Throughout history, most humans have tended to "stay put," or settle and live in the place where they were born. But there have always been people who move from place to place, usually in search of a new start or better life. Early hunters walked their families over gnarly mountain ranges to follow animal herds, ancient sailors built boats to bring their tribes to faraway islands, and farmers in overcrowded lands went looking for open space and fertile soil on the other side of the globe. When we talk about these long-ago movements of people, we call it migration.
The modern world's a little different, with strict borders between countries. But people still move from one country to another motivated by hopes and dreams, and now we call this immigration.
Fact is, if you live in the United States and are not completely Native American, you or someone in your family is (or was) an immigrant. It's why you have the life you have now, in the place you have it.
Carly, 13, writes: "My great grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Poland in 1916. That's all they spoke, so my grandmother knew Polish. I think it's really cool. I'm proud of where I come from!
"I immigrated here from China when I was 2," says Edison, 12. "I couldn't speak English until I was 7! So I've only been speaking English for 5 years!"
Martha, 12, told us: "My parents are immigrants and I'm proud of them for being brave and hard workers. I hope all immigrants who are having a hard time find chances and help as well as hope."
"About 4 years ago, my family (mother, father, 3 brothers, 1 sister, and me) came from Dublin, Ireland. We LOVE America," says Isabella, 13. "My parents have good jobs, my mom had twin girls, and she is expecting a little boy this June."
Immigration has always been a large part of America's national identity, and now many other countries are also becoming popular destinations for immigrants. In some ways, moving to a new land has never been easier. We have airliners and railways and highways to zip people around with amazing speed. But in many other ways, immigrating is more difficult and more complicated than ever before-not just when it comes to laws and procedures, but also with family and social issues tied to it.
Maybe it was several generations ago that your family immigrated to the U.S., but for many families, this story is unfolding right now. There's probably a tween in your school or community who's dealing with immigration-related struggles at this very moment! Understanding those struggles can help us connect with people and understand our own family history.
IML takes a look at this important and often controversial subject in the following sections. First up: Who and Why?