turnbull is an editor for YES! and a Seattle-based freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter  @TurnbullL .

We received many outstanding essays for the Winter 2019 Student Writing Competition. Though not every participant can win the contest, we’d like to share some excerpts that caught our eye:

After my parents argued with the woman, they told me if you can fight with fists, you prove the other person’s point, but when you fight with the power of your words, you can have a much bigger impact. I also learned that I should never be ashamed of where I am from. —Fernando Flores, The East Harlem School, New York City, N.Y.

Just because we were born here and are privileged to the freedom of our country, we do not have the right to deprive others of a chance at success. —Avalyn Cox, Brier Terrace Middle School, Brier, Wash.

Maybe, rather than a wall, a better solution to our immigration problem would be a bridge. —Sean Dwyer, Lane Community College, Eugene, Ore.

If anything, what I’ve learned is that I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to change our world. I don’t know how to make a difference, how to make my voice heard. But I have learned the importance of one word, a simple two-letter word that’s taught to the youngest of us, a word we all know but never recognize: the significance of ‘we.’ —Enna Chiu, Highland Park High School, Highland Park, N.J.

Not to say the Border Patrol should not have authorization to search people within the border, but I am saying it should be near the border, more like one mile, not 100. —Cooper Tarbuck, Maranacook Middle School, Manchester, Maine.

My caramel color, my feminism, my Spanish and English language, my Mexican culture, and my young Latina self gives me the confidence to believe in myself, but it can also teach others that making wrong assumptions about someone because of their skin color, identity, culture, looks or gender can make them look and be weaker. —Ana Hernandez, The East Harlem School, New York City, N.Y.

We don’t need to change who we are to fit these stereotypes like someone going on a diet to fit into a new pair of pants. —Kaylee Meyers, Brier Terrace Middle School, Brier, Wash.

If a human being with no criminal background whatsoever has trouble entering the country because of the way he or she dresses or speaks, border protection degenerates into arbitrariness. —Jonas Schumacher, Heidelberg University of Education, Heidelberg, Germany

I believe that you should be able to travel freely throughout your own country without the constant fear of needing to prove that you belong here . —MacKenzie Morgan, Lincoln Middle School, Ypsilanti, Mich.

America is known as “the Land of Opportunity,” but this label is quickly disappearing. If we keep stopping those striving for a better life, then what will become of this country? —Ennyn Chiu, Highland Park Middle School, Highland Park, N.J.

The fact that two-thirds of the people in the U.S. are living in an area called the “Constitution-free zone” is appalling. Our Constitution was made to protect our rights as citizens, no matter where we are in the country. These systems that we are using to “secure” our country are failing, and we need to find a way to change them. —Isis Liaw, Brier Terrace Middle School, Brier, Wash.

I won’t let anyone, especially a man, tell me what I can do, because I am a strong Latina. I will represent where I come from, and I am proud to be Mexican. I will show others that looks can be deceiving. I will show others that even the weakest animal, a beautiful butterfly, is tough, and it will cross any border, no matter how challenging the journey may be. —Brittany Leal, The East Harlem School, New York City, N.Y.

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Human Rights Careers

5 Essays about Immigration

According to the UN, the number of international migrants surpassed 270 million in 2019. This represents an increase of 51 million since 2010. Nearly half of all international migrants moved to one of 10 countries. 19% of the world’s total immigrant population lives in the United States. One of every seven international migrants is younger than 20 years old. What are the stories behind these statistics? What does the world think of immigrants? To start answering these questions, here are five essays about immigration:

“Out of Eden Walk” (2013-present) – Paul Salopek

At the time of this 2019 essay, Paul Salopek has been walking for seven years. In 2013, he started from an ancient fossil site north of Ethiopia. His plan? Cover 21,000 miles over ten years, retracing humankind’s walk out of Africa. While he’s walking through the past, his project is also timely. Numbers-wise, we’re living with the largest diaspora in human history. More than 1 billion people are on the move, both within their own countries and beyond borders. During his journey, Salopek covers climate change, technological innovation, mass migration, and more. Through essays, photographs, audio, and video, he creates a vivid tapestry of stories from people rarely heard from. This essay is a great introduction to Salopek’s “slow journalism.” You can find more at OutofEdenWalk.org.

Journalist and writer Paul Salopek is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. He has reported for publications like The Atlantic and National Geographic Magazine. John Stanmeyer, who took the photos for this essay, is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and photographer.

“Mohsin Hamid: why migration is a fundamental human right” (2014)

Author Mohsin Hamid was born in Pakistan and educated in the US. He lives in the UK. In this essay, he explains how he wishes for “a world without borders.” He believes the right to migrate (which includes emigration and immigration) is as vital as other human rights, like freedom of expression. People have always moved, crossing borders and sharing cultures. Humans are also migrants in that simply by living, we move through time. Unfortunately, this human right has been denied all over the world. Hamid looks forward to a day when migration is respected and welcomed.

Mohsin Hamid is the author of several books, including Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London. He writes both fiction and nonfiction.

“I’m a Dreamer. Ask my 80+ Employees if I should be deported.” (2020) – Victor Santos

Young and brilliant, Victor Santos is the founder of Airfox, a Boston-based tech startup. On the surface, Santos is living the American Dream. In this essay in the Boston Globe, he describes that for the past 10 years, he’s worried about ICE taking him away. He’s an undocumented immigrant dependent on DACA. Santos briefly describes his experience growing up in the US, working through college, and getting opportunities because of DACA. Following the publication of this piece, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration cannot immediately end DACA. For now, Santos and the other hundreds of thousands of Dreamers are protected.

Victor Santos is the founder and CEO of Airfox, a loan app that uses mobile data to estimate credit risk. He was on the list of MIT Technology Review in Spanish’s Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2018.

“My Life As An Undocumented Immigrant” (2011) – Jose Antonio Vargas

Vargas opens this essay describing how, at 12-years old, he left the Philippines for the US in 1993. At 16, while going to get his driver’s permit, he was told his green card was fake. He realized he was undocumented. In this essay from 2011, partially inspired by four students who walked from Miami to Washington to lobby for the DREAM Act, he spoke out. The essay describes Vargas’ life and career in America, navigating the system with his secret. It’s a vivid, personal look at Vargas’ experience of “hiding” in plain sight and an act of courage as he owns his story.

Jose Antonio Vargas is a former reporter for the Washington Post. He shared a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. He is also a filmmaker, writer, and immigrant rights activist. He founded Define American, a nonprofit that strives for dialogue about immigration, in 2011.

“A Young Immigrant Has Mental Illness, And That’s Raising His Risk of Being Deported” – Christine Herman

Immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, deal with a variety of challenges. One of them is the mental health care system. Those with untreated mental illnesses are at higher risk of getting in trouble with the law. When the person who is mentally ill is also undocumented, things get even more complicated. Deportation to a country with an even worse mental healthcare system could be a death sentence. This story from NPR is about a specific family, but it highlights issues that affect many.

Christine Herman is Ph.D. chemist and award-winning audio journalist. She’s a 2018-2019 recipient of a Rosalyn Carter fellowship for mental health journalism.

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About the author, emmaline soken-huberty.

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.

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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, how should i approach writing my first-generation immigrant college essay.

Hi everyone! I'm a first-generation immigrant, and I want to write my college essay about my experiences and how they've shaped me. I want to make sure my essay stands out and isn't just another 'immigrant story.' Any advice on how to approach this topic in a unique way? Thanks in advance!

Hi there! It's great that you want to share your first-generation immigrant experience in your college essay. To make it unique, I suggest focusing on specific aspects of your journey that have impacted you the most. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Reflect on the moments of your life that you feel define your immigrant experience. It could be a turning point, a struggle, or a triumph. Be as detailed as possible to make your story stand out.

2. Consider discussing how your background has influenced your perspective, values, and goals. Colleges appreciate students who bring diverse viewpoints to their campus.

3. Show, don't tell! Use descriptive language and anecdotes to paint a vivid picture of your experiences. This will help your essay come to life for the reader.

4. Avoid clichés and generalizations. Remember, your story is unique to you, so don't be afraid to be authentic and honest.

5. Lastly, proofread and revise your essay multiple times. This will ensure that your writing is polished and effectively conveys your message.

Good luck with your essay, and I'm sure you'll create something that is both meaningful and memorable!

