The Fourth of July has long been a day when foreigners swear their oath of allegiance to the United States to become citizens. It is an annual reminder that the U.S. has been a nation of immigrants since its founding 241 years ago.
That tradition will continue this holiday period, when nearly 15,000 people will be sworn in as U.S. citizens at dozens of naturalization ceremonies, from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Virginia to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans to the ship deck of the USS Hornet off the coast of California.
What’s changed dramatically over the decades is where those immigrants come from, what roles they play in the U.S., how they’re treated by native citizens and the debate over the millions who have entered the United States illegally over past decades.
Today, immigrants make up 13.5% of the U.S. population — 32 million here legally and an estimated 11 million illegally. The percentage is lower than the massive influx during the late 1800s but far more than the immigration slowdown that followed World War II.
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