When hundreds of thousands of immigrants began arriving at New York Harbor at the turn of the 20th century, they were greeted by the Statue of Liberty and her proclamation: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Those immigrants profoundly influenced the history, culture, and conventions of our nation, as do today’s immigrants, who come here in search of their American dream. And while there is compelling evidence to suggest that the success of immigrants translates into greater prosperity for our nation as a whole, the United States now lags behind several other countries as a desirable immigration destination, per a new study.
Entitled, “The Best Countries to Be an Immigrant,” the study was released last month by U.S. News and World Report, a media company that publishes consumer advice, rankings, and analyses. It determined that the United States was the 7th most desirable country to immigrate to, behind Norway, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, and Sweden. To arrive at the results, the study used data collected from more than 21,000 participants from all over the world that assessed how they viewed 80 countries. The participants were asked to rate the countries in four areas – economic stability, quality of job market, income equality, and overall quality of life. The countries were also scored relative to each other on the percentage of immigrants in their population, the amount of money their immigrants sent back home to family in their native country (known as remittances), and the amount of integration services offered to immigrants in the form of language training and job placement. [See The Best Countries to Be an Immigrant, by Deidre McPhillips, U.S. News and World Report, 10.Jul.2017.]
The results of the study come at a time when immigration has been under attack in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. President Trump made the construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico a key component of his campaign, and is now under pressure from his diehard supporters to turn the promise of a wall into reality. He has also supported the recent introduction of a bill into Congress that potentially could dramatically reduce the number of immigrants legally admitted into the United States over the next decade.
Increased animosity towards immigration belies multiple studies that show that immigrants tend to have a positive overall effect on economies, including a recent report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, a collation of private, nonprofit institutions providing expert advice on global issues. The report, entitled, “The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration,” concluded that the long-term economic benefits of immigration typically outweigh the costs. But no amount of data, studies, and reports can change deeply ingrained fear and hostility towards immigrants, no matter how unfounded those attitudes may be. Immigration, and the myriad amount of benefits that come with it, may face an uncertain future until perceptions about it evolve.