About CollegeVine’s Expert FAQ

CollegeVine’s Q&A seeks to offer informed perspectives on commonly asked admissions questions. Every answer is refined and validated by our team of admissions experts to ensure it resonates with trusted knowledge in the field.

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Key findings about u.s. immigrants.

immigration life essay

View  interactive charts and  detailed tables  on U.S. immigrants.

Note: For our most recent estimates of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.  click here .

The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world . Today, more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants. The population of immigrants is also very diverse, with just about every country in the world represented among U.S. immigrants.

Pew Research Center regularly publishes statistical portraits of the nation’s foreign-born population, which include historical trends since 1960 . Based on these portraits, here are answers to some key questions about the U.S. immigrant population.

How many people in the U.S. are immigrants?

The U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 44.8 million in 2018. Since 1965, when U.S. immigration laws replaced a national quota system , the number of immigrants living in the U.S. has more than quadrupled. Immigrants today account for 13.7% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.8%) in 1970. However, today’s immigrant share remains below the record 14.8% share in 1890, when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S.

Immigrant share of U.S. population nears historic high

What is the legal status of immigrants in the U.S.?

Unauthorized immigrants are almost a quarter of U.S. foreign-born population

Most immigrants (77%) are in the country legally, while almost a quarter are unauthorized, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on census data adjusted for undercount . In 2017, 45% were naturalized U.S. citizens.

Some 27% of immigrants were permanent residents and 5% were temporary residents in 2017. Another 23% of all immigrants were unauthorized immigrants. From 1990 to 2007, the unauthorized immigrant population more than tripled in size – from 3.5 million to a record high of 12.2 million in 2007. By 2017, that number had declined by 1.7 million, or 14%. There were 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2017, accounting for 3.2% of the nation’s population.

The decline in the unauthorized immigrant population is due largely to a fall in the number from Mexico – the single largest group of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. Between 2007 and 2017, this group decreased by 2 million. Meanwhile, there was a rise in the number from Central America and Asia. 

Do all lawful immigrants choose to become U.S. citizens?

Not all lawful permanent residents choose to pursue U.S. citizenship. Those who wish to do so may apply after meeting certain requirements , including having lived in the U.S. for five years. In fiscal year 2019, about 800,000 immigrants applied for naturalization. The number of naturalization applications has climbed in recent years, though the annual totals remain below the 1.4 million applications filed in 2007.

Generally, most immigrants eligible for naturalization apply to become citizens. However, Mexican lawful immigrants have the lowest naturalization rate overall. Language and personal barriers, lack of interest and financial barriers are among the top reasons for choosing not to naturalize cited by Mexican-born green card holders, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey .

Where do immigrants come from?

Mexico, China and India are among top birthplaces for immigrants in the U.S.

Mexico is the top origin country of the U.S. immigrant population. In 2018, roughly 11.2 million immigrants living in the U.S. were from there, accounting for 25% of all U.S. immigrants. The next largest origin groups were those from China (6%), India (6%), the Philippines (4%) and El Salvador (3%).

By region of birth, immigrants from Asia combined accounted for 28% of all immigrants, close to the share of immigrants from Mexico (25%). Other regions make up smaller shares: Europe, Canada and other North America (13%), the Caribbean (10%), Central America (8%), South America (7%), the Middle East and North Africa (4%) and sub-Saharan Africa (5%).

Who is arriving today?

Among new immigrant arrivals, Asians outnumber Hispanics

More than 1 million immigrants arrive in the U.S. each year. In 2018, the top country of origin for new immigrants coming into the U.S. was China, with 149,000 people, followed by India (129,000), Mexico (120,000) and the Philippines (46,000).

By race and ethnicity, more Asian immigrants than Hispanic immigrants have arrived in the U.S. in most years since 2009. Immigration from Latin America slowed following the Great Recession, particularly for Mexico, which has seen both decreasing flows into the United States and large flows back to Mexico in recent years.

Asians are projected to become the largest immigrant group in the U.S. by 2055, surpassing Hispanics. Pew Research Center estimates indicate that in 2065, those who identify as Asian will make up some 38% of all immigrants; as Hispanic, 31%; White, 20%; and Black, 9%.

Is the immigrant population growing?

U.S. foreign-born population reached 45 million in 2015, projected to reach 78 million by 2065

New immigrant arrivals have fallen, mainly due to a decrease in the number of unauthorized immigrants coming to the U.S. The drop in the unauthorized immigrant population can primarily be attributed to more Mexican immigrants leaving the U.S. than coming in . 

Looking forward, immigrants and their descendants are projected to account for 88% of U.S. population growth through 2065 , assuming current immigration trends continue. In addition to new arrivals, U.S. births to immigrant parents will be important to future growth in the country’s population. In 2018, the percentage of women giving birth in the past year was higher among immigrants (7.5%) than among the U.S. born (5.7%). While U.S.-born women gave birth to more than 3 million children that year, immigrant women gave birth to about 760,000.

How many immigrants have come to the U.S. as refugees?

More than half of U.S. refugees in 2019 were from D.R. Congo and Burma

Since the creation of the federal Refugee Resettlement Program in 1980, about 3 million refugees have been resettled in the U.S. – more than any other country.

In fiscal 2019, a total of 30,000 refugees were resettled in the U.S. The largest origin group of refugees was the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed by Burma (Myanmar), Ukraine, Eritrea and Afghanistan. Among all refugees admitted in fiscal year 2019, 4,900 are Muslims (16%) and 23,800 are Christians (79%). Texas, Washington, New York and California resettled more than a quarter of all refugees admitted in fiscal 2018.

Where do most U.S. immigrants live?

Nearly half (45%) of the nation’s immigrants live in just three states: California (24%), Texas (11%) and Florida (10%) . California had the largest immigrant population of any state in 2018, at 10.6 million. Texas, Florida and New York had more than 4 million immigrants each.

In terms of regions, about two-thirds of immigrants lived in the West (34%) and South (34%). Roughly one-fifth lived in the Northeast (21%) and 11% were in the Midwest.

In 2018, most immigrants lived in just 20 major metropolitan areas, with the largest populations in the New York, Los Angeles and Miami metro areas. These top 20 metro areas were home to 28.7 million immigrants, or 64% of the nation’s total foreign-born population. Most of the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population lived in these top metro areas as well.

20 metropolitan areas with the largest number of immigrants in 2018

How do immigrants compare with the U.S. population overall in education?

Educational attainment among U.S. immigrants, 2018

Immigrants in the U.S. as a whole have lower levels of education than the U.S.-born population. In 2018, immigrants were over three times as likely as the U.S. born to have not completed high school (27% vs. 8%). However, immigrants were just as likely as the U.S. born to have a bachelor’s degree or more (32% and 33%, respectively).

Educational attainment varies among the nation’s immigrant groups, particularly across immigrants from different regions of the world. Immigrants from Mexico and Central America are less likely to be high school graduates than the U.S. born (54% and 47%, respectively, do not have a high school diploma, vs. 8% of U.S. born). On the other hand, immigrants from every region except Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America were as likely as or more likely than U.S.-born residents to have a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

Among all immigrants, those from South Asia (71%) were the most likely to have a bachelor’s degree or more. Immigrants from Mexico (7%) and Central America (11%) were the least likely to have a bachelor’s or higher.

How many immigrants are working in the U.S.?

Total U.S. labor force grows since 2007, but number of unauthorized immigrant workers declines

In 2017, about 29 million immigrants were working or looking for work in the U.S., making up some 17% of the total civilian labor force. Lawful immigrants made up the majority of the immigrant workforce, at 21.2 million. An additional 7.6 million immigrant workers are unauthorized immigrants , less than the total of the previous year and notably less than in 2007, when they were 8.2 million. They alone account for 4.6% of the civilian labor force, a dip from their peak of 5.4% in 2007. During the same period, the overall U.S. workforce grew, as did the number of U.S.-born workers and lawful immigrant workers.

Immigrants are projected to drive future growth in the U.S. working-age population through at least 2035. As the Baby Boom generation heads into retirement, immigrants and their children are expected to offset a decline in the working-age population by adding about 18 million people of working age between 2015 and 2035.

How well do immigrants speak English?

Half of immigrants in U.S. are English proficient as of 2018

Among immigrants ages 5 and older in 2018, half (53%) are proficient English speakers – either speaking English very well (37%) or only speaking English at home (17%).

