Home » Immigration and the Effects on Politics, Economy and Society Over 30 Years

Immigration and the Effects on Politics, Economy and Society Over 30 Years



America is known as the world’s melting pot. The Founding Fathers were foreign-born men and the settlement of the nation was dependent on a growing population of people who sought freedom – immigrants.

Over the last 30 years, more than 27.5 million people have legally migrated to the United States from Latin America. These legal immigrants make up 8.8 percent of the population.

Immigration is changing the racial demographics in the U.S. In 2014, Latinos became the largest racial minority group. Marisa Abrajano, author of “White Backlash: Immigration, Race and American Politics,” analyzes the possibilities that can arise from this change.

Abrajano predicted that white Americans would not remain neutral politically concerning immigration. They could swing to the right and call for a limitation of reform measures and stop financing low-income assistance for immigrants. It is also possible people will favor the assimilation of Latino migrants into American culture.

Factors That Determine the American Response to Immigration:

  • The Media: When foreigners are described as a threat to Americans, the white population agrees less with the Democratic Party platform.
  • Neighborhood Population: People in some areas feel overwhelmed with the large number of migrants, which can cause them to be less likely to support public assistance for disadvantaged members of the community.
  • State Assistance: Where immigrants can benefit from government funding, the white population has voted to reduce spending on education, healthcare, and welfare.

In 2014, Abrajano stated that a person’s experience with immigrants directly impacts their political beliefs. She predicted this issue would cause the further polarization of political ideas and create obstacles for Latino-Americans.

She did state that thus far, there is not much evidence that immigration has had a lasting impact on political decisions among the white population. Nonetheless, the subject of the establishment of foreigners in the U.S. and the growing population of people from Latin America affects the political calculus of the white majority.

Racial politics has grown beyond the black-white dichotomy. This is becoming more evident as the U.S. enters the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election. Polls across the nation reveal that Hispanic voters clearly favor Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Abrajano predicted in 2014, the Latino voters would continue to be drawn to the political left.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act

Allows 675,000 permanent immigrants into the U.S. from around the world each year.
The nation allows entrance to temporary, non-permanent citizens annually.
The president and Congress determine the number of refugees to allow each year.

U.S. Immigration Has 4 Principles:

  1. Reunite families
  2. Bring skills that are valuable to the economy
  3. Protect refugees
  4. Promote diversity

The Family Preference System:

  • This program is available to immediate relatives. There is no visa limit.
  • The immigrant must meet eligibility requirements and the applicant needs to meet age and financial criteria.
  • Those who are suitable for this program include spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of a U.S. citizen.
  • Adult children and siblings, as well as spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents, can be admitted into the U.S. under the Family Preference System. There is a specified allotment given for these family members.
  • Congress calculates the annual number of Family Preference visas as follows:
    • 480,000-(number of Immediate Relative visas issued and the number of paroled aliens from the previous year) + (number of employment visas not used) = Immediate Relative visa allotment
  • There cannot be less than 226,000 Family Preference visas offered a year.
  • The number usually exceeds 480,000, accounting for 64 percent of new lawful permanent residents.

Non-immediate Relatives:

1. Unmarried adult children of citizens = 23,400 (plus number of unissued visas for siblings)
2A. Spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents = 87,000
2B. Unmarried adult children of lawful permanent residents = 26,300
3. Married adult children to citizens = 23,400 (plus unused visas from No.1 & 2)
4. Siblings of citizens = 65,000 (plus unused visas from all other numbers)

Employment-Based Immigration:

Temporary: Employers are permitted to hire foreigners for specialized jobs.

  • This is only for a specified time.
  • This visa limits the ability of the holder to change jobs.
  • There are over 20 different types of visas available for temporary nonimmigrant workers.
  • L-1: intracompany transfer
  • P: athletes, entertainers and skilled performers
  • R-1: religious workers
  • A: diplomatic employees
  • O-1: workers with exceptional abilities
  • H: highly or lesser-skilled jobs

Permanent: 140,000 are allocated, which includes in immigrants’ spouses and minor children.
There are the following available:

1. Individuals who demonstrate exceptional abilities in science, the arts, business, education, or athletics. This includes professors, researchers, and multinational executive managers. These visas are limited to 40,000 plus the number of those unused from numbers 4 and 5.
2. Professionals who have advanced degrees or extraordinary abilities in business, art, or science = 40,000 (plus number of those unissued from No.1)
3. Skilled workers with two years of experience, professionals with a degree, or those who will work as unskilled laborers = 40,000 (plus number unused from 1 & 2) unskilled laborers = 5,000
4. Special Immigrants: religious workers, former employees of the U.S. government, employees from U.S. foreign posts = 10,000
5. Investors of $500,000- $1 million in an enterprise that will create a minimum of 10 full-time jobs for workers in the U.S. = 10,000

The Immigration and Naturalization Act states that no group of permanent immigrants from one country can exceed 7 percent of the total allocation for the year. This is in place to prevent a group from dominating patterns in migration.

Refugees and Asylees:

Refugees: granted access into the U.S. because they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” in their home country. This can be due to race, being a part of a specific social group, their political beliefs or national origin.

  • Must apply outside the U.S.
  • Their degree of risk must be assessed and if they are a member of a social group, the amount of concern the U.S. has toward this group must be evaluated.
  • It must be determined if they have family in the U.S.

Congress and the president determine the number of refugees that will be allowed into the country each year, by region.

