The immigration debate -- both contentious and divisive -- is fueled by large-scale misconceptions. To illustrate, a new survey released last week found that Americans hugely overestimate the size of the immigrant population in our country.
TRUTH CHANGES OPINIONS
Yet, when they know the accurate population figures, people have significantly more lenient views towards migrants, reports Time.
The survey was sponsored by the influential think-tank The German Marshall Fund (GMF), a nonpartisan public policy institution.
In America, the average resident believes that 39 percent of the U.S. population was born abroad. However, the true figure is less than 14 percent. It's interesting that when told the correct statistic before they answered a question about acceptable immigration levels, respondents were 20 percent less likely to say there are "too many" immigrants than those who weren't told the accurate figure.
We Americans are also poorly informed about illegal immigration. Of American survey respondents, 58 percent answered that most immigrants did not have legal residency. Wrong again. Illegal immigrants actually comprise less than one-third of the migrant population in the U.S.
(Above is statue of Irish teenager Annie Moore, first passenger through Ellis Island immigration station in 1892)
FEAR OF COMPETITION, CRIME
The findings from the GMF survey show how exasperating immigration can be for policy makers in the U.S., where citizens who are worried about labor-market competition, assimilation and crime are insisting on tougher immigration laws and enforcement, states writer Eben Harrell, Time.
The GMF survey found that 73 percent of American respondents believed their government was doing a poor job managing immigration. (To view a 5-minute highlight video on the immigration study, click here.)
IMMIGRATION IS POLARIZING
Immigration was already a polarizing issue when an Arizona law was signed last year, cracking down on illegal immigration, making the subject even hotter. And, the survey shows 67 percent of American respondents said they would base their vote in part on a political party's immigration stance, 11 percent more than last year.
Who should handle enforcement of immigration laws? Among Democrats, 66 percent think that enforcement should be handled primarily by the federal government. Among Republicans, 53 percent believe state and local authorities should be the primary enforcers.
(Above left is the Monument to Italian-Canadian Immigrants in Toronto, Canada)
LESS MONEY/MORE PREJUDICE
The weak economy has drastically increased anti-immigrant sentiment. A majority says immigrants drive down wages for Americans and 56 percent believe immigrants take away jobs from natives. Who should have access to public schooling? Half of Americans answered that question saying only citizens and legal immigrants should be educated.
Craig Kennedy, GMF's president, called the findings "a wake-up call" for governments. Politico quoted Kennedy:
"The survey shows that North Americans and Europeans have strong opinions about immigration policy, what works and what doesn't. But the survey also shows that the more one is exposed to immigrants, the more one feels positively towards them."
Although there is a positive long-term perspective (59 percent of American respondents said immigrants are integrating well), racial division remains. For example, 78 percent said second-generation HIspanics are integrating well. But, only 62 percent said the same about Muslim immigrants.
There is another new immigration study, a review of the literature on the impacts of immigration from the National Bureau of Economic Research. This review suggests that even a huge influx of immigrants wouldn't really depress wages for the native born.
"The large majority of studies suggest that immigration does not exert significant effects on native labor market outcomes," quotes Reason Magazine.
CLICK AND VIEW MORE PHOTOS OF IMMIGRATION SCULPTURES.
by Sharon McEachern
by Sharon McEachern