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Cynthia Willis Esqueda

 

 

Immigration and Current Ideological Perspectives

The U. S. immigration story is unique. Unless you are indigenous (e.g., American Indian or Mexican American), you or your ancestors immigrated to the U. S. This leaves the U. S. with more foreign born people than any other country in the world (Connor & Krogstad, 2018). Yet, as of the last census in 2010, the U. S. has not reached the foreign born population percentage that occurred in the peak years of the late 1800s (12.9% versus 14.8%, respectively) (U. S. Census Bureau, 2010), when the ancestors of most European Americans’ entered the U. S. (Portes & Rumbaut, 2014).

 While the majority of people in the U. S. believe immigrants strengthen the country, there are vast differences based on political party. Republican Party supporters hold more negative attitudes about immigrants, compared to Democrat Party supporters (Jones, 2019). As a Republican president, Trump has voiced that:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. (Lee, 2015).

While we may think this quote is singular and a sign of the times, anti-immigrant stereotypes, sentiments, and legal doctrine have been part of the U. S. legacy (Haney, 1996; Mullen, 2001), even in colonial times. For example, in 1753 Benjamin Franklin stated:

Germans who come to Pennsylvania are generally the most ignorant and stupid people of that country. They are not used to liberty and don’t know how to behave in a land that offers freedom. I remember when they did not vote in our elections. But now they come in large numbers and expect to vote on issues they know nothing about. Today they expect legal papers to be written in German. I suppose that in a few years we will have to have interpreters in the colonial assembly so that our lawmakers will understand what they are saying. In short unless they stop coming in large numbers they will outnumber us. Then we will not be able to preserve our own language and may even lose our own government (Franklin, 1753/1993).

Today, those of German ancestry are the most common European American ethnic group in the U. S. (The Economist, 2015).

Berry (2001) noted two approaches for psychological inquiry into immigration – intergroup conflict and acculturative issues. Internationally, there is a growing concern with both issues, and particularly with motivations for ideological opposition to immigrants. Worldwide, immigration destination countries (or receiving countries) are increasingly opposed to newcomers, and anti-immigrant ideologies have increased the popularity of political parties that favor curtailing it (Connor & Krogstad, 2018). This occurrence comes at a time of unprecedented human migration, due in part to staggering poverty, ethnic conflict, and violence and war (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2015; UNHCR, 2015).

Demographic changes have accompanied growing concerns over immigration, in the U. S. (Esses, Dovidio, & Hodson, 2002; Hawley, 2011; Pew Research Center, 2015) and internationally (Ben-Nun Bloom, Arikan, & Lahav, 2015; Miglietta, Gattino, & Esses, 2014; Pereira, Vala, & Costa-Lopes, 2010). Consequently, immigration has become a source of contention (Segovia & Defever, 2010; Weisman, 2016). In the U. S. this contentiousness has focused on Latino immigration (Lilley, 2012), and has resulted in increased hate crimes against Latinos (Lopez, 2018), heightened fear and intimidation (Campbell, Mendoza, & Diestel, 2018), and even murder (Semple, 2008).

One reason for the growing divide over immigration appears to focus on different orientations to patriotism and national identity. Patriotism is linked to anti-immigration attitudes and threat. Patriotism involves both blind patriotism (BP) and constructive patriotism (CP) (Schatz, Staub, & Lavine, 1999). Blind patriots possess a love of country with unwavering positive attitudes and reluctance toward change. While constructive patriots also possess a love of country, they seek to improve the country with positive change. In Australia, higher levels of BP predicted less support for immigration and for immigrant services, when controlling for right-wing authoritarianism (Spry & Hornsey, 2007). CP was not a predictor.

In the U. S., ethnic differences emerge in BP and CP adherence. For example, Latinos score lower on BP and higher on CP, compared to non-Hispanic Whites (Willis-Esqueda, Delgado, & Pedroza, 2016). For Whites, while BP predicts anti-immigration attitudes, realistic and symbolic threats mediate that relationship. However, there is a negative relationship between CP and anti-immigration attitudes, and CP negatively predicts threat, as well.

CP has been shown to shift, based on social context. In a sample of 31 countries, including the U. S., perceptions of globalization (a social identity at the global level) strengthened the negative relationship between CP and xenophobia (Ariely, 2011). However, countries with high globalization scores produced a stronger relationship between nationalism (the belief your country is superior to others) and xenophobia. Thus, threat is a major contributor to anti-immigration ideology (Pratto & Lemieux, 2001).

Yet, the ramifications of immigration for intergroup relations is not all negative. Increasing diversity within the U. S. may produce increased intergroup contact and lowered threat in Whites, if the local economy is strong (Knowles & Tropp, 2018). Moreover, reducing the fear of change is another means to improve the process of absorption of immigrants into the U. S. landscape (Zarate & Quezada, 2012). And, finally, recent international surveys indicate that the majority of people believe immigrants strengthen a country, rather than burden it (Gonzalez-Barrera, & Connor, 2019).

 While negative ideologies have produced opposition to U. S. immigrants and immigration policy, the underlying truth is that the U. S. is beholden to immigration for its population, and this truth is captured by President Lyndon B. Johnson when he stated “The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources—because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples” (Johnson, 1965). Immigration will be a source of psychological inquiry as long as people migrate to enhance their wellbeing and a host society is there to receive them.

