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It’s Thanksgiving dinner and the whole family is gathered around the table enjoying a delicious feast. Suddenly, one word throws the entire table into a frenzy: “immigration.”
Despite being as old as America itself, immigration is still one of the most contentious issues in American politics to date. Although many contest the cultural and social merits of immigrants, the most controversial aspect of immigration is its effect on the U.S. economy, with 52 percent of those polled by CNN in May of 2017 citing it as their foremost concern.
Immigrants contribute to the American economy, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI). The FPI found that immigrant-owned small businesses employed 4.7 million people in 2007, and these businesses bring in an estimated $776 billion annually.
On the other hand, Antje Ellermann, professor of comparative politics at the University of British Columbia, said immigrants are often viewed as harmful to the economy because they also need employment.
“The public sentiment towards immigrants tends to be at its least favorable when unemployment is at its height,” Ellermann said. “Immigrants are often cited as a potential burden on the economy and seen as ‘taking’ jobs from citizens, although the truth of that statement is certainly contested.”
At the federal level, immigrants are a net gain for the U.S. economy, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 53 percent of American immigrants attended college, with 16 percent receiving graduate degrees, according to the report.
“The prospects for long run economic growth in the United States would be considerably dimmed without the contributions of high-skilled immigrants,” the report said.
Recently, immigration has been viewed more favorably, with an NBC poll conducted in Sept. 2016 leaving 52 percent of the nation in agreement that immigrants are a net-positive, compared to the 43 percent five years prior.
Despite this, President Donald Trump has expressed serious concerns over immigrants, especially those of Mexican origin. One of the core tenets of his platform is to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigration.
“When Mexico sends their people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said during his 2016 campaign.
No matter where you stand on the issues involving immigration, it seems very likely that immigration policy will continue to populate the minds (and ballots) of voters all across the U.S.