PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Immigration: Who and Why?

Maybe you and your family love your home, your community, your country. Maybe you can't imagine picking up and moving to somewhere far away and totally different. But people and families move from one country to another for many reasons:

To escape war. When people go to war, innocent families and children get caught in the crossfire, and often the only way to survive is to find a new country to live in. Sometimes this means picking up and walking hundreds of miles across the nearest border, and sometimes it means traveling halfway around the world. People who immigrate to escape war are called refugees because they're seeking a refuge from the conflict.

To escape famine or other natural disasters. War isn't the only thing that creates refugees. Drought (when there's not enough rain for crops) can lead to famine and starvation, disease can spread and become a plague, and earthquakes, floods and hurricanes can devastate whole nations. When these types of catastrophes hit, lots of people have no choice but to find a new place to live.

To escape persecution. Governments are not always fair, and they aren't always just. Often, a certain group of people living in a nation will be singled out for harsh, unfair treatment. They may have certain rights taken away, or be denied freedoms, or even be physically harmed-just because of who they are. Sometimes a government does this directly, and other times the government just looks the other way while another group of citizens does the dirty work. This treatment is called persecution, and people who are persecuted in one nation often move to another, where they believe they can start a new life and be treated as equals.

To find greater freedom. Even when people aren't actively persecuted, they may feel like their home country doesn't offer the same liberties people in other places get to have. As long as people dream of freedom, many will be willing to move to a new country to find it.

To find work. As unfair as it is, the world has always been divided into poor nations and wealthier ones. There are countries that offer plenty of opportunities and jobs, and countries where those things are scarce. This is one of the biggest reasons people become immigrants: they're simply looking for a place where they can work hard, earn money, and support themselves and their families. If people can't earn a living where they are, they'll sometimes move to wherever there are better chances for them to do that.

To join relatives and reunite families. So much of who we are comes from the country we're from. But family bonds are sometimes even stronger, and the pain of having a loved one live far away can be enough to make people start over in a new place. If your sister, your dad, or your child moves overseas, you might want to move too.

For their children. Kids are one of the biggest reasons people uproot themselves and move to another country. Simply put, parents want their children to have a better life than they did.

Okay, now that we know why people immigrate, let's look at how people have gone about immigrating in the Past and Present.

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