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Extra!: Immigration

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(CNN Student News) -- The subject of immigration has been hotly debated since the founding of the United States. Questions about who should be allowed to enter and how they should be treated when they do have generated centuries of immigration legislation. Since Congress took up the issue of immigration reform, demonstrations have erupted around the United States. Use the information in this Extra! to help students examine the issue of immigration.

Categories of immigration

Family-based immigration law allows close relatives of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to join their families in the U.S.

Employment-based immigration law allows people who have skills and talents needed in the U.S. to be admitted to work on a temporary or permanent basis. U.S. employers who demonstrate a need for foreign workers usually sponsor employment-based immigrants.

Humanitarian relief law offers protection within U.S. borders to a certain number of people who are fleeing persecution in their homeland. Refugees and asylum-seekers are included in this category.

Lottery-based immigration law provides approximately 50,000 visas annually to immigrants from countries with relatively few people admitted into the U.S. This is done through a lottery system, and its goal is to help maintain diversity.

Some terms to know

Alien: Any person who is not a citizen or national of the United States.

Asylee: An alien who is found to be unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality; one who seeks the protection in the U.S. because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien's race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Immigrant: A person who has been given legal permanent residency in the U.S.

Legal permanent resident (LPR): Any non-U.S. citizen who is legally and permanently living in the U.S.; also known as "permanent resident alien," "lawful permanent resident," "resident alien permit holder" or "green card holder."

Naturalized citizens: Legal permanent residents who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, have not committed any serious crimes, have paid their taxes and are of "good moral character" can apply to become U.S. citizens through the naturalization process. They must be able to understand, speak and read English and pass an exam on U.S. history and government.

Non-immigrant: Someone who is admitted into the U.S. for a short period of time but is not given permission to live in the U.S. permanently.

Refugee: Any person who is outside his or her country of nationality and who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution.

Undocumented immigrant: An illegal alien.

Visa: A document by which the U.S. government regulates immigration by granting or denying. There are two types of visas: immigrant and non-immigrant. Congress limits the overall number of immigrant visas. Many immigrant visas are also subject to per-country caps.

Legal status of immigrants

According to a recent research report from the Pew Hispanic Center, the March 2005 Current Population Survey estimates that the foreign-born U.S. population totaled 37 million, including 11.5 million naturalized citizens (31 percent), 10.5 million legal permanent residents (28 percent), 2.6 million refugees (7 percent) and 1.3 million temporary legal migrants such as students and temporary workers (3 percent). The rest of the foreign-born population consists of "undocumented immigrants", which account for 11.1 million people, or 30 percent of the foreign-born population.

Sources: U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, Pew Hispanic Center



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