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The Statue of LibertyExcept for Native Americans, the United States is a nation of people who left their home country looking for a better life (immigrants). For this reason, the United States is sometimes called the "melting pot". As a result, the population of the United States is made up of a mixture of people from different countries, such as Ireland, China, and Mexico. The next time you are in class, look around. Everyone around you is different. Although your classmate may have been born in the United States, at some point, that person's family left their home country and came to the United States. Ask your parents about your family's history. But even though we are all different, we are all Americans.

However, living in the United States doesn't automatically make one an American citizen. Residents of the United States can be aliens, nationals, or citizens.

  • Aliens: Aliens are people who have left (emigrated) a foreign country to the United States. They have some of the same freedoms and legal rights as U.S. citizens, but they cannot vote in elections.
  • National: American nationals are natives of American territorial possessions. They have all the legal protections which citizens have, but they do not have the full political rights of US citizens.
  • Citizens: Persons born in the U.S. or to U.S. citizens in foreign countries are citizens of the United States. Persons born in other countries who want to become citizens must apply for and pass a citizenship test. Those who become citizens in this manner are naturalized citizens.

Citizens of the U.S. enjoy all of the freedoms, protections, and legal rights which the Constitution promises.