To what extent is immigration part of American identity?

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The USA is the most famous example of a country defined by immigration. It is often referred to as a “melting pot”, a special place where exchanges can take place. But recently anti-immigration feelings seem to have developed. Is American identity still defined by diversity?

I The USA: a land of immigrants

1 The history of immigration to America

The first British and French settlements in North America date back to the beginning of the 17th century. Since then, immigration to America has never stopped.

There were major immigration waves during the colonial era, in the first part of the 19th century and then between the 1880s and the 1920s. These immigrants came from England first and then from other parts of Europe. In 1965, with the abolition of quotas based on nationality, a great number of immigrants arrived from Asia and Latin America, which gradually changed the face of America.


The colonial era isthe period starting with the European colonisation of the Americas in the early 16th century and ending with the 13 colonies’ Declaration of Independence of the USA (July 4, 1776).

2 Immigration today

Today, there are still more than one million immigrants arriving in the USA every year, mostly from India, Mexico, China and Cuba. And this number has been multiplied by four since 1965.


to strengthen: renforcer

to burden: être un fardeau pour

In 2016, there were about 43.7 million immigrants in the country and among them 11.6 million from Mexico, 2.7 million from China. A 2015 immigration report shows Americans’ opinion about immigration: 65% think “immigrants strengthen the country”, 26% say they “burden” it.

More figures on US immigration:

II Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policy

However, the election of Donald Trump as the US president in November 2016 has raised questions about immigration in America.

1 Mexican immigration and the US-Mexico border

Indeed, one of Donald Trump’s recurring theme during his campaign was to stop immigrants and especially Mexicans from getting into the USA. In a speech delivered in June 2015, he said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He has also blamed his southern neighbour many times for not doing more to stop the flow of immigrants into the United States.

To tackle the problem, Donald Trump promised to build a wall along the US-Mexican border to stop illegal immigration. In March 2018, when examining eight wall prototypes in San Diego, the American president showed he was determined to have it built. In October 2018, he decided to deploy more than 5,200 troops to enhance security at the border.

2 Other anti-immigration proposals


DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a program initiated by Barack Obama’s government to protect young immigrants, called “dreamers”, from deportation.

Moreover, in September 2017, Trump announced the end of DACA. In January 2018, he advocated for a merit-based immigration. Then, in October 2018, he proposed the end of the right to American citizenship for the children of non-citizens born in the USA.

Though he meets opposition and may not succeed in implementing all of his proposals, the number of immigrants has decreased since he came to power and some Mexican immigrants are going back to Mexico. We may now be at a turning point regarding immigration and diversity in the USA.