The United States is considered a country of immigrants, but a historical tension has existed between new arrivals and the “native” population. Policies regarding immigration have frequently mirrored the nativist fervor that is created in opposition to large influxes of immigrants. The debate about revamping immigration policy, that has been a key issue in Congress in 2006, is not surprising in an historical context. The concern about large numbers, the fear of draining social services, dilution of American culture, loss of American jobs, and the compromising of national security are all concerns that have been voiced recently, and are almost identical to the concerns of earlier generations of Americans regarding previous influxes of immigrants. This essay explores the historical context in which the new debate is set and uses this history to deconstruct the anti-immigration arguments. Finally, the essay proposes, using humanitarian concern and historical roots as a guide, ways in which United States’ policy can be improved concerning immigration.

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