The significant number of immigrants arriving in the United States and Western European countries has generated a strong nativist reaction that sometimes becomes xenophobic and racist.
What these groups do not seem to understand is that the falling birth rate and increasing percentage of elderly people represent a threat to the economic well-being of these countries. The only solution that would avoid a reduction in the number of workers and cuts in social services is to fill the gap by increasing immigration. A very polarizing suggestion in the current political environment.
Sometimes the answer to xenophobia is to educate. Provide information that humanizes the migrant community. Talk about your dreams and challenges which, ultimately, are the same dreams and challenges of the local population.
To try to understand immigrants who chose to settle in the United States, during the spring of 2023 the Kaiser Family Foundation, in collaboration with the Los Angeles Times, conducted the Immigrant Survey with the goal of examining the diversity of the immigrant experience in United States. The report, “Understanding the U.S. Immigrant Experience: 2023 KFF/LA Times Immigrant Survey,” was written by Shannon Schumacher, Liz Hamel, Samantha Artiga et al.
Important points of the report
–Most immigrants – regardless of where they came from or how long they have been in the US – say they came to the US seeking more opportunities for themselves and their children. The predominant reasons immigrants say they came to the United States are better job and educational opportunities, a better future for their children, and more rights and freedoms. Smaller but still sizable portions cite other factors such as reuniting with family members or escaping unsafe or violent conditions.
-Overall, most immigrants say their financial situation (78%), educational opportunities (79%), employment situation (75%), and security (65%) are better as a result of moving to the US. A large majority (77%). % say their own standard of living is better than their parents’, higher than the share of U.S.-born adults who say the same (51%)1, and a majority (60%) believe the Their children’s standard of living will be better than theirs now. Three in four immigrants say they would choose to return to the United States if they had the chance, and six in ten say they plan to stay in the United States. However, about one in five (19%) say they want to return to the country. they were born in or in another country, while one in five (21%) say they are not sure.
-Despite an improved situation relative to their countries of birth, many immigrants report facing serious challenges, including high levels of workplace and other discrimination, difficulties making ends meet, and confusion and fears related to U.S. immigration laws and policies. These challenges are more pronounced among some groups of immigrants, including those who live in lower-income households, Black and Hispanic immigrants, those who are likely undocumented, and those with limited English proficiency. Given the intersectional nature of these factors, some immigrants face compounding challenges across them.
-Most immigrants are employed, and about half of all working immigrants say they have experienced discrimination in the workplace, such as being given less pay or fewer opportunities for advancement than people born in the U.S., not being paid for all their hours worked, or being threatened or harassed. In addition, about a quarter of all immigrants, rising to three in ten of those with college degrees, say they are overqualified for their jobs, a potential indication that they had to take a step back in their careers when coming to the U.S. or lacked career advancement opportunities in the U.S.
-About a third (34%) of immigrants say they have been criticized or insulted for speaking a language other than English since moving to the U.S., and a similar share (33%) say they have been told they should “go back to where you came from.” About four in ten (38%) immigrants say they have ever received worse treatment than people born in the U.S. in a store or restaurant, in interactions with the police, or when buying or renting a home. Some immigrants also report being treated unfairly in health care settings. Among immigrants who have received health care in the U.S., one in four say they have been treated differently or unfairly by a doctor or