2016 Worldwide Refugee Allotment = 85,000

Africa – 25,000
East Asia – 13,000
Europe/Central Asia – 4,000
Latin America/Caribbean – 3,000
Near East/South Asia – 34,000
Unallocated Reserve – 6,000

Asylum: people who are already in the U.S. but cannot return to their country for the same reasons as refugees.

  • Apply at the port of entry while seeking entrance into U.S.
  • Within a year after allowed entrance
  • No limit to individuals given asylum
  • In 2014, 23,533 foreign nationals were granted asylum.

The Diversity Visa Program:

  • Lottery imposed by the Immigration Act of 1990. This was put in place to give opportunities for immigrants in countries with low migration rates to the U.S.
  • Randomly allocates 55,000 visas offered annually to residents in countries that have had less than 50,000 people relocate to the U.S. in the past five years.
  • 5,000 visas are made available to the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act.
  • Must have a high school diploma, an equivalent, or a minimum of two years working in a profession that requires training or experience, in the past five years.
  • The immigrants’ spouses and minor children may enter the U.S. as dependents.
  • The lottery drawing is computer-generated.
  • There are six geographical locations that are eligible.
  • The program is most beneficial to Africans and Eastern Europeans.

In 2007, the Council of Economic Advisers, under former President George W. Bush, presented the statistics on the economic impact of immigration. This report determined that the migration of foreigners to the U.S. had a positive effect on the economy and the wages of natural-born citizens.

  • Migrant workers complemented native-born citizens by encouraging them to increase their productivity and thus their income.
  • Studies showed the long-term fiscal impact of immigration would have a positive and modest influence.
  • It was likely that skilled migrant workers would be a fiscal benefit, as well as contribute to innovation, creating a significant positive impact in the U.S.
  • Immigrants made up 15 percent of the workforce, contributing to the advancement of technology and the growth of productivity.
  • Forty percent of scientists in 2007, were immigrants.
  • The 2007 Kauffman Foundation showed that enterprising activity was 40 percent higher for migrants.
  • Seventy-two percent of first-generation Latino immigrants spoke Spanish predominately, only 7 percent of the second-generation followed suit. This showed the assimilation of the Latino population into the American culture.
  • Migrant men between 18-40 were less likely to break the law than native-born citizens.
  • Immigrants improve the financial stability of programs like Medicare and Social Security.
  • It was projected that the continued support of foreigners in the U.S. would have a positive effect on public budgets in the future. Projections are not certain but the National Research Council estimated that migrants and their descendants would pay $80,000 more in taxes than they would use in public services.

The Center for Immigration Studies published their findings in 2013. They stated that legal and illegal foreigners pay taxes in the U.S. They are subject to sales, property, excise, income, and the other taxes native-born Americans pay.

  • Immigration increases the size of the economy but that alone does not benefit the U.S. There is no indication that migrants significantly increase the income of native-born citizens. However, economic theory suggests that migration would create a net gain by redistributing income: money is paid to workers who compete with immigrants, those who do not, and whoever owns the capital. Following this theory, the size of the net gain would be insignificant compared to that of the economy and level of redistribution. The poorest working Americans experience the biggest loss from immigration.
  • From 2000-2013, migrant workers have received all the employment gains, even though two-thirds of the growth in the working-age population are native-born. This was true before the Great Recession.
  • America’s leading immigration economist, George Borjas, stated legal and illegal migrant workers increases the economy by 11 percent a year. However, 98 percent of that increase is paid out to immigrants in the form of benefits and wages.
  • The natural-born citizens’ net gain is 0.2 percent of the growth domestic product and comes from legal and illegal foreign residents. This is called the Immigrant Surplus. To create this surplus, natives who compete with migrant workers have reduced wages of roughly $400 billion a year. This reduction increases profits for employers by $437 billion.
  • There are studies that have tried to determine the effect immigration has on employment. The negative findings were that there is a reduction in available employment for young people, natives who are less-educated, and the minority populations.

Large-scale immigration does not necessarily result in large-scale job growth.

  • The fiscal burden on all government levels is between $11 and $20 billion each year. The fiscal impact varies greatly depending on the education level of the individual migrants. A foreigner without a high school education costs the U.S. $89,000 over their lifetime. One who has a diploma creates a fiscal drain of $31,000. However, an immigrant with a higher education creates a lifetime benefit of $105,000.
  • The average illegal alien has had 10 years of schooling.

This is a hot-button topic in the 2016 election and a growing concern among natural-born citizens. People are fearful of terrorist attacks. They also are afraid of cultures they do not understand.

Americans can benefit from learning new things and diversifying their communities. It is a combination of beliefs, freedoms, and ideas that created the evolution of this nation’s culture. In the future, there will be changes in immigration as the vetting process is improved. Should there be a stop to welcoming people from other nations to live in the U.S.? No. There is a need that is fulfilled by the outside world in America, and it is to understand that creation, innovation and growth are not created by colors, only made more beautiful by them.

As the economy weakens and wars strengthen people will need a safe place to call home. There are multiple areas around the world that have been experiencing natural disasters that have left many without homes. Americans have often opened their hearts to countries in need. However, it is as important to keep the nation safe. There are a multitude of channels to explore that will deter illegal immigrants and allow for economic and cultural growth.

By Jeanette Smith


Brookings: Immigration May Change American Politics As We Know It
Department of Homeland Security: 2014 Yearbook of
Immigration Statistics
Real Clear Politics: Trump vs. Clinton Among Hispanic Voters
White House Archives: Immigration’s Economic Impact
Center for Immigration Studies: The Fiscal and Economic Impact of Immigration on the United States
American Immigration Council: How the United States Immigration System Works

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Top Image Courtesy of Special Collections at Wofford College’s Photostream’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License