Immigration and Citizenship in the United States

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 6
Words: 1417
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: College


This presentation aims to discuss immigration and citizenship and explain why people migrate to the United States. In addition, it discusses various immigration laws that exist in the country. Both the positive and negative impacts of immigration are also highlighted and show why it has remained a contentious subject. Lastly, the presentation discusses sociological views on illegal immigration using the conflict theory and applying three social concepts, such as race and racism, social stratification and race and gender.

Immigration and Citizenship

Immigration is the process through which individuals leave their native countries with the intention of settling permanently in a foreign nation or temporarily taking-up jobs as migrant workers. There are millions of immigrants in the United States, with approximately 10.7 million being undocumented (Schmidt, 2019). Alternatively, citizenship refers to the legal status which grants an individual the right to live in a particular country. It provides an individual with certain privileges, including the right to vote, quality healthcare, and education. This legal status is mainly obtained through birth or naturalization. Nevertheless, citizenship in the United States can also be gained through acquisition and derivation (Schmidt, 2019). This may explain why the country has the highest number of immigrants globally.

Four Reasons Why People Immigrate/Migrate to the United States

There are several reasons why people migrate to the United States. These include the search for better jobs, whereby some have already been offered jobs while others move with the hope of getting better-paying jobs (Schmidt, 2019). Additionally, some immigrants migrate to get a better education for themselves or their children because some learning programs may not be available in their countries of origin. Similarly, some individuals flee to the United States to escape from war, persecution, or conflict in their home countries. Equally important, some immigrants move to the country to be reunited with their family members already living there.

Three United States Immigration Laws

The United States immigration process is based on several policies. One of the most critical laws is the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), enacted in 1952. It permits immigration into the United States based on family reunification and for people with valuable skills to the country’s economy. In addition, the Refugee Act of 1980 allows for the admission of individuals fleeing persecution from their homeland due to membership in certain social groups, religions, or political opinions (Donato & Amuedo-Dorantes, 2020). Similarly, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) passed in 2012 protects individuals who entered the United States as children and have no criminal record against deportation.

Three Positive Impacts of Immigration on the United States

Immigration presents immense benefits to different sectors of the United States. In this case, immigration significantly fuels the country’s economy because asylum seekers solve the issue of worker shortages, thus increasing productivity. Immigrants also fuel innovation and job creation, and most importantly, they form a huge consumer base with high spending power. Another positive impact of immigration is creating a richer and more diverse culture. This is because the immigrants bring in the traditions and practices of their native countries, making the United States a melting point of different cultures. Additionally, immigration offers a better-skilled workforce in critical fields such as healthcare and education, leading to high-quality services.

Three Positive Impacts of Immigration on the United States

On the downside, immigration results in numerous challenges for the country. Firstly, it exerts a lot of pressure on public services. The rise in population puts more stress on social institutions, including schools, public transport, and hospitals, leading to poor service delivery. In addition, immigration may trigger job loss and a fall in wages. The increased supply of low-skilled labor from the immigrants increases competition in the job market resulting in job loss for the existing workers. It may also lower the wages because most employers may begin relying on cheap immigrant labor. Immigration may also create social disharmony because the dominant groups may be less welcoming (Scott, 2012). This may result in conflicts and social problems like racial profiling.

Sociological Views on Illegal Immigration

According to the sociological perspective, a social problem is a condition that many individuals consider undesirable and may want to correct. Illegal immigration falls under this category because it also causes social disruptions. Thus, it is a contentious topic that causes division on whether it is beneficial or detrimental to a nation. A social theory that can help people understand issues about illegal immigration is the conflict theory. It views society as a constant struggle for resources and power between the upper and lower class. Individuals in power use their dominance to exploit vulnerable groups and use their position to maintain social order. In this context, those in power view the subordinate groups as liable for social problems.

When people in power or the government refer to people who cross the country’s border without legal paperwork as illegal immigrants, they are pinning the blame on them for violating border laws. However, businesses and consumers are not held responsible for using migrants’ cheap labor and enjoying the gains of their work, and benefiting from more affordable goods and services. In addition, the main conflict behind this issue today is the belief that the more people migrate into the United States, the higher competition and the fewer economic opportunities and other resources for its citizens. This might explain why migrants are often at risk of experiencing hostile treatment and systemic discrimination perpetuating inequalities. This ranges from race-related policies to imprisonment because they are perceived as a threat to the country

Race and racism is a sociological concept that highlight social disparities fueled by illegal immigration in in the United States. According to a report, blacks and Latinos are more likely to be subjected to police stops, searches and arrests only because of their backgrounds (Wade, 2013). Racial profiling is substantially lower when at least one of the law enforcement officers in question is of the same race as the suspect (Ayres, 2008). Social stratification is another concept manifested through the existence of the upper and lower classes. Since most immigrants are low-skilled and less educated, they are forced to compete for jobs that cost less for corporates to hire. Migrants are willing to work for low wages and in unsafe conditions because they are desperate. This implies they may not be able to afford a decent living and are more likely to live in marginalized neighborhoods.

Sociological Views on Illegal Immigration

Race and gender also help magnify the inequalities between males and females. Women’s experiences within each racial group are not the same as those of men in each grouping. Black or Hispanic immigrant women are more likely to be exploited because they are affected by stereotypes of being poor, uneducated, and people of color than whites. They hold lower-tier jobs characterized by quasi-legal and illegal activities, such as prostitution, drug trafficking, and other jobs that do not meet minimum wage and safety requirements (Kendall, 2015). Therefore, the conflict theory and these social concepts highlight views related to illegal immigration

Three Ways to Improve Legal Immigration

The United States is experiencing serious immigration crises due to the overwhelming influx of immigrants and limited resources to deal with the problem. Nonetheless, several strategies can be implemented to improve legal immigration. In this case, Congress needs to abolish the fixed numerical caps on particular visas and instead adopt a built-in numerical escalator that spontaneously increases the number of visas as the job market rises. Additionally, the visa wait times for employment-based and family-sponsored immigrants should be reduced with an expansion of the employment-based set quota (Lee, 2017). Equally important, more visa categories should be added to the current immigration system. For instance, people may obtain visas to join the military or sports academies in the country.


Although the United States is a safe haven for most illegal migrants, it has created a sharp division. The contention has been on whether their arrival is beneficial or detrimental to the nation. Immigrants often solve worker shortage problems and boost economic activities. Still, on the downside, there are concerns that their influx into the United States depletes public resources and causes unnecessary job competition. Due to the constant struggle for wealth and resources, those in power see these migrants as law violators since they arrive undocumented and overstay without formal status. Such situations encourage labor exploitation because immigrants are also desperate for work. Systemic discrimination adds to their problems because it leads to racism, social stratification, and gender inequalities.


Ayres, I. (2008). Racial profiling in L.A.: The numbers don’t lie. The Los Angeles Times.

Donato, K., & Amuedo-Dorantes, C. (2020). The legal landscape of U.S. immigration: An introduction. RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 6(3), 1.

Kendall, D. (2015). Sociology in our times (11th ed.). Cengage Learning

Lee, R. (2017). Immigrant entry visa categories and their effects on the children of immigrants’ education. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 44(9), 1560-1583. Web.

Schmidt, P. (2019). An overview and critique of us immigration and asylum policies in the Trump era. Journal on Migration and Human Security, 7(3), 92-102.

Scott, M. (2012). Think race and ethnicity. Pearson.

Wade, L. (2013). The failure of racial profiling. The Society Pages.