In a poll sponsored by the influential German Marshall Fund of the United States, along with three other foundations, it was found that there is a strong partisan divide over how law enforcement should handle immigration. Democrats and Republicans disagree over whether federal authorities or local officials should be the ones to take the lead on such issues, but those who responded to the poll seemed to have agreed that the “government currently does a poor job of handling immigration issues,” reported Politico. The Transatlantic Trends project, which studies public opinion in Europe and North America, found that the United States had the highest percentage of respondents (67%) who said they would base their vote at least in part on a political party’s immigration stance, a result that has risen 11% from that of the poll conducted last year.
Among those who affiliate themselves with the Democratic Party, 66% think enforcement should be handled by the federal government. Meanwhile, a majority of Republicans (53%) believe state and local authorities should take the lead. Of the eight countries surveyed, the U.S. and Spain tied at 67% for the highest number of citizens who believe immigrants gain more benefits form the government than they pay in taxes. This may be largely contributed by the fact that both countries face a weak economy which has led to the swelling of anti-immigrant sentiment since the start of each respective recession, and- some say- the atmosphere of depression-like unemployment. A narrow majority now claim that immigrants drive down wages for American citizens, and 56% think immigrants take jobs from natives. Similarly, up from 10% in 2009, one-third of those polled now say immigrants drive up crime in this country; while half of Americans think only citizens and legal immigrants should have access to public schooling.
There was a clear correlation between those who said their personal economic situation worsened in 2010 and those who expressed a fear of immigration; serving as a further indicator that people’s concern over their personal economic uncertainty heightens their emotions and suspicions towards foreigners in what may be interpreted as a mistaken attempt to find a scapegoat. Craig Kennedy, the fund’s president, said that the findings were a “wake-up call” for the governments of each country, respectively. “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,” he said in a statement. There’s a positive long-term outlook, with 59% of American respondents saying immigrants are integrating well. But it is obvious that a racial divide exists: While 78% said second-generation Hispanics and Latinos are integrating well, only 62% said the same about Muslim immigrants- a sentiment that may be exacerbated by the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
As a point of reflection, this data supports our belief that the current upsurge in xenophobic attitudes towards immigrants as has been evidenced by anti-immigrant legislation, is to a large degree a natural consequence of the hard times we are experiencing that are tainted with tremendous economic and employment uncertainty. In metropolitan areas like those of New York and Miami, where the convergence of diversity of opinion, labor, and culture has been a key element for the development and prosperity of industry and business- the proliferation of immigrants are notably regarded as a boon for growth during good economic times, while they become the subject of friction during times like these. In other words, the very ingredient that bolsters the regional economy in times of boom, can become a hindrance for the same in bad economic times. This occurrence is due to the fact that when an economy shrinks, the income expenditures of people do too, thus causing employment opportunities to shrink as well. And while a surplus in labor is typical, this does not mean that foreigners are necessarily taking the jobs away from Americans, it just means that the lines of people seeking employment are longer because both natives and foreigners alike are out of work. Yet because there is no such thing as a free lunch, and because the mortgage payments must be met, it is understandable for people to get anxious and start pointing fingers at others. Furthermore, because the government has been mostly unresponsive to the people’s pleas, those who are seen as “different” get the brunt of the blame. Fortunately, there are scores of lawyers and immigration attorneys who dedicate their lives to the protection of those who are maliciously singled out.