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Poll Reflects Confusion Over Immigration

Friday, August 22, 2014

In July, a poll that Ipsos conducted for Thomson Reuters revealed that 63 percent of respondents believe immigrants burden the United States economy, while only 37 percent thought that immigration was beneficial to the U.S. The numbers differed regionally. In New England, for example, 68 percent of respondents said immigrants were detrimental to the economic situation in the U.S. Clearly, the majority response to the poll is based on, at worst, jingoism and fear; or, at best, on a misguided view of immigration in the United States.

The United States is still a young country, founded only a dozen or so generations ago. The irony is that, for most of the population, our American roots go back less than five generations. Most of us are descended from people who – by their own choice or not – immigrated to the Country after the Civil War. In fact, second-generation immigrants comprise one of the fastest growing population segments in the United States. We are a nation of immigrants; and in the U.S., immigration fuels growth. Immigrants help the economy; they don’t stifle it.

The poll doesn’t disclose the specific reasoning behind the negative sentiments of so many respondents – one could surmise that there is a lot of unfounded fear-mongering in the media lately – however government research clearly shows the idea of immigration burdening economic growth is misguided. Studies conducted under both Democratic and Republican administrations are consistent in showing that immigrants are not taking jobs from U.S.-born workers and that they contribute the long-term growth of American productivity. In fact, because their education levels tend to bracket those of most citizens – higher or lower – immigrants’ skill sets actually complement those of U.S. workers. This means that immigration creates jobs or fills vacant positions, where the American workforce otherwise could not.

Over the next 50 years, recent immigrants and their children will likely contribute to most of the population growth in the United States. Increasingly, such immigrants are responsible for job creation at a level greater than that of U.S.-born citizens. Thus, those who fear losing their jobs to immigration, may want to examine more carefully where their jobs came from in the first place.

Immigration is such an integral part of the American fabric – think of the iconic Emma Lazarus poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty – that fearing it seems almost un-American. Instead we should embrace the economic and cultural strength that immigrants mean for the United States.  We all need to remember that, in this country, the line that divides “them” from “us” is frequently a very thin one.

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