Our Nation of Immigrants

Immigration is a foundation of America. No other nation has as large an immigrant population as does the United States. With the important exception of those descended from Native peoples and/or enslaved Africans, few people in this country cannot trace at least part of their ancestry to an immigrant—either recently or centuries ago.

But even though we are a nation comprised largely of immigrants and their descendants, immigration remains one of the most fraught social and political issues of modern times. Who can enter this country, who can work here, who can create a family here, and who can become Americans are questions that continue to roil our politics. And yet most Americans would agree on the basic premise that immigration is good and necessary for the continuing vibrancy and growth of America’s economy and society.

In this special five-part series on the Brookings Cafeteria podcast, John Hudak, a senior fellow in Governance Studies, explores the facts and tackles the myths that underpin the current immigration policy debate. He talks with a range of people who share their insights and experiences on the issues—including elected leaders at the national, state, and local levels; immigrants and children of immigrants; policy experts; and advocates for better immigration policy—and discovers significant common ground on which to craft a smarter immigration policy.