 

References

Ben-Nun Bloom, P., Arikan, G., & Lahav, G. (2015). The effect of perceived cultural and material threats on ethnic preferences in immigration attitudes. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38, 1760-1778. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2015.1015581.

Berry, J. W. (2001). A psychology of immigration. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 615-631.

Campbell, B., Mendoza, A., & Diestel, T. (2018, August 22). Rising hate drives Latinos and immigrants into silence. The Center for Public Integrity. Retrieved from https://publicintegrity.org/federal-politics/rising-hate-drives-latinos-and-immigrants-into-silence/.

Esses, V. M., Dovidio, J. F., & Hodson, G. (2002). Public attitudes toward immigration in the United States and Canada in response to the September 11, 2001 “Attack on America.” Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 2, 69–85. doi:10.1111/j.1530-2415.2002.00028.x

Franklin, B. (1993). Modern English of Benjamin Franklin letter to Peter Collinson, May 9, 1753. In J. A. L. Lemay (Ed).  Reappraising Benjamin Franklin: A Bicentennial Perspective, p. 336. Newark: DE: University of Delaware Press.

Gonzalez-Berrara, A., & Connor, P. (2019, March 14). Around the world, more say immigrants are a strength than a burden. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewglobal.org/2019/03/14/around-the-world-more-say-immigrants-are-a-strength-than-a-burden/.

Haney Lopez, I. (1996). White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race. New York. New York University Press.

Johnson, L. B. (1965, October 3). President Lyndon B. Johnson remarks at the signing of the Immigration Bill. Liberty Island, New York. Library of Congress. http://www.lbjlibrary.org/lyndon-baines-johnson/timeline/lbj-on-immigration

Jones, B. (2019, January 31). Majority of Americans continue to say immigrants strengthen the U.S. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/31/majority-of-americans-continue-to-say-immigrants-strengthen-the-u-s/.

Knowles, E. D., & Tropp, L. R. (2018). The racial and economic context of Trump support: Evidence for threat, identity, and contact effects in the 2016 presidential election. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 9, 275-284. doi: 10.1177/1948550618759326.

Lee, M. Y. H. (2015, July 8). Donald Trump’s false comments connecting Mexican immigrants and crime. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/07/08/donald-trumps-false-comments-connecting-mexican-immigrants-and-crime/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.43946d058035.

Lilley, S. (2012, September 12). Poll: 1 out of 3 Americans inaccurately think most Hispanics are undocumented. Retrieved from http://nbclatino.com/2012/09/12/poll-1-out-of-3-americans-think-most-hispanics-are-undocumented/.

Lopez, G. (2018, November 18). FBI: Reported hate crimes increased by 17 percent in 2017. Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/11/13/18091646/fbi-hate-crimes-2017.

Miglietta, A., Gattino, S., & Esses, V. M. (2014). What causes prejudice? How may we solve it? Lay beliefs and their relations with classical and modern prejudice and social dominance orientation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 40, 11-21.

Mullen, B. (2001). Ethnophaulisms for ethnic immigrant groups. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 457-475.

Office of Economic Co-Operation and Development, (2015, September). Is this humanitarian migration crisis different? Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/migration/Is-this-refugee-crisis-different.pdf.

Pereira, C., Vala, J., & Costa-Lopes, R. (2010). From prejudice to discrimination: The legitimizing role of perceived threat in discrimination against immigrants. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 1231-1250. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.718.

Pew Research Center. (2015, September 28). Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S., Driving Population Growth and Change Through 2065: Views of Immigration’s Impact on U.S. Society Mixed. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/09/28/modern-immigration-wave-brings-59-million-to-u-s-driving-population-growth-and-change-through-2065/

Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R. G. (2014). Immigrant America. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Pratto, F., & Lemieux, A. F. (2001).The Psychological Ambiguity of Immigration and Its Implications for Promoting Immigration Policy. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 413-430.

Schatz, R. T., Staub, E., & Lavine, H. (1999). On the varieties of national attachment: Blind versus constructive patriotism. Political Psychology, 20, 151-174.

Segovia, F., & Defever, R. (2010). American public opinion on immigrants and immigration policy. Public Opinion Quarterly, 74(2), 375-394.

Semple, K. (2008, November 13). A killing in a town where Latinos sense hate. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/14/nyregion/14immigrant.html.

The Economist. (2015, February 5). German-Americans: The Silent Majority. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/united-states/2015/02/05/the-silent-minority.

UNHCR. (2015). Women on the Run. Retrieved from https://www.unhcr.org/56fc31864.html.

U. S. Census Bureau. (2010). Foreign-Born Population and Percentage of Total Population, for the United States: 1850 to 2010. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/pdf/cspan_fb_slides.pdf.

Weisman, J. (2016, November 9). Change ahead: Shifts on immigration, climate, health and taxes. The New York Times on-line. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/10/us/politics/donald-trump-taxes-climate-immigration-health-care.html.

Willis-Esqueda, C., Delgado, R. H., & Pedroza, K. (2016). Patriotism and the impact on perceived threat and immigration attitudes. The Journal of Social Psychology, 157, 114-125, https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vsoc20.

Zarate, M. A., & Quezada, S. A. (2012). Future directions in research regarding attitudes toward immigrants. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 12, 160-166.
 

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