In an essay written in Forbes magazine, Paul Maidment discusses how immigrants today and in the early 1900s may not have sought permanent residence in the U.S. We often hear about immigrants coming to the U.S., but we don’t hear much about what happens after they arrive. Do they always establish lives on American soil and stay? Maidment addresses how people immigrate to the U.S. for political or religious reasons, but mostly he claims they seek to make money and support their families. He also talks about how a lot of early immigrants came to the U.S. to make money, and once they had collected their fill, returned to their home countries. Has this trend continued to modern day? Do immigrants view America as a permanent home or just a temporary residence? Are those immigrants that have stayed in America motivated by other reasons–such as religious freedom or democracy?
Maidment also acknowledges, “There is little new in the distrust generated by each incoming wave of immigrants,” suggesting an underlying suspicion with which immigrants are regarded. Yet it seems most Americans in general regard immigrants positively. Are some immigrants treated differently than others, depending on the countries from which they’re from? Could this distrust be contributing to immigrants’ desire to return home? Perhaps some immigrants arrive with the intention to return to their home countries, but certainly others consider the possibility of staying permanently. In a Gallup poll ranking countries on their Potential Net Migration Index (PNMI), or the percentage of immigrants who move out of their country compared to the number who choose to move to that country, America scores a 60%. This means there is a strong desire for immigrants to come the U.S., but it is definitely not the highest. In fact, countries like New Zealand and Australia boast PNMIs over 150%. Perhaps immigrating to America is not all that desirable today as it was in the early 1900s. We must ask the question then, do immigrants seeking the American Dream find it, or are they disappointed by what they find in the U.S. and return home?
The PNMI of the U.S. is 60%, whereas other countries score significantly higher, some even above 150%.
http://www.gallup.com/poll/124193/potential-net-migration-change-developed-nations.aspx (PNMI data)
In thinking about public opinion surrounding the issue of immigration, it appears as though there is not a sense of urgency for immigration reform. While Americans do acknowledge that there are insufficient laws in place regarding immigration, they do not view it as a top priority for Barack Obama to attend to in his second term of presidency. In a poll conducted right after the election by Gallup in November of 2012, Americans were asked the following question: “How important it is that President Obama provides a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the U.S.?” In response, 37% said that this is extremely/very important, 33% said that this is somewhat important, and 29% said that this is not too/not at all important. Thus, it appears as though immigration reform is not a major concern for Americans. In fact, on a list of twelve different issues, immigration reform ranked as number eleven in importance.
On a similar topic, 67% of Americans said that it was extremely/very important that President Obama stop illegal immigration into the U.S., whereas only 14% said that it is not too/not at all important. While this issue still only ranked number eight out of twelve, it was still a higher priority than that regarding immigration reform. Why is it that Americans feel the need to stop illegal immigration altogether rather than finding a path to citizenship for these illegal immigrants? I wonder if it is simply out of fear, laziness, or a combination of the two.
This Gallup poll from 2002 addresses the accepted paradigm of America as a “Melting Pot” and specifically addresses the specific cultures and countries of origin that compose the nation. Gallup asked people on their opinions regarding the immigration of people from Arab, Latin American, Asian, African, and European countries, specifically whether too many people are immigrating from these areas. The results revealed that Americans were more favorable from those immigrating from European countries and least favorable toward those from Arab countries; this particular poll reveals the changing public opinion of Arab immigrants following the 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers, so perhaps this specific shift is not so surprising. In addition, the fact that Americans view European immigrants more favorably relates to an earlier post of mine when in 1904, the prevailing opinion of European immigrants was favorable; this trend has not changed in the last century. What is interesting is the fact that compared to a 1993 survey, Americans in 2002 were more accepting of immigration in general, indicating that the number of people originating from Europe, Africa, and Asia were “about right.”
If a similar poll were conducted today, addressing public opinion based on immigrants’ countries of origin, would there be similar results? Would the results indicate that Americans are more accepting of immigrants, no matter where they come from, or would they show disfavor toward specific countries?
People were asked the question: “Do you think the number of immigrants now entering the U.S. from each of the following areas is too many, too few, or about the right amount – how about immigrants from – [insert countries]”