STEPHEN YALE-LOEHR: Hi,, I'm Steve Yale-Loehr. I teach Immigration Law and Policy at the Cornell Law School. I also am co-author of a 20-volume immigration law treatise. Welcome to this Cyber Tower Study Room about immigration's impact on the United States.
The current political debate about immigration goes back to the founding of our country. The United States prides itself on being a nation of immigrants. As author and columnist Georgie Anne Geyer recently reminded us, we are a country built on a social compact, not on blood and history. Despite that legacy, however, the history of US immigration law policy has been, in the words of James Ziglar, a former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, "demonstrably schizophrenic." We welcome immigrants in good times and are hostile toward them in bad times.
The stakes involved in immigration are high. They're often presented as mutually exclusive entities-- jobs for natives versus jobs for non-natives, the value of cultural diversity versus the pressure for assimilation, that immigration hurts or helps the United States. The debate is often presented as a juxtaposition of we versus them. Are we going to help the United States overall or is immigration going to hurt us?
Overall, immigration is important to the United States. It's particularly important since the events of September 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks of that day plus the recent economic downturn has seen a rise of anti-immigrant sentiment, particularly against Arabs and Muslims. This sentiment is also building on the relative momentum of anti-immigrant groups who have done well in certain states like California to score political victories on the backs of immigrants.
It's doubtful that any political administration can or will prominently resolve our national debate over immigration policy. The public is ambivalent about immigration. We like immigrants individually when they live on our street. But public opinion polls consistently show that overall, Americans think there's too much immigration into the United States. As The Economist magazine recently said, "Immigration hardens hearts and softens brains like no other issue."
There are many things that people can do to educate themselves about immigration. The more you know, the better educated you could be about this complex debate. We hope that this Study Room at the Cyber Tower will help you understand the key issues, the facts and the figures so that you can judge for yourself how immigration affects the United States.
This Study Room is divided into five parts. The first part is a history of immigration into the United States. Part 2 talks about facts and figures regarding immigration. Part 3 deals with immigration's impact on US workers. Part 4 talks about recent immigration reform proposals pending now in Congress. And Part 5 features a debate between me and Vernon Briggs, a professor in the ILR School here at Cornell.
Feel free to email me with any questions that you have, either on this Study Room or on immigration generally. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, sit back and enjoy the show.
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Immigration is a key controversy in the United States:
Does immigration help or hurt the U.S. economy?
Do immigrants take jobs from U.S. native born workers or create new jobs?
Should we restrict immigration or allow more people to immigrate?
What should we do about the estimated 8-9 million undocumented noncitizens now living in the United States?
This CyberTower room will familiarize you with the key historical, policy and legal issues to allow you to engage intelligently in this debate.
The stakes involved are high and often presented as mutually exclusive entities; jobs for natives vs. non-natives; the value of cultural diversity vs. the pressure for assimilation; the debate over whether immigration helps or hurts the United States.
This video is part 1 of 6 in the Us versus Them series.