Immigration Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
For thousands of years, millions of people have been trying to build better lives through immigration. Many are trying to escape war or hunger. Without immigration, many of the things we use each day might not exist.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Why do birds migrate?

You might have heard about people in boats trying to cross the sea. These people are called migrants, and they are trying to immigrate to another country to find safety.

When you think about immigration and why people might want to migrate, it can help to think of birds. Birds go south for winter to find warmth and food, and they usually travel as a group for safety. When spring returns and times are better, birds head north for the same reasons.

It's not much different for humans. Usually, migrating humans are trying to find a better life. That could mean escaping war or hunger or trying to find a job.

Humans have been migrating for a long time and will probably continue to do so for as long as there are humans on Earth. Nearly every country and territory has had some type of migration. The people who are migrating are called migrants. You might have heard of this word, too: refugees. Refugees are like migrants, but they're usually trying to escape a war or other very dangerous situation.

Melting Pot or Salad Bowl?

The Statue of Liberty welcomes immigrants to the United States.
The Statue of Liberty

The United States has a long history with immigration. You are probably the descendant of a migrant who came to America. Millions of people from Ireland, Germany, Norway, Poland, Italy, Sweden, Mexico, China and many other countries have migrated to the United States.

The idea was that America would become a 'melting pot.' Think of nacho cheese. Many small pieces of cheese melt together to make awesome nachos. But some people believe America is more like a salad bowl, where everything is tossed together, but still stays separate.

Migrating is not an easy decision. Immigrants have to learn a new language and a whole new lifestyle. But parts of the old life become part of the migrant's new country. Many of the foods and celebrations that we love, like sushi and Cinco de Mayo, came from other countries.

In some countries, people are afraid of immigration. They fear they will lose their jobs or that there won't be enough food or homes for everyone. Other countries, because of their history or beliefs, welcome immigrants. Most countries, however, are somewhere in between.

Migrants usually bring large economic benefits. Often, they do jobs that others don't want, like cutting grass, cleaning homes or taking care of children and old people. Many migrants work very hard and build new businesses. Without them, we might not have Google or YouTube, which were co-founded by immigrants to the U.S., or denim and hot dogs, which were brought to this country by European migrants.

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