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Immigration in America: the Current Understanding Essay

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Updated: May 19th, 2020

Immigration is a highly controversial issue, which attracts varied opinions among different people in the United States. Moreover, immigration is an important topic in the modern American society owing to its interconnectedness with the United States economy and demographic development. More specifically, studies have shown that the number of immigrants will represent almost two-thirds of the United States population by 2050 (Saiz 345). The increase in the number of immigrants in the US has both positive and negative impacts. On one hand, immigrants play a pivotal role in the economy by taking up low-skilled jobs, which are unattractive to many natives (Parrado and Kandel 626).

On the other hand, immigrants provide an unnecessary competition for the decreasing job opportunities for most low-skilled and disadvantaged natives including African Americans and native Hispanics (Parrado and Kandel 628). Moreover, additional studies show that increased immigration exerts negative pressure on limited social and economic resources including healthcare services, housing, and education services among others (Hacker et al. 586).

Accordingly, the negative impacts of immigration, both real and perceived, have seen an increase in stringent immigration policies, which are aimed at cutting the number of immigrants, particularly those with ‘illegal statuses’. Moreover, there has been an increase in negative sentiments toward immigrants from natives (Wells 1308). This essay seeks to review previous studies on the topic of immigration with the aim of highlighting their contributions to the existing body of literature and identifying the need for future research.

Literature Review

In the current literature, it is well established that immigration is a hotly contested topic in different spheres of the American society. More specifically, a recent study by Vallas and colleagues found that there is a general increase in negative sentiments toward immigrants in the United States, particularly in the North and Southeast regions (201-217). Moreover, Vallas and colleagues demonstrated that the group threat theory of immigration was relevant in explaining the observed negative sentiments toward immigrants (208-210).

According to the group threat theory, natives or dominant ethnic groups may respond negatively to newcomers if the former think that their economic or demographic stability is under threat (Vallas et al. 201). Hence, it is possible that most native citizens of the United States dislike immigrants because they consider them as a threat, particularly under the current tough economic conditions.

Further studies have also shown that the increasing negative sentiments toward immigrants continue to shape the modern immigration policies in the United States. In a recent study aimed at examining the major drivers of immigration policy through the US Congress in the period between 1970 and 2006, Facchini and Steinhardt found that most US representatives drawn from regions with more skilled labor tended to support open and less restrictive immigration policies to address shortages of the unskilled workforce (734-743). On the other hand, US representatives from regions with more unskilled labor tended to support more restrictive immigration policies to protect the native workforce against unnecessary competition (Facchini and Steinhardt 738). Generally, the two studies mentioned in the foregoing discussions help readers to understand the general attitudes toward immigrants and the whole issue of immigration in the contemporary American society.

On the contrary, other studies have shown that increased immigration is not really the main cause of the social and economic disadvantages experienced by low-skilled natives such as African Americans and native Hispanics. In a recent study, Parrado and Kandel found that the industrial structure played a major role in determining the availability of jobs to low-skilled natives, particularly through the segregation of labor markets and the creation of increased demand for low-skilled immigrant workers (626-640).

Furthermore, additional research shows that the enactment and implementation of stringent immigration policies has failed to control the number of immigrants entering the United States per annum. More specifically, a recent systematic review by Wells shows that the passage of stringent immigration laws at the national level does not translate into the implementation of such laws at the state and local government levels (1308-1347). This is because of the increased activities of human rights organizations and other interest groups, which are working hard to protect immigrants’ rights regardless of increased pressure from the federal government (Wells 1310).

On the other hand, further studies have shown that most of the current immigration policies could be counterproductive since they undermine the immigrants’ dignity and well-being. In a recent study aimed at examining the impact of immigration and customs enforcement laws on immigrants’ health and wellbeing, Hacker and colleagues found that many immigrants in the United States have been experiencing heightened detention and deportation activities in the last few decades (586-594).

Most of the current law enforcement activities targeting immigrants in the United States are carried out in the most inhumane manner as those who are detained lack access to basic facilities including healthcare services. Moreover, the fear of facing detention or deportation prevents many illegal immigrants from seeking government-offered services including basic healthcare services (Hacker et al. 589). Generally, the three studies reviewed above help readers to understand the on-going efforts to control the inflow of immigrants into the United States.

Gaps in the Existing Literature and Future Research Directions

The studies reviewed in the preceding sections of this essay have managed to shed some light on the importance of the issue of immigration to the contemporary American society. Furthermore, the foregoing discussions have examined the responses of the native United States citizens and the government toward the issue of immigration, and there is consensus that the inflow of immigrants into the United States should be controlled. However, note that none of the studies reviewed above has managed to provide alternative measures to controlling the rate of immigration now that the existing policies and mechanisms have failed to achieve their intended goals and objectives.

Accordingly, future research studies should seek to identify alternative ways of controlling the rate of immigration in the United States as well as examining the efficacy or applicability of such alternatives in lowering the annual inflow of immigrants into the country. From an economic perspective, there is the need for future studies to examine how the United States can increase employment opportunities for native workers to absorb the increasing number of underutilized native workers and embrace the use of technology in specific sectors to cut down on the demand for low-skilled immigrant workers (Rosenblum 1124). These two alternatives should be able to provide researchers with a clear picture on how well the United States can control the influx of immigrants without stepping on their human rights.

Conclusion

The aim of this essay was to examine the current understanding of the issue of immigration in the United States and identify gaps in the existing literature to inform future research directions. From the foregoing discussions, it is evident that there is growing concern among the American public and the government over the increasing rate of immigration. Nonetheless, the existing policies on immigration have failed to provide the much-needed solutions to the increasing number of immigrants in the United States. Accordingly, there is the need for future studies to seek alternatives to the problem of immigration without violating other people’s human rights.

Works Cited

Facchini, Giovanni, and Max, Steinhardt M. “What Drives U.S. Immigration Policy? Evidence from Congressional Roll Call Votes.” Journal of Public Economics 95(2011): 734-743. Print.

Hacker, Karen, Jocelyn Chu, Carolyn Leung, et al. “The Impact of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Immigrant Health: Perceptions of Immigrants in Everett, Massachusetts, USA.” Social Science & Medicine 73(2011): 586-594. Print.

Parrado, Emilio, and Kandel, William. “Industrial Change, Hispanic Immigration, and the Internal Migration of Low-skilled Native Male Workers in the United States, 1995 -2000.” Social Science Research 40(2011): 626-640. Print.

Rosenblum, Marc R. “Alternatives to Migration in the United States: Policy Issues and Economic Impact.” American Behavioral Scientist 56.8(2012): 1101-1122. Print.

Saiz, Albert. “Immigration and Housing Rents in American Cities.” Journal of Urban Economics 61(2007): 345-371. Print.

Vallas, Steven P., Emily Zimmerman, and Shannon, Davis N. “Enemies of the State? Testing three Models of Anti-immigrant Sentiment.” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 27(2009): 201-217. Print.

Wells, Miriam J. “The Grassroots Reconfiguration of U.S. Immigration Policy.” International Migration Review 38.4(2004): 1308-1347. Print.

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