Immigrants from Mexico have the lowest rates of English proficiency (34%), followed by those from Central America (35%), East and Southeast Asia (50%) and South America (56%). Immigrants from Canada (96%), Oceania (82%), Europe (75%) and sub-Saharan Africa (74%) have the highest rates of English proficiency.  

The longer immigrants have lived in the U.S. , the greater the likelihood they are English proficient. Some 47% of immigrants living in the U.S. five years or less are proficient. By contrast, more than half (57%) of immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for 20 years or more are proficient English speakers.

Among immigrants ages 5 and older, Spanish is the most commonly spoken language . Some 42% of immigrants in the U.S. speak Spanish at home. The top five languages spoken at home among immigrants outside of Spanish are English only (17%), followed by Chinese (6%), Hindi (5%), Filipino/Tagalog (4%) and French (3%).

How many immigrants have been deported recently?

Around 337,000 immigrants were deported from the U.S. in fiscal 2018 , up since 2017. Overall, the Obama administration deported about 3 million immigrants between 2009 and 2016, a significantly higher number than the 2 million immigrants deported by the Bush administration between 2001 and 2008. In 2017, the Trump administration deported 295,000 immigrants, the lowest total since 2006.

Immigrants convicted of a crime made up the less than half of deportations in 2018, the most recent year for which statistics by criminal status are available. Of the 337,000 immigrants deported in 2018, some 44% had criminal convictions and 56% were not convicted of a crime. From 2001 to 2018, a majority (60%) of immigrants deported have not been convicted of a crime.

U.S. deportations of immigrants slightly up in 2018

How many immigrant apprehensions take place at the U.S.-Mexico border?

The number of apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border has doubled from fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2019, from 396,579 in fiscal 2018 to 851,508 in fiscal 2019. Today, there are more apprehensions of non-Mexicans than Mexicans at the border. In fiscal 2019, apprehensions of Central Americans at the border exceeded those of Mexicans for the fourth consecutive year. The first time Mexicans did not make up the bulk of Border Patrol apprehensions was in 2014.

How do Americans view immigrants and immigration?

U.S. immigrants are seen more as a strength than a burden to the country

While immigration has been at the forefront of a national political debate, the U.S. public holds a range of views about immigrants living in the country. Overall, a majority of Americans have positive views about immigrants. About two-thirds of  Americans (66%) say immigrants strengthen the country “because of their hard work and talents,” while about a quarter (24%) say immigrants burden the country by taking jobs, housing and health care.

Yet these views vary starkly by political affiliation. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 88% think immigrants strengthen the country with their hard work and talents, and just 8% say they are a burden. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 41% say immigrants strengthen the country, while 44% say they burden it.

Americans were divided on future levels of immigration. A quarter said legal immigration to the U.S. should be decreased (24%), while one-third (38%) said immigration should be kept at its present level and almost another third (32%) said immigration should be increased.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published May 3, 2017, and written by Gustavo López, a former research analyst focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics; and Kristen Bialik, a former research assistant.

CORRECTION (Sept. 21, 2020): An update to the methodology used to tabulate figures in the chart “Among new immigrant arrivals, Asians outnumber Hispanics” has changed all figures from 2001 and 2012. This new methodology has also allowed the inclusion of the figure from 2000. Furthermore, the earlier version of the chart incorrectly showed the  partial  year shares of Hispanic and Asian recent arrivals in 2015; the corrected  complete  year shares are 31% and 36%, respectively.

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Key facts about U.S. immigration policies and Biden’s proposed changes

Most latinos say u.s. immigration system needs big changes, facts on u.s. immigrants, 2018, most popular.

About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

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U.s. immigration: rhetoric and reality.

IPR experts' findings illuminate how the two can differ, with some counterintuitive results

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I think quantitative work is really important because it allows us to paint a more complete, holistic picture of the history of immigration.”

Elisa Jácome IPR economist

girl waves flag at naturalization ceremony

The daughter of an immigrant holds a flag at her mother's naturalization ceremony in 2019.

Even before the United States was founded, Benjamin Franklin worried about the number of Germans “swarming” into the colony of Pennsylvania in 1751, accusing them of “herding together [to] establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours.” More than two centuries later, we hear echoes of this same rhetoric, such as in the 2016 presidential campaign when then-candidate Donald Trump exhorted , “This is a country where we speak English!”

In comparing the two, one has to wonder: Have opinions about immigration changed at all over the course of American history—and how does such rhetoric stack up to reality?

Using the latest quantitative methods paired with archival and historical data, IPR faculty experts are examining key aspects of immigrants’ integration into American society, uncovering some unexpected answers to these century-old questions.

Do More Immigrants Bring Crime?

Do immigrants hurt the economy, do immigrants fail to assimilate, quantitative methods and immigration studies.

Nearly half of Americans polled in June thought immigrants to the U.S. are making crime worse—and this belief is not new.

Elisa J ácome , an IPR economist, and her colleagues delved into 150 years of census records to ask, were immigrants ever more likely to commit crimes than those born in the U.S.? Are today’s immigrants more likely to be criminals than those in the past? To find out, she and her colleagues analyzed incarceration rates over time.

They established that between 1870 and 2020, incarceration rates for immigrants were lower than for U.S.-born men. Since 1960, the gap between the two groups has widened. Today, immigrants are 60% less likely to be incarcerated than all U.S.-born men, and 30% less likely to be incarcerated than White U.S.-born men.

The verdict: Immigrants are not more crime-prone than their U.S.-born counterparts. And first-generation immigrants are doing better overall—not just in terms of incarceration rates—than are U.S.-born men, especially among those with lower levels of education. Overall, immigrant men are more likely to be working than U.S.-born men with similar education backgrounds, Jácome explains. They are also more likely to be married and to be living with children.

Previous economic studies have shown that structural changes like globalization and technological change have had more negative effects on less-educated U.S.-born men.

“It appears that immigrants might have found a way to remain relatively shielded from or to better withstand these shocks,” she said.

What makes immigrants different? Jácome says that’s next on her research agenda, but that some possible explanations are that they possess certain positive traits, like ambition or grit, or that they are more mobile and relocate more readily for work.

That immigrants take jobs from U.S.-born people is a well-known, persistent, and seemingly logical opinion. Those who endorse it believe that if jobs are scarce, immigrants will take whatever employment is available at lower wages.

Members of Congress have expressed this view since the 1880s when mass immigration to the U.S. began, as computational linguist and IPR associate Rob Voigt and his fellow researchers find in a recent study. The speaker’s political party and the immigrant group’s home country have changed over time, but the concern about immigrant labor has continued across the last 140 years.

Chinese immigrants were framed as threatening in the 19th century; today, Mexican immigrants are the people categorized by words like “crime,” “labor,” and “legality,” once applied to the Chinese.

Voigt and his colleagues’ research shows that since World War II, overall political speech about immigration has become more positive than in the past. However, he points out, Mexican immigrants today, like the Chinese over a century ago, are special targets and specially contentious.

“There are political actors who can make use of the idea that all of our problems can be blamed on this one group,” Voigt said. “Mexican immigration contemporarily fills a similar kind of social role” as the Chinese did from 1880–1920.

But does the rhetoric reflect today’s reality?

Strategy professor and IPR associate Benjamin Jones and his colleagues studied immigrants as both employees and as entrepreneurs. They examined how often immigrants started companies between 2005 and 2010, the number of jobs the firms created, and then compared them to firms created by U.S.-born entrepreneurs. Results indicate that immigrants are far more likely to start companies and that they create more jobs than they take.

“Ironically, the result is exactly the opposite of the usual narrative. It seems like immigrants actually improve the economic outcomes for native-born workers, ” Jones told Kellogg Insight.

Jácome takes a longer view of immigrant economic activity in the U.S., examining the economic success of immigrants and their children over the last 140 years. She and her colleagues compare the earnings of the sons of immigrants, or the second generation, to the earnings of sons of U.S.-born men.

But do such data live up to the oft-told “immigrant story,” as Jácome says, of parents coming to the U.S. to offer their children a brighter future?

Jácome says that to have a comprehensive understanding of immigrant assimilation, it is important to also uncover the success of the children of immigrants. She and her colleagues find that the second generation of immigrants, from nearly every country, whose parents started in the bottom of the income distribution when they arrived in the U.S. are more likely to move up the socioeconomic ladder than the children of U.S.-born people.

