syrian refugee

(Photo by Andrew McConnell)

It’s interesting to see how contentious the issue of American immigration has become within a country that has sometimes proudly called itself a nation of immigrants. In the past 50 years, almost 60 million people have left their home countries to settle in the United States. People from other countries now make up 14 percent of the total population.


To put this in perspective, it’s interesting to note that America’s immigrant population exceeds that of any other country, with about 20 percent of all immigrants in the world. Furthermore, immigrants, their children, and their grandchildren accounted for half of the country’s population growth in the last five decades. This trend is only expected to increase in the next 50 years.


How Do Americans Feel About Immigrants?


According to a Pew Research Study that was reported upon in Time, Americans mostly communicate their ambivalence about immigrants. Most of the survey respondents knew very well that their network of friends and family members all descended from immigrants, with the exception of Native American populations. Like previous generations of Americans have done before, the current generations have concerns that the new immigrants are somehow different from the ones that they and their friends descended from.


Without trying to work too hard to read between the lines about what that difference means, it might be safer to simply figure out what Americans believe they like or dislike about immigrants:


  • People in the United States do believe that immigrants from all parts of the world help improve and diversify culture, music, the arts, and of course, the food.
  • However, Americans also voice concerns that immigration may reduce safety and take job opportunities from people who are already here.
  • Just about half of the survey respondents believe that immigration has made society better, but a third believe the immigration system needs a total revamp.


America has always relied upon immigrants for growth and diversity. Has the nature of immigration changed, or is it just the public perception?