Immigrants – and groups in which immigrants are a large percentage of the population, such as Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders (APIs) – are a growing portion of the U.S. electorate. In a closely contested presidential race, the growing ranks of “new citizens” – foreign-born individuals who become “naturalized” U.S. citizens – are increasingly important political players.
Comparisons of the mostly “minority” foreign-born and mostly “white” native-born populations that fail to account for the socioeconomic impact of ethnicity incorrectly suggest that place of birth, rather than minority status, is the primary factor explaining disparities between immigrants and natives. However, a more accurate – and fair – comparison of immigrants and natives within the same ethnic group suggests otherwise.
Latinos experience substantial socioeconomic progress across generations compared to both their immigrant forefathers and native Anglos. But this fact is lost in statistical portraits of the Latino population which don’t distinguish between the large number of newcomers and those who have been in the United States for generations. Advocates of restrictive immigration policies often use such aggregate statistics to make the dubious claim that Latinos are unable or unwilling to advance like the European immigrants of a century ago.
Policymakers in states from Iowa to Utah and in cities from Albuquerque to Boston have realized that immigration is a key source of long-term economic vitality, particularly in urban areas experiencing population loss, shrinking labor pools and growing numbers of retirees. Immigration, if properly cultivated, can be a key ingredient in urban economic development and recovery.
A study by the Pew Hispanic Center suggests that new immigration initiatives must find a balance between controlling labor flows and homeland security. The report shows immigrant workers provide most major sectors of the U.S. economy with valuable labor.
A recent university study found undocumented immigrants in Chicago to be strongly committed to working in the U.S. and making significant contributions to the economy. Undocumented workers typically experienced tremendous disadvantages in the labor market despite work experience and human capital accumulations.
A recent 2000 Census Bureau report finds an increase in foreign-born residents who are naturalized citizens. Survey data shows the foreign-born percentage of the U.S. population remains constant. Increased homeownership, wages and education indicate immigrants faring well.