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Immigration: A new life in a new nation

By Reneé Rades | NIE Educational Consultant

Hope for a better life, freedom from oppression, freedom of expression, the right to vote and other opportunities are among the many reasons people typically choose to emigrate from their native countries to the United States of America.

Divided by a country

Linda Hernandez shares a tender moment with two of her five children at their Pierson home on Friday June 21, 2002. Hernandez's husband, Jose, middle right in family portrait that Jericha, 3, holds, was recently picked up by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and faces the possibility of being deported back to Mexico. (Photo: News-Journal/PETER BAUER)

When people emigrate, they leave the country of their birth to become citizens of another place. In the United States, most people are either immigrants or descendents of immigrants. (The terms "emigrate" and "immigrate" are easy to keep straight if you remember that the "e" in emigrate is related to the "e" in the word "exit." To emigrate means to leave (exit) a country; to immigrate means to come into a country.) Because of the immigrants of many cultures and backgrounds who have contributed to our nation's development, the U.S. has often been called a "melting pot," and it is very evident locally.

The process of immigrating to the U.S. has changed considerably throughout our country's history. For some, the journey was not by choice. Many African people were brought to the U.S., between the 17th and 19th centuries, to be sold as slaves. That practice continued until the end of the Civil War, in 1865. Other immigrants, especially in the early days of the United States, typically applied for citizenship when they arrived at Ellis Island, a major intake and processing facility for people wishing to immigrate to the U.S. Afterwards, many went on to settle in other parts of the country.

Today, people wishing to immigrate to the U.S. must contact the Department of Homeland Security in order to gain citizenship. Immigrants must apply for naturalization, a process that can take several years to complete depending on the applicant's country of origin. A Daytona Beach News-Journal article tells of the wait time some must endure in order to call America "home."

A person may become a naturalized citizen of the United States if he or she meets the following criteria:

  • has been living in and lawfully admitted to the country.

  • is of good moral character.

  • pledges to uphold the ideas of the Constitution.

  • is able to speak, read and understand the English language.

  • passes a test about United States government and history.

  • takes an oath of allegiance to support the Constitution and obey the laws of the U.S., as well as abandons any loyalties to the home country.

After becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States, many immigrants face the challenges of becoming "Americanized." For some, this means adopting eating habits, clothing styles and social etiquettes of their neighbors. The changes might be welcomed by some and yet resisted by others. For example, language is a hot-button issue in some families, especially if the parents do not speak English fluently but the children are expected to learn and use it in school. Some new citizens take advantage of English classes offered to them to help them get ahead, like one family in DeLeon Springs. For many immigrants, the transition into American life is made easier by using skills they acquired in their homeland. Another Daytona Beach News-Journal article spotlights a trend in foreign-owned businesses.

While people who immigrate to the United States endure many challenges to become citizens, one thing remains the same for all who make the journey: The opportunities that can be found here are well worth the effort.

Explore America's cultural diversity with these newspaper activities:

1. Some immigrants learn that in the United States, people get to choose where they get their information, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. Explore how newspapers in the U.S. differ from those abroad by looking at newspapers from around the world and at home. Collect copies of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, or visit The News-Journal online, then look at international papers online. You can find online international newspapers at (under Noteworthy, click on Links to Int'l Newspapers.). Choose a country you're interested in and make a chart that compares that newspaper with your local one. What kinds of stories are covered? Why do you think the papers are similar or different? Share your findings with your classmates. LA.D.2.3.1, SS.A.4.3.5

Should he stay or go?

Actor Dennis Heaphy, portraying Russian immigrant Boris Krasnikov, answers questions during a re-enactment of an Ellis Island review board by Pathways Elementary School pupils. Three re-enactments last Thursday were part of a school multicultural awareness project. In the re-enactments, three different "immigration review boards" of pupils agreed Krasnikov should be allowed into the country. (Photo: News-Journal/DAVID TUCKER)

2. An editorial is a kind of article that states the writer's opinion on a specific topic. Look for editorials on the Ideas pages of The Daytona Beach News-Journal to use as a template or model as you write your own editorial. In your editorial, write about whether or not you think immigrants should learn English in order to become citizens. Send your editorial to for possible publication online. LA.A.1.3.1 LA.B.1.3.2, LA.B.1.3.3

3. Events from other cultures influence our entertainment tastes today. Search The Daytona Beach News-Journal's Calendar, or find The Oh! Zone online at, for cultural events offered in your community and try to attend one. Afterwards, share your experience with your class or a family member. MU.C.1.2.3

4. Brainstorm with classmates or friends about the ways people from other countries influence our country's culture, society, history and economy. Then use The News-Journal to find articles, photos and advertisements that portray people of different cultures together in positive situations. Display these clippings for others to see. SS.A.6.2.4, SS.A.6.2.5, SS.B.1.2.5

5. As people come to the United States, they bring with them their ways of cooking. Search The News-Journal for recipes that originate in or reflect other cultures. Choose one that looks interesting and use it to calculate how much would be needed to feed your family at home. If possible, prepare the recipe and share with others. SS.B.1.2.5, MA.B.4.3.2

Explore more about the immigration process with these cool Web links!

Explore Ellis Island, home of Lady Liberty, at

U.S. Citizenship Resources: History of Citizenship and Ellis Island.

This student-friendly Website helps kids understand the immigration process.

Could you ace the test that immigrants must take to become naturalized citizens? Try it at

Visit to learn about the cultures of many regions and countries around the world. You'll find articles, pictures, games and more at this site.

Would you eat rice as a part of every meal? Do you like to eat hot and spicy food? People all around the world cook all different kinds of foods.
Check out some exciting recipes at

Try some games played by children around the world. 
Go here:

Published January 12, 2005
Revised September, 2007

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