The Land of Opportunity

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This is part two of a two part series entitled, “What Motivates Immigration to the United States from Mexico and Central America”. Read part one.


People from around the world have immigrated to the United States. Sometimes to flee violence, to avoid persecution for how they look, their religion or to be able to provide a living for their families. In 2013, there were approximately 41.3 million immigrants living in the United States. This includes anyone living here with a green card, visa, special immigrant status, or without any legal status. While these immigrants all came to the United States for all varying reasons, something attracted each of them to this diverse country. Whether it’s for safety, family, a better education, or more opportunities, the US has the largest immigrant population in the world, surpassing Russia, Canada, and China. The United States is known globally as the “land of opportunity” because it has work available, a functioning healthcare system, and effective government on the local and federal levels. This is not always present in developing or mature countries, especially far away from the capitals where, as we discussed in part one of this blog, many times elements of organized crime control the areas.

Worsening conditions in countries has inevitably led to many people crossing into the United States without documents. Immigrants fleeing Latin America are especially vulnerable and do not have the time or the money to wait for permission to legally cross the border. Many do not have any way to come to the US legally and will make any sacrifices necessary to keep themselves and their families safe.

However, undocumented immigrants who crossed the border without visas are not the only ones without legal status. Many people arrive in the United States with a student, visitor, or other kind of Visa and simply never leave, despite their visas expiring. This is called “Visa Overstay” and people are considered undocumented as soon as their short-term visas expire. The problem is many people want to come to the United States to live permanently. However, there is not currently a direct way to do that unless an employer sponsors the immigrant, a United States Citizen (USC) sponsors the immigrant, or special cases like asylum or a few others. Obtaining legal status is not as easy as some may think. Options are limited for people wishing to come live in the US or who are already living here without documents. However, being in the United States with documents is what nearly all immigrants ultimately desire. When a path to legal status or citizenship becomes available to them, immigrants seize the opportunity although they know it will be a long and expensive process.   For more on options immigrants have for legal status and the limitations to these paths go here.

Poverty, crime, and hardship exist in many different countries around the world. Some people who were born in the US have trouble understanding what could motivate fleeing one’s own country, and this can cause people to take a defensive stance on the matter. Many people born in the United States feel as if their homeland is being invaded, instead of seeing immigration for what it really is – human beings coming to a great country to pursue a better life that they would otherwise not have access to. Immigrants have been coming to this country since it was established. They have helped build this country, while at the same time sharing their knowledge, ideas, cultures, and skills to further enrich our country. Immigration, with or without documents, has to do with living, breathing people searching for peace, safety, and opportunity. Depriving any human being of these three things would be truly deplorable.