In excess of 191 million people worldwide have left their homes, loved ones, friends and colleagues to immigrate to other countries in search of a better life. Thirty eight millions of those have decided to come to the US, like many millions before them.
If ten immigrants were asked their main reason for leaving their country, without exception they would all say “To make a better life for me and my family”. Moving to another country where the customs and cultural norms are totally different is far from easy. However, these people are generally prepared to risk everything, including loneliness which is difficult to overcome and the horrors of racism to face the pressures of finding a job which pay enough for them to establish a home in their new country and send money back home to expectant relatives.
There is little doubt that legal immigration is a contentious political and social issue on which elections have been won and loss. Despite the fact that most people in the US are either immigrants themselves, or have ancestors who immigrated to the US, Americans are highly suspicious of the immigrant, the stranger who speak with a foreign accent, a suspicion that has been heightened by the 9/11 attack on the trade centre in New York.
Many feel that the immigrant has come to steal their jobs, although the majority of those who come from abroad undertake jobs that are poorly paid jobs with long and unsocial hours, which the Americans themselves don’t want. Immigrants mostly compete with Native Americans, African Americans and Asian workers. Research has shown that whilst immigrants don’t actually take away jobs, they can significantly affect wages in that they are often prepared to work for less pay, causing American workers to also accept less wages in an effort to keep their jobs.
Conversely, immigrants in many cases have helped to turnaround dying industries creating new positions for professionals, managers and supervisors, most of whom are usually born Americans. They also help middle-class Americans to maintain their lifestyles by accepting poorly paid jobs in the service industries such as restaurants and hotels workers, construction, maintenance and cleaning industries.
There is the feeling common amongst Americans that immigrants bring with them diseases seeking to take advantage of the medical and social welfare facilities without having made any financial contributions towards the welfare system. This idea has been fiercely disputed using the following rational. New arrivals are mostly young individuals who are generally in good health, able to work and make contributions into the social security system, often long before they themselves are in a position to benefit from it.
Other issues concern population replacement. The American’s population is not being replaced by new births, causing some commentators to argue that if immigration were to be significantly reduced the social security system would over time decline into bankruptcy, because there would not be sufficient working people to contribute into the system to help support a large and growing elderly population in the US.
The political controversy concerning immigration is set to be debated for years to come and those with a vested interest will no doubt use all kinds of statistics to support their particular theories. However, what should be remembered by Americans is that the nation which calls itself America is carved out of many nations from around the world. For the most part, the people who are against immigration are the same people whose direct ancestors arrived in America, also looking for new opportunities and were welcomed with open arms, even in the very beginning, by the people they have now replaced almost completely. There is a place here for saying ‘Live and let live’.