“Historically, immigrants tended to go to areas in the U.S. that had more opportunities,” Jácome explained. “It's unclear whether they were going there to maximize their own opportunities or whether they were choosing locations that would be good for their children.”

Due to data limitations, Jácome and her colleagues are unsure if more recent immigrants’ children are succeeding because of their willingness to locate where the economic opportunity beckons. But she believes that choice of location is still key.

Today, as well as throughout U.S. history, critics and members of the public have descried the failure, or even refusal, of immigrants to assimilate into American culture. Certain groups come under special suspicion. In the late 19th century, it was the Chinese. In the early 21st century, it is Mexicans. Muslims and people from the Middle East and North Africa, two groups often erroneously lumped together, are also viewed as different and possibly dangerous.

According to research by IPR political scientist Tabitha Bonilla , immigrants—who otherwise would be considered assimilated when judged by markers such as how well they speak English or their education—are seen as permanent outsiders due to their religion or race. Bonilla and her co-author conclude that Muslims are seen as a “monolithic group” whatever their ethnic origins, and all may be seen with suspicion and discriminated against as such.

What do we know about immigrant assimilation? One measure is how well they come to speak English. In new research, Voigt and his colleagues examine how much and how well immigrants and refugees in the early 20th century spoke their new language.

Using recorded oral history interviews of Ellis Island immigrants who arrived between 1893 and 1957, the researchers analyzed their vocabulary in English, syntax, how fast they spoke, and their “accentedness,” or the accuracy and fluency of their speech. They also determined, through painstaking hand-coding, who was a refugee fleeing violence or persecution and who was an immigrant coming for economic reasons or because they had family in the U.S.

They find that refugees fleeing persecution attained higher levels of English by the end of their lives than immigrants who arrived for economic reasons or to join family. This suggests that refugees are especially motivated to learn English as they cannot return to their homeland. The researchers note the level of assimilation as measured by how well they came to speak English had nothing to do with government refugee assistance policies—as they did not exist at the time. Rather, the U.S. culture the refugees entered at the time enabled their assimilation.

 “Even in this period where there is not official government support for folks as refugees,” Voigt said, that refugees could learn English as well as they did shows that “day-to-day social conditions” helped to enable assimilation.

Understanding the reality of immigration’s effects on the U.S. and the effects of the U.S. on immigrants and refugees increasingly relies on collecting and analyzing vast amounts of data. IPR scholars are pushing the boundaries of quantitative analysis in their studies of these topics.

Both Jácome and Voigt deploy large datasets in their studies of immigration and see quantitative methods as key to their work, but they are not the only IPR faculty doing so.

IPR associate Joseph Ferrie , an economic historian, pioneered work on immigrant economic life using longitudinal data from censuses, passenger ship records, tax lists, and city directories. His overview of immigration in American economic history details how immigration changed the U.S., and the U.S. changed immigrants, from the 1600s to the present day.

IPR sociologist Julia Behrman is charting new quantitative data availability, measurements, and investigations of immigration to the U.S. and other countries, as well as immigration policies. Her work points to how scholarship can inform policy by identifying the intended and unintended effects of immigration policies and enforcement.

Using data from waves of the General Social Survey conducted 2006–18, Behrman finds that Hispanic immigrants living in states with the most punitive limitations on immigration report a larger ideal family size than the non-Hispanic White residents of those states. Her analysis suggests that these results may be largely driven by undocumented immigrants. The threat of harsh immigration policies and the vulnerability immigrants feel in response are possible causes of the higher ideal family size—which may differ from the actual number of children in a family.

“Quantitative analysis allows us to compare ideal family sizes of respondents living in very different immigration policy contexts,” Behrman said. “At the same time, use of nationally representative data allows for generalizability, thus providing a fuller understanding of how representative the trends we see are.“

In his work, Voigt says, he is using such computational methods to understand how small-scale and personal attitudes and decision making, as well as interactions between people, might become larger patterns that researchers can measure.

People have strong feelings and stubborn attitudes about immigration, and quantitative analysis can cut through that, Jácome said.

“In my work with these co-authors, the goal has been to understand how patterns have changed over time, in particular, because there is this sort of nostalgia for the old immigrant groups in the U.S. and this notion that immigrants today are very different,” Jácome said. “I think quantitative work is really important because it allows us to paint a more complete, holistic picture of the history of immigration.”

Julia Behrman is assistant professor of sociology and an IPR fellow. Tabitha Bonilla is associate professor of human development and social policy and an IPR fellow. Joseph Ferrie is professor of economics and an IPR associate. Elisa Jácome is assistant professor of economics and an IPR fellow. Benjamin Jones is Gordon and Llura Gund Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and an IPR associate. Rob Voigt is assistant professor of linguistics and an IPR associate.

Photo credit: iStock

Published: November 28, 2023.

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Essay on Immigration, Its Issues, Pros and Cons

Essay on Immigration, Its Issues, Pros and Cons

In this article, you will read Essay on immigration. Also read its issues, causes, pros and cons effects. This is an argumentative essay in 1000 words for students.

So, let’s start this Essay on Immigration…

Table of Contents

Introduction (Essay on Immigration – 1000 Words)

Humankind has been immigrating from the dawn of time to explore an unfamiliar area in the world and build their own civilisations. But in today’s world, if you want to go from your native country and settle permanently in a different country, there are many immigration laws through which you have to apply for the citizenship of the country to which you wish to migrate. The present gap between the rich and developing countries is widening, which is leading to more of the migration both legally and illegally. 

Immigration is nowadays becoming a global issue from the economic and a business point of view. The population of some countries is growing since people are migrating to other countries seeking a better life.

But considering giving up your native citizenship, uprooting your entire life, and moving to a new country where you don’t know anyone and have to start your life from scratch is considered a courageous act. Apart from adopting a different lifestyle, parting pain from immediate family, lack of government support, unemployment, etc. are some issues migrants might face. 

Even though immigration is not all beds of roses, there are a lot of reasons people try to escape their native lands, which can be divided into push and pull factors. We also know push factors as driving factors where the people wish to leave their motherland, and the pull factor stands for the reason the individuals want to settle in a new area. These factors can be social, economic, political , and environmental .

Immigration to the USA and Canada

The USA is a land the immigrants built and flourish that. But today the USA is facing immigration pressure as there is an influx of working immigrants’ waves from the poor regions, even though they already have a massive group of skilled migrants and asylees. Ever since 11th September, American immigration laws have become more robust.

America is also deciding to build a wall to stop the influx of migrants from their poor neighbouring regions, especially to the south of their area. Most of the immigrants come to the USA for survival, especially those who are migrating from Mexico because of their country’s poverty. 

Compared to the USA, Canada also has been mostly shaped by immigrants into society and culture. With a small population and vast areas unoccupied, they fuelled their immigration policies with the need for the expansion, with immigrants encouraging them to settle in the rural areas of the land.

The country also provides language training to immigrants and access to the country’s health care and social welfare programs. Admission of highly skilled immigrants from less developed countries is creating an issue for Canada as the country from which the migrants are coming complain that Canada is poaching their talented people for their own benefit and their countries cannot afford the loss. There are two types of entry one is temporary, and the other one is permanent.

The short acts like a tourist visa so you can visit the country as a tourist or visit relatives or take admission as a student. The permanent entry is the path taken by a migrant based on their desire to settle in Canada-based on their qualification, work experience, and knowledge.

Illegal Immigration

Migrating, by violating the immigration laws of the host country, is known as illegal immigration. It has a socio-economic effect on the country. The illicit migrants might be a risk of facing deportation or any other sanction.

But an individual might resort to such a process if he is trying to escape civil war or oppression in the country of origin. Families also work this process so they can provide their children with a better life to succeed.

Pros and Cons of Immigration

Because of the modern globalisation and merging the entire world into a single economic space, people are free to transfer for employment or business to any country. Immigration will become a familiar and massive spread phenomenon.

  • One of the principal reasons for immigration is to better the quality of life by engaging favourable employment and earning opportunities, social security, and less crime environment .
  • The migrant’s a unique challenge, which makes them more independent as they live alone.
  • They save so they can meet the new living standards. It also makes them take up new professional commitments, making them skill full and more experience.
  • As they travel through the new land, they study and learn more about the new culture. They get to learn and understand the language and overcome the barrier. 
  • A completely additional aspect of life opens with the latest knowledge they gain by understanding the history of the country.
  • But there are only a few countries hospitable to migrants, as most of them subject to racial discrimination or intolerance to the new culture.
  • Initially, when the individual immigrates to an unfamiliar country, they face a language barrier to understand the underlying social etiquette of the new country like the traffic sign meaning.
  • Because of the process of immigration, unknown diseases to disperse into the host country. For example, the devastation of the northern tribal population of North America is highly documented.
  • When migrants come to a developed country from a developing world, they will do jobs at lower wages compared to the local non-immigrant. If it is a lot of individuals ready to work with low wages, it causes wage disparity with local people, which might affect job growth.
  • The labour laws of the host countries have not caught up with the modern practice of immigration. Even if the people have legally entered the country, it is easy for local people to inform the local police of them as a possible illegal immigrant. Refusing to pay the owed wages, filing false charges, and even physical abuse are some common issues a migrant faces.

Apart from the advantages and disadvantages of the migrants, the immigration process has its own benefits and drawbacks for both the countries, one who is hosting the people and the one which is losing the people. I hope you liked this informative post Essay on immigration.

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immigration life essay

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U.S. Immigration Timeline

By: History.com Editors

Updated: August 23, 2022 | Original: December 21, 2018

HISTORY: U.S. Immigration Timeline

The United States has long been considered a nation of immigrants, but attitudes toward new immigrants by those who came before have vacillated over the years between welcoming and exclusionary. Thousands of years before Europeans began crossing the vast Atlantic by ship and settling en masse, the first immigrants arrived in North America from Asia. They were Native American ancestors who crossed a narrow spit of land connecting Asia to North America at least 20,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age .

By the early 1600s, communities of European immigrants dotted the Eastern seaboard, including the Spanish in Florida, the British in New England and Virginia, the Dutch in New York, and the Swedes in Delaware. Some, including the Pilgrims and Puritans, came for religious freedom. Many sought greater economic opportunities. Still others, including hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans, arrived in America against their will.

Below are the events that have shaped the turbulent history of immigration in the United States since its birth.

White People of 'Good Character' Granted Citizenship

January 1776: Thomas Paine publishes a pamphlet, “ Common Sense ,” that argues for American independence. Most colonists consider themselves Britons, but Paine makes the case for a new American. “Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe,” he writes.

March 1790: Congress passes the first law about who should be granted U.S. citizenship. The Naturalization Act of 1790 allows any free white person of “good character,” who has been living in the United States for two years or longer, to apply for citizenship. Without citizenship, nonwhite residents are denied basic constitutional protections, including the right to vote, own property, or testify in court.

August 1790: The first U.S. census takes place. The English are the largest ethnic group among the 3.9 million people counted, though nearly one in five Americans are of African heritage.

Irish Immigrant Wave

1815: Peace is re-established between the United States and Britain after the War of 1812 . Immigration from Western Europe turns from a trickle into a gush, which causes a shift in the demographics of the United States. This first major wave of immigration lasts until the Civil War .

Between 1820 and 1860, the Irish —many of them Catholic—account for an estimated one-third of all immigrants to the United States. Some 5 million German immigrants also come to the United States, many of them making their way to the Midwest to buy farms or settle in cities including Milwaukee, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

1819: Many of newcomers arrive sick or dying from their long journey across the Atlantic in cramped conditions. The immigrants overwhelm major port cities, including New York City , Boston , Philadelphia and Charleston. In response, the United States passes the Steerage Act of 1819 requiring better conditions on ships arriving to the country. The Act also calls for ship captains to submit demographic information on passengers, creating the first federal records on the ethnic composition of immigrants to the United States.

1849: America’s first anti-immigrant political party, the Know-Nothing Party forms, as a backlash to the increasing number of German and Irish immigrants settling in the United States.

1875: Following the Civil War, some states passed their own immigration laws. In 1875 the Supreme Court declares that it’s the responsibility of the federal government to make and enforce immigration laws.

Chinese Exclusion Act 

1880: As America begins a rapid period of industrialization and urbanization, a second immigration boom begins. Between 1880 and 1920, more than 20 million immigrants arrive. The majority are from Southern, Eastern and Central Europe, including 4 million Italians and 2 million Jews . Many of them settle in major U.S. cities and work in factories.

1882: The Chinese Exclusion Act passes, which bars Chinese immigrants from entering the United States. Beginning in the 1850s, a steady flow of Chinese workers had immigrated to America.

They worked in the gold mines,and garment factories, built railroads and took agricultural jobs. Anti-Chinese sentiment grew as Chinese laborers became successful in America. Although Chinese immigrants make up only 0.002 percent of the United States population, white workers blame them for low wages.

The 1882 Act is the first in American history to place broad restrictions on certain immigrant groups.

1891: The Immigration Act of 1891 further excludes who can enter the United States, barring the immigration of polygamists, people convicted of certain crimes, and the sick or diseased. The Act also created a federal office of immigration to coordinate immigration enforcement and a corps of immigration inspectors stationed at principle ports of entry.

Ellis Island Opens

January 1892 : Ellis Island , the United States’ first immigration station, opens in New York Harbor. The first immigrant processed is Annie Moore, a teenager from County Cork in Ireland. More than 12 million immigrants would enter the United States through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954.

1907 : U.S. immigration peaks, with 1.3 million people entering the country through Ellis Island alone.

Photos: Immigration at Ellis Island

Ellis Island Immigration

February 1907: Amid prejudices in California that an influx of Japanese workers would cost white workers farming jobs and depress wages, the United States and Japan sign the Gentlemen’s Agreement. Japan agrees to limit Japanese emigration to the United States to certain categories of business and professional men. In return, President Theodore Roosevelt urges San Francisco to end the segregation of Japanese students from white students in San Francisco schools.

1910: An estimated three-quarters of New York City’s population consists of new immigrants and first-generation Americans.

New Restrictions at Start of WWI

1917: Xenophobia reaches new highs on the eve of American involvement in World War I . The Immigration Act of 1917 establishes a literacy requirement for immigrants entering the country and halts immigration from most Asian countries.

May 1924: The Immigration Act of 1924 limits the number of immigrants allowed into the United States yearly through nationality quotas. Under the new quota system, the United States issues immigration visas to 2 percent of the total number of people of each nationality in the United States at the 1890 census. The law favors immigration from Northern and Western European countries. Just three countries, Great Britain, Ireland and Germany account for 70 percent of all available visas. Immigration from Southern, Central and Eastern Europe was limited. The Act completely excludes immigrants from Asia, aside from the Philippines, at the time an American colony.

immigration life essay

1924 : In the wake of the numerical limits established by the 1924 law, illegal immigration to the United States increases. The U.S. Border Patrol is established to crack down on illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican and Canadian borders into the United States. Many of these early border crossers were Chinese and other Asian immigrants, who had been barred from entering legally.

Mexicans Fill Labor Shortages During WWII

1942: Labor shortages during World War II prompt the United States and Mexico to form the Bracero Program , which allows Mexican agricultural workers to enter the United States temporarily. The program lasts until 1964.

1948: The United States passes the nation’s first refugee and resettlement law to deal with the influx of Europeans seeking permanent residence in the United States after World War II.

1952: The McCarran-Walter Act formally ends the exclusion of Asian immigrants to the United States.

1956-1957 : The United States admits roughly 38,000 immigrants from Hungary after a failed uprising against the Soviet Union . They were among the first Cold War refugees. The United States would admit over 3 million refugees during the Cold War.

1960-1962 : Roughly 14,000 unaccompanied children flee Fidel Castro ’s Cuba and come to the United States as part of a secret, anti-Communism program called Operation Peter Pan.

Quota System Ends

1965: The Immigration and Nationality Act overhauls the American immigration system. The Act ends the national origin quotas enacted in the 1920s which favored some racial and ethnic groups over others.

The quota system is replaced with a seven-category preference system emphasizing family reunification and skilled immigrants. Upon signing the new bill, President Lyndon B. Johnson , called the old immigration system “un-American,” and said the new bill would correct a “cruel and enduring wrong in the conduct of the American Nation.”

Over the next five years, immigration from war-torn regions of Asia, including Vietnam and Cambodia , would more than quadruple. Family reunification became a driving force in U.S. immigration.

April-October 1980 : During the Mariel boatlift , roughly 125,000 Cuban refugees make a dangerous sea crossing in overcrowded boats to arrive on the Florida shore seeking political asylum.

Amnesty to Undocumented Immigrants

1986: President Ronald Reagan signs into law the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which grants amnesty to more than 3 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.

2001 : U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) propose the first Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would provide a pathway to legal status for Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents as children. The bill—and subsequent iterations of it—don’t pass.

2012 : President Barack Obama signs Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which temporarily shields some Dreamers from deportation, but doesn’t provide a path to citizenship.

2017: President Donald Trump issues two executive orders aimed at curtailing travel and immigration from six majority Muslim countries (Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia) as well as North Korea and Venezuela. Both of these so-called Muslim travel bans are challenged in state and federal courts.

2018: In April 2018, the travel restrictions on Chad are lifted. In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court uphold a third version of the travel ban on the remaining seven countries.

Immigration Timeline, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation . LBJ on Immigration, LBJ Presidential Library . The Nation's Immigration Laws, 1920 to Today, Pew Research Center . 1986: Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, Library of Congress .

immigration life essay

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Guest Essay

How the SAT Changed My Life

An illustration of a man lying underneath a giant SAT prep book. The book makes a tent over him. He is smiling.

By Emi Nietfeld

Ms. Nietfeld is the author of the memoir “Acceptance.”

This month, the University of Texas, Austin, joined the wave of selective schools reversing Covid-era test-optional admissions policies, once again requiring applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores.

Many colleges have embraced the test-optional rule under the assumption that it bolsters equity and diversity, since higher scores are correlated with privilege. But it turns out that these policies harmed the teenagers they were supposed to help. Many low-income and minority applicants withheld scores that could have gotten them in, wrongly assuming that their scores were too low, according to an analysis by Dartmouth. More top universities are sure to join the reversal. This is a good thing.

I was one of the disadvantaged youths who are often failed by test-optional policies, striving to get into college while in foster care and homeless. We hear a lot about the efforts of these elite schools to attract diverse student bodies and about debates around the best way to assemble a class. What these conversations overlook is the hope these tests offer students who are in difficult situations.

For many of us, standardized tests provided our one shot to prove our potential, despite the obstacles in our lives or the untidy pasts we had. We found solace in the objectivity of a hard number and a process that — unlike many things in our lives — we could control. I will always feel tenderness toward the Scantron sheets that unlocked higher education and a better life.

Growing up, I fantasized about escaping the chaos of my family for the peace of a grassy quad. Both my parents had mental health issues. My adolescence was its own mess. Over two years I took a dozen psychiatric drugs while attending four different high school programs. At 14, I was sent to a locked facility where my education consisted of work sheets and reading aloud in an on-site classroom. In a life skills class, we learned how to get our G.E.D.s. My college dreams began to seem like delusions.

Then one afternoon a staff member handed me a library copy of “Barron’s Guide to the ACT .” I leafed through the onionskin pages and felt a thunderclap of possibility. I couldn’t go to the bathroom without permission, let alone take Advanced Placement Latin or play water polo or do something else that would impress elite colleges. But I could teach myself the years of math I’d missed while switching schools and improve my life in this one specific way.

After nine months in the institution, I entered foster care. I started my sophomore year at yet another high school, only to have my foster parents shuffle my course load at midyear, when they decided Advanced Placement classes were bad for me. In part because of academic instability like this, only 3 percent to 4 percent of former foster youth get a four-year college degree.

Later I bounced between friends’ sofas and the back seat of my rusty Corolla, using my new-to-me SAT prep book as a pillow. I had no idea when I’d next shower, but I could crack open practice problems and dip into a meditative trance. For those moments, everything was still, the terror of my daily life softened by the fantasy that my efforts might land me in a dorm room of my own, with endless hot water and an extra-long twin bed.

Standardized tests allowed me to look forward, even as every other part of college applications focused on the past. The song and dance of personal statements required me to demonstrate all the obstacles I’d overcome while I was still in the middle of them. When shilling my trauma left me gutted and raw, researching answer elimination strategies was a balm. I could focus on equations and readings, like the scholar I wanted to be, rather than the desperate teenager that I was.

Test-optional policies would have confounded me, but in the 2009-10 admissions cycle, I had to submit my scores; my fellow hopefuls and I were all in this together, slogging through multiple-choice questions until our backs ached and our eyes crossed.

The hope these exams instilled in me wasn’t abstract: It manifested in hundreds of glossy brochures. After I took the PSAT in my junior year, universities that had received my score flooded me with letters urging me to apply. For once, I felt wanted. These marketing materials informed me that the top universities offered generous financial aid that would allow me to attend free. I set my sights higher, despite my guidance counselor’s lack of faith.

When I took the actual SAT, I was ashamed of my score. Had submitting it been optional, I most likely wouldn’t have done it, because I suspected my score was lower than the prep-school applicants I was up against (exactly what Dartmouth found in the analysis that led it to reinstate testing requirements). When you grow up the way I did, it’s difficult to believe that you are ever good enough.

When I got into Harvard, it felt like a miracle splitting my life into a before and after. My exam preparation paid off on campus — it was the only reason I knew geometry or grammar — and it motivated me to tackle new, difficult topics. I majored in computer science, having never written a line of code. Though a career as a software engineer seemed far-fetched, I used my SAT study strategies to prepare for technical interviews (in which you’re given one or more problems to solve) that landed me the stable, lucrative Google job that catapulted me out of financial insecurity.

I’m not the only one who feels affection for these tests. At Harvard, I met other students who saw these exams as the one door they could unlock that opened into a new future. I was lucky that the tests offered me hope all along, that I could cling to the promise that one day I could bubble in a test form and find myself transported into a better life — the one I lead today.

Emi Nietfeld is the author of the memoir “ Acceptance .” Previously, she was a software engineer at Google and Facebook.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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The government's last-minute migration bill has reached the Senate. Here's what's in it.

high courtF1

The federal government has introduced legislation to parliament which would make it easier to deport non-citizens.

The legislation has already passed the House of Representatives with the support of the Coalition, and has now moved to the Senate, where it is expected to pass by tomorrow at the latest.

It appears to be motivated by a case currently before the High Court which could see a cohort of immigration detainees released into the community.

The government has been under sustained pressure since the release of almost 150 people from immigration detention following a separate High Court ruling last year.

But this latest legislation took the Coalition and crossbench by surprise. They were only briefed on the details this morning, and a senior government source downplayed the prospect of new legislation as recently as last week.

That prompted anger from all quarters. The Coalition demanded a short Senate committee hearing, which Labor agreed to. It appears to support the broad principle, but has questions.

But the Greens and other crossbenchers are furious at the rushed process, which Greens senator David Shoebridge called "a sham" and "as transparent as a brick".

The government's bill has two components, one which relates to current immigration detainees, and another which relates to possible future arrivals. Here's what's in it.

Forcing immigration detainees to apply to go to home

The first part of the bill relates to those who are currently in Australia but have exhausted their avenues to stay.

This includes people currently in immigration detention, but also those in the community on bridging visas who have no prospect of moving onto a different visa in order to remain.

Under the proposed legislation, the government could direct these people to comply with orders to help them "voluntarily" leave the country. This might include applying for a passport in their country of origin.

In this way, the government may be able to circumvent countries which do not accept "involuntary" returns, such as Iran.

In the case currently before the court, an Iranian man known by the pseudonym ASF17 is refusing to co-operate with authorities seeking to deport him to Iran, where he argues he will face persecution.

These laws would allow the government to force a person in a similar position to co-operate, provided the Australian government was satisfied it did not owe this person protection obligations.

Non-compliance would result in a mandatory minimum jail term of one year and a maximum of five years.

Following such a sentence, an individual could again be compelled to apply for a passport.

It is not clear how many people this would apply to. There are thousands of people currently in the community on bridging visas with no prospect of remaining, many of whom are slated for resettlement in a third country.

Refusing to process visa applications from certain countries

The second part of the bill would allow the immigration minister to "designate" countries which do not accept involuntary returns of their citizens.

If the minister designated a country, his department could stop processing any visa applications from that country, an effective travel ban.

There would be some exceptions, including for partners and children of Australian permanent residents, and for the resettlement of refugees through established pathways.

The immigration minister would need to consult with the prime minister and foreign minister before making a designation.

Swift passage through parliament

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles introduced his bill to the House at midday, as soon as proceedings began. The government wanted urgent passage of the bill.

The Coalition questioned this, pointing out the government appeared to have been working on the bill since last week but had not alerted the Coalition to its plans. Shadow Immigration spokesperson Dan Tehan called it an "ultra-marathon in incompetence".

But while the Coalition may raise concerns with the bill, it has worked with the government throughout Tuesday to move it towards a swift conclusion.

But the crossbenchers are furious, and the Greens have warned the rushed process could lead to legal issues down the track.

"We know what's going to happen, Labor's going to stuff it up, it will end up in the High Court," Senator Shoebridge said.

"And the Coalition will say the government's incompetent, and there'll be some truth to it, and then we'll have this whole sham process again."

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Author Interviews

A conversation with the author of 'there's always this year'.

NPR's Scott Detrow speaks to Hanif Abdurraqib about the new book There's Always This Year . It's a mix of memoir, essays, and poems, looking at the role basketball played in Abdurraqib's life.


The new book "There's Always This Year" opens with an invitation. Here's a quote - "if you please imagine with me, you are putting your hand into my open palm, and I am resting one free hand atop yours. And I am saying to you that I would like to commiserate here and now about our enemies. We know our enemies by how foolishly they trample upon what we know as affection, how quickly they find another language for what they cannot translate as love." And what follows from that is a lyrical book about basketball but also about geography, luck, fate and many other things, too. It's also about how the career arc of basketball great LeBron James is woven through the life of the book's author, Hanif Abdurraqib, who joins us now. Welcome back to the show.

HANIF ABDURRAQIB: Thank you for having me again, Scott. It's really wonderful to be here.

DETROW: You know, I love this book so much, but I'm not entirely sure how to describe it. It's part memoir, part meditation, part poetry collection, part essay collection. How do you think about this book?

ABDURRAQIB: You know, it's funny. I've been running into that too early on in the process and now - still, when I'm asked to kind of give an elevator pitch. And I think really, if I'm being honest, that feels like an achievement to me because so much of...


ABDURRAQIB: ...My intent with the book was working against a singular aboutness (ph) or positioning the book as something that could be operating against neat description because I think I was trying to tie together multiple ideas, sure, through the single - singular and single lens of basketball. But I kind of wanted to make basketball almost a - just a canvas atop which I was laying a lot of other concerns, be it mortality or place or fatherhood and sonhood (ph) in my case. I think mostly it's a book about mortality. It's a book about the passage of time and attempting to be honest with myself about the realities of time's passing.

DETROW: Yeah, it seems to me like it could also be a book about geography, about being shaped by the place you grew up in and that moment where you choose to stay or leave, or maybe leave and come back. And I was hoping you could read a passage that that deals directly with that for us.

ABDURRAQIB: Of course. Yeah. This is from the third quarter or the third act of the of the book.

(Reading) It bears mentioning that I come from a place people leave. Yes, when LeBron left, the reactions made enough sense to me, I suppose. But there was a part of me that felt entirely unsurprised. People leave this place. There are Midwestern states that are far less discernible on a blank map, sure. Even with an understanding of direction, I am known to mess up the order of the Dakotas. I've been known to point at a great many square-like landscapes while weakly mumbling Nebraska. And so I get it. We don't have it too bad. People at least claim to know that Ohio is shaped like a heart - a jagged heart, a heart with sharp edges, a heart as a weapon. That's why so many people make their way elsewhere.

DETROW: What does Ohio, and specifically, what does Columbus mean to you and who you are?

ABDURRAQIB: I think at this stage in my life, it's the one constant that keeps me tethered to a version of myself that is most recognizable. You know, you don't choose place. Place is something that happens to you. Place is maybe the second choice that is made for you after the choice of who your parents are. But if you have the means and ability, there are those of us who at some point in our lives get to choose a place back. And I think choosing that place back doesn't happen once. I mean, it happens several times. It's like any other relationship. You are choosing to love a place or a person as they are, and then checking in with if you are capable of continuing to love that place or person as they evolve, sometimes as they evolve without you or sometimes as you evolve without them. And so it's a real - a math problem that is always unfolding, someone asking the question of - what have I left behind in my growth, or what has left me behind in a growth that I don't recognize?

So, you know, Columbus doesn't look the way - just from an architectural standpoint - does not look the way it looked when I was young. It doesn't even look the way it looked when I moved back in 2017. And I have to kind of keep asking myself what I can live with. Now that, for me, often means that I turn more inward to the people. And I began to think of the people I love as their own architecture, a much more reliable and much more sturdy architecture than the architecture that is constantly under the siege of gentrification. And that has been grounding for me. It's been grounding for me to say, OK, I can't trust that this building will stay. I can't trust that this basketball court will stay. I can't trust that this mural or any of it will stay. But what I do know is that for now, in a corner of the city or in many corners of the city, there are people who know me in a very specific way, and we have a language that is only ours. And through that language, we render each other as full cities unto ourselves.

DETROW: Yeah. Can you tell me how you thought about basketball more broadly, and LeBron James specifically, weaving in and out of these big questions you're asking? - because in the first - I guess the second and third quarter, really, of the book - and I should say, you organize the book like a basketball game in quarters. You know, you're being really - you're writing these evocative, sad scenes of how, like you said, your life was not unfolding the way you wanted it in a variety of ways. And it's almost like LeBron James is kind of floating through as a specter on the TV screen in the background, keeping you company in a moment where it seems to me like you really needed company. Like, how did you think about your relationship with basketball and the broader moments and the broader thoughts in those moments?

ABDURRAQIB: Oh, man, that's not only such a good question, but that's actually - that's such a good image of LeBron James on the TV in the background because it was that. In a way, it was that in a very plainly material, realistic, literal sense because when I was, say, unhoused - right? - I...

ABDURRAQIB: ...Would kind of - you know, sometimes at night you kind of just wander. You find a place, and you walk through downtown. And I remember very clearly walking through downtown Columbus and just hearing the Cavs games blaring out of open doors to bars or restaurants and things like that, and not having - you know, I couldn't go in there because I had no money to buy anything, and I would eventually get thrown out of those places.

So, you know, I think playing and watching basketball - you know, even though this book is not, like, a heavy, in-depth basketball biography or a basketball memoir, I did spend a lot of time watching old - gosh, so much of the research for this book was me watching clips from the early - mid-2000s of...

ABDURRAQIB: ...LeBron James playing basketball because my headspace while living through that was entirely different. It's like you said, like LeBron was on a screen in the background of a life that was unsatisfying to me. So they were almost, like, being watched through static. And now when I watch them, the static clears, and they're a little bit more pleasureful (ph). And that was really joyful.

DETROW: LeBron James, of course, left the Cavs for a while. He took his talents to South Beach, went to the Miami Heat. You write - and I was a little surprised - that you have a really special place in your heart for, as you call them, the LeBronless (ph) years and the way that you...


DETROW: ...Interacted with the team. What do you think that says? And why do you think you felt that way and feel that way about the LeBronless Cavs?

ABDURRAQIB: I - you know, I'm trying to think of a softer word than awful. But you know what? They were awful.

DETROW: (Laughter).

ABDURRAQIB: I mean they were (laughter) - but that did not stop them from playing this kind of strange level of hard, at times, because I think it hit a point, particularly in the late season, where it was clear they were giving in and tanking. But some of those guys were, like, old professionals. There's, like, an older Baron Davis on that team. You know, some of these guys, like, did not want to be embarrassed. And...

ABDURRAQIB: ...That, to me, was miraculous to watch where - because they're still professionals. They're still NBA players. And to know that these guys were playing on a team that just could not win games - they just didn't have the talent - but they individually did not want to - at least did not want to give up the appearance that they weren't fighting, there's something beautiful and romantic about that to me.

DETROW: It makes a lot of sense why you end the book around 2016 when the Cavs triumph and bring the championship to Cleveland. But when it comes to the passage of time - and I'll say I'm the exact same age as you, and we're both about the same age as LeBron. When it comes to the passage of time, how do you present-day feel about LeBron James watching the graying LeBron James who's paying so much attention to his lower back? - because I don't have anywhere near the intense relationship with him that you do. But, I mean, I remember reading that Sports Illustrated when it came out. I remember watching him in high school on ESPN, and I feel like going on this - my entire adult life journey with him. And I feel like weirdly protective of LeBron James now, right? Like, you be careful with him.


DETROW: And I'm wondering how you think about him today and what that leads your brain to, given this long, long, long relationship you have with him.

ABDURRAQIB: I find myself mostly anxious now about LeBron James, even though he is still - I think he's still playing at a high level. I mean, I - you know, I think that's not a controversial statement. But I - while he is still playing at a high level, I do - I'm like everyone else. So I'm kind of aware that it does seem like parts of him - or at least he's paying a bit more attention to the aches that just come with aging, right?

ABDURRAQIB: I have great empathy and sympathy for an athlete who's dedicated their life to a sport, who is maybe even aware that their skills are not what they once were, but still are playing because that's just what they've done. And they are...

ABDURRAQIB: ...In some cases, maybe still in pursuit of one more ring or one more legacy-building exploit that they can attach to their career before moving on to whatever is next. And so I don't know. And I don't think LeBron is at risk of a sharp and brutal decline, but I do worry a bit about him playing past his prime, only because I've never seen him be anything but miraculous on the court. And to witness that, I think, would be devastating in some ways.

And selfishly, I think it would signal some things to me personally about the limits of my own miracle making, not as a basketball player, of course, but as - you know, because a big conceit of the book is LeBron and I are similar in age, and we have - you know, around the same age and all this. And I think a deep flaw is that I've perhaps attached a part of his kind of miraculous playing beyond what people thought to my own idea about what miracle is as you age.

And so, you know, to be witness to a decline, a sharp decline would be fascinating and strange and a bit disorienting. But I hope it doesn't get there. You know, I hope - I would like to see him get one more ring. I don't know when it's going to come or how it's going to come, but I would like to see him get one more. I really would. My dream, selfishly, is that it happens again in Cleveland. He'll come back here and team up with, you know, some good young players and get one more ring for Cleveland because I think Cavs fans, you know, deserve that to the degree that anyone deserves anything in sports. That would be a great storybook ending.

DETROW: The last thing I want to ask about are these vignettes and poems that dot the book in praise of legendary Ohio aviators. Can you tell me what you were trying to do there? And then I'd love to end with you reading a few of them for me.

ABDURRAQIB: Yeah. I'm so glad you asked about that. I haven't gotten to talk about that as much, and that - those were the first things I wrote for the book. I wrote 30 of them...

DETROW: Really?

ABDURRAQIB: ...I think. And of course, they all didn't make it. But that was kind of an exercise, like a brain exercise. And I was trying to play with this idea of starting out with folks who were literally aviators. So it begins with John Glenn and Lonnie Carmen, and then working further and further away from aviation in a literal sense, much like the book is working further and further away from, say, basketball in this concrete sense - because ascension in my mind isn't just moving upward, it is expansion, too. It is, I think, any directional movement away from where your position is. And so I got to be kind of flexible with ideas of ascent and growth and moving upward.

DETROW: And the last aviator you did this for was you. And I'm hoping you can read what you wrote about yourself to end this.

ABDURRAQIB: Oh, gosh. OK, yeah. This is Hanif Abdurraqib, Columbus, Ohio, 1983 to present. (Reading) Never dies in his dreams. In his dreams, he is infinite, has wings, feathers that block the sun. And yet in the real living world, the kid has seen every apocalypse before it arrives, has been the architect of a few bad ones. Still wants to be alive most days. Been resurrected so many damn times, no one is surprised by the magic trick anymore.

DETROW: That's Hanif Abdurraqib, author of the new book "There's Always This Year: On Basketball And Ascension." Thank you so much.

ABDURRAQIB: Thank you, Scott. I really appreciate it.


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immigration life essay

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Gaza's children: trapped in a cycle of suffering, this is a summary of what was said by unicef spokesperson james elder – to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the palais des nations in geneva.

Gaza Strip. A family cook a meal outside near piles of rubble from destroyed buildings.

GAZA, 26 March 2024 –  “Today I would like to speak about two major issues that people here in Gaza say are central to their survival. The safety of those in Rafah, and aid delivery.

“Today Rafah is unrecognizable because of the congestion, and tents on street corners and sandy plots. People sleep in the streets, in public buildings, in any other available empty space. The global standards for humanitarian emergencies say there should be a maximum of 20 people using one toilet. In Rafah, there is approximately one toilet for every 850 people. For showers, it’s four times that number - one shower for every 3600 people. This is a hellish disregard for basic human needs and dignity.

“Those same standards say people need 15 litres of water each, daily, and an absolute minimum of three litres just to survive. When I was here in November, families and children in the Gaza Strip were relying on three litres or less of water per person per day. Today, on average, households surveyed had access to less than one litre of safe water per person per day.

“Neighbouring Khan Yunis is also unrecognizable, though for a different reason – it barely exists anymore. In my 20 years with the United Nations, I have never seen such devastation. Just chaos and ruin, with rubble and debris scattered in every single direction. Utter annihilation.

"Moving around those streets, I was overwhelmed by loss.

“Which takes us back to Rafah. And the endless talk of a large-scale military operation in Rafah. Rafah is a city of children. 600,000 girls and boys there. A military offensive in Rafah? “Offensive” is the right word. Rafah - home to some of Gaza’s last remaining hospitals, shelters, markets and water systems.

“And then there is the north. Yesterday I was again in Jabalia. Tens of thousands of people crowd the streets, placing their hands to their mouths - that universal sign for hunger.

“When I came into the Gaza Strip a week ago, there were hundreds of trucks with lifesaving humanitarian aid, waiting to get to people in urgent need, but on the wrong side of the border. Hundreds of UN/INGO trucks are currently backlogged waiting to enter Gaza.

“Remembering, last week’s Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) noted famine is imminent in northern Gaza. Gaza now has the largest percentage of a population, anywhere, to receive its most severe rating since the body began reporting in 2004.

“Before this war, child wasting in the Gaza Strip was rare with less than one per cent of children under 5 years of age acutely malnourished. Today one in three children under 2 years are acutely malnourished. Clearly, the north needs massive amounts of food and nutrition treatments, urgently. But let’s be clear – our efforts to provide that aid are being hampered.

“There is an existing old crossing point, Erez, that could be used that is 10 minutes from those facing famine. 10 minutes. Open that and we could turn this humanitarian crisis in the north around in a matter of days. But it remains closed.

“Between 1 - 22 March, one-quarter of 40 humanitarian aid missions to northern Gaza were denied. UNRWA is now blocked from delivering food to the north, and yet 50% of food going to the north was delivered by UNRWA.

“Let’s be clear: Lifesaving aid is being obstructed. Lives are being lost. Dignity is being denied.

“The deprivation, the forced desperation, means despair pervades the population. And people's nerves are shattered amid unrelenting attacks.

“People often ask if there is still hope. Everything is at extremes here, and that question is no different. On one hand, a mother will tell me that she’s lost loved ones, her home and her ability to regularly feed her children; all she has left is hope. Then yesterday, UNICEF sat with adolescents, several of whom said, they were so desperate for their nightmare to end, that they hoped to be killed.

“The unspeakable is regularly said in Gaza. From teenage girls hoping they are killed; to being told a child is the last survivor from their entire family. Such horror is no longer unique here.

“Amid it all, so many brave, generous and tireless Palestinians continue to support one another. And sister UN agencies and UNICEF continue. For UNICEF, we persist for every child. Water, protection, nutrition, and shelter. UNICEF is here.

“As we heard yesterday: the ceasefire must be substantive, not symbolic. The hostages must go home. The people of Gaza must be allowed to live.

“In the three months between my visits, every horrific number rose dramatically. Gaza has shattered humanity's records for its darkest chapters. Humanity must now urgently write a different chapter.”

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Gaza Strip. A boy walks over the rubble of his destroyed home in Gaza City.

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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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More to explore.

9 years into the conflict in Yemen, millions of children are malnourished and stunted

Armed violence deepening malnutrition crisis for children in Haiti

Explosion injures four children in Minova, UNICEF fears massive rise in displacement in eastern DR Congo will expose children to increased violence

Acute malnutrition has doubled in one month in the north of gaza strip: unicef.

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How Immigration Changed America

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Published: Sep 12, 2023

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The early waves of immigration, the melting pot and cultural fusion, economic growth and innovation, demographic changes and diversity, social and political changes.

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