Immigration to the United States

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Immigration to the United States has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the history of the United States. The economic, social, and political aspects of immigration have caused controversy regarding ethnicity, economic benefits, jobs for non-immigrants, settlement patterns, impact on upward social mobility, crime, and voting behavior. As of 2006, the United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined.[1] Since the liberalization of immigration policy in 1965,[2] the number of first- generation immigrants living in the United States has quadrupled,[3] from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 38 million in 2007.[4] 1,046,539 persons were naturalized as U.S. citizens in 2008. The leading emigrating countries to the United States were Mexico, India, and the Philippines.[5]

While an influx of new residents from different cultures presents some challenges, "the United States has always been energized by its immigrant populations," said President Bill Clinton in 1998. "America has constantly drawn strength and spirit from wave after wave of immigrants [...] They have proved to be the most restless, the most adventurous, the most innovative, the most industrious of people."[6] Cheap airline travel post-1960 facilitated travel to the United States, but migration remains difficult, expensive, and dangerous for those who cross the United States–Mexico border illegally.[7] Family reunification accounts for approximately two-thirds of legal immigration to the US every year.[8]

Recent debates on immigration have called for increasing enforcement of existing laws with regard to illegal immigrants, building a barrier along some or all of the 2,000-mile (3,200 km) U.S.-Mexico border, or creating a new guest worker program. Through much of 2006, the country and Congress was immersed in a debate about these proposals. As of April 2010, few of these proposals had become law, though a partial border fence was approved.[citation needed]

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