America’s role as a refuge for the world’s downtrodden and politically persecuted has become part of a coalescing sense of patriotism and American identity. However, immigration is also a complex, controversial issue, and immigration policy and public opinion on the issue were deeply influenced by racism, xenophobia, and fear. For as much as many Americans embraced the nation’s role as a home for political asylees and took patriotic pride in the nation’s cultural diversity, immigrants have also been consistently targeted and maligned as potentially dangerous, economically detrimental, and culturally destructive. With each generation, there have been some who favor isolationism, retaining America’s economic and social bounty for those born in the nation, rather than spreading the benefits of American citizenship among new generations of immigrants. Reconciling the nation’s ideological role with the financial and social burden of immigration is the underlying challenge behind the immigration debate, and it is a struggle that has been part of the nation’s history since the beginning.