Since the founding of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, immigrants have been coming to America. Immigration is usually caused by push and pull factors meaning, certain elements that attract immigrants to the United States, and certain influences, which force them to leave their native country. As a young nation in the early 19th century, the United States was brimming with a bounty of "pull” factors. The most enticing among these pull factors, which to this day still remain as strong incentives, include the magnitude of opportunity, freedoms, and social mobility available in the United States. These elements are prevalent in this country, but often nonexistent in many of the foreign nations from which immigrants came. Some came in search of religious freedom, others came seeking fortune in the land of opportunity, while still others were brought against their will, bound in chains to be slaves.
This continual flow of immigrants provided settlers along the Atlantic coast, pioneers of the unexplored West, builders for the Erie Canal and transcontinental railway, pickers for cotton in the South, vegetables in the Southwest, and laborers for American industrialization. Together, these immigrants have built one of the most complex and diverse nations in the world. Thus, the United States can rightfully be labeled as a "nation of immigrants.”.
The number of legal immigrants has increased dramatically in the last half of the twentieth century. Between 1960 and 1970, 3.3 million immigrants arrived and more than double that amount, 7.3 million, came between 1981 and 1990. During the 1950's, the 600,000 immigrants that came from Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for one in four immigrants. Three decades later, 3.5 million immigrants came to the Americas, accounting for 47 percent of all admissions. .
Today, more than ever the United States is faced with the challenges of social and cultural adaptation of the new groups of immigrants.