A Few Observations About The Immigration Conversation

How does the US stack up against other countries when it comes to welcoming immigrants? The answer might surprise you.

“The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Today, more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants in 2017. The population of immigrants is also very diverse, with just about every country in the world represented among U.S. immigrants.” (Source Pew, see below) The total number From the center for immigration studies is 46.5 million.

About 77% of all immigrants living in the US have been welcomed here legally.

“Since 1965, when U.S. immigration laws replaced a national quota system, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. has more than quadrupled.”

Here are some of my thoughts:

I think this reality is important for the conversation about immigration, if we can even use the word conversation. it seems to be dominated by those on both fringes that are shouting the loudest. It is important because The US has been more inviting to immigrants than any other country on earth, and to suggest otherwise is to ignore the facts. And it is also important because too often this conversation is used as a political tool with little consideration for real people. I am really thankful that our country has been so inviting to so many people all over the world.

I think these numbers also mean it is reasonable (and necessary) to talk about ways that immigration affects infrastructure, economy, the legal system, etc. It does little good to immigrants (new or old) to live in a broken system.

Think of this, more folks have immigrated to the US in recent decades than the entire population of the state of California. These new people depend on the presence of adequate roads, schools, available housing (California is already estimated to be 3 million homes short by 2025), hospitals, etc. I don’t have all the answers, I actually have far more questions than answers. But I am suspicious of anyone who doesn’t address these kinds of issues in the discussion about immigration. I also have a number of great friends who are not here legally, many brought here as children and they are great, productive, law abiding citizens, exactly the kind of people we want to build our society upon. I want there to be a better pathway for them to stay here legally. But I also know that some criminals try to leverage the system and that is frustrating for all. I don’t want people to be needlessly turned away who are seeking to immigrate, but I also don’t want immigrants exploited by people who will take advantage of them. All of this makes me feel that folks who offer simplistic solutions are out of touch.

Further, the US isn’t the savior of the world. Some voices in the conversation act like the US is the only hope for immigrants and refugees. Not so. I love my country but it is only one of many great places to live in the world.
Please no mean-spiritedness in the discussion.

Source: Key findings about U.S. immigrants | Pew Research Center