About the Author: Elizabeth Schlachter serves as Public Affairs Officer for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
Today, on International Migrants Day, it is difficult to imagine that the United States could have achieved its standing in the world without the cultural diversity and richness that immigration has brought to cities and communities across the country. Throughout our history the United States has benefited from a steady flow of people who have come to our shores seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Whether drawn by economic or educational opportunities -- or refuge from conflict or crisis -- America has welcomed more immigrants than any other country in human history.
Recognizing the benefits from this rich flow of people, talents, and traditions, the U.S. model of immigration encourages people to assimilate into American society but still maintain their cultural distinctions. Our model works because Americans realize that we can only gain from the enormous contributions that immigrants bring to our economy, our cultural diversity, and our vibrancy as a nation. Our wide-spread respect for integration has helped our country to avoid many of the troubling demographic trends faced by other industrialized countries less hospitable to immigrants.
Migration is a constant of the human condition, and people around the world move across international borders now more than ever before. The number of international migrants today exceeds all previous records and represents a larger number of ethnic and cultural groups than at any other time. One in five of the estimated 200 million international migrants resides in the United States, and if the migrant population continues to increase at the current rate, up to 400 million international migrants may exist by 2050. These numbers present an unparalleled opportunity for origin and destination countries to work together so that both may benefit from the economic and social development potential unleashed by migration.
Unfortunately, even positive outcomes can not always mitigate the age-old tensions that migration sometimes provokes. Recognizing this, the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) works through multilateral institutions and bilateral partnerships to promote international migration policies that respect the dignity and human rights of all migrants. International migration policy concerns the array of national practices that apply to the treatment of citizens and non-citizens who cross borders, and constitutes the effort, by the United States and others, to share best practices and develop common principles, approaches and initiatives toward these populations. In PRM we base our efforts on the fundamental principle that we should practice at home what we preach abroad.
International Migrants Day represents an important opportunity for Americans to reaffirm our commitment to tolerance, diversity, and human rights. Please join us in taking a moment to recognize the important contributions that immigrants have made to the United States since the founding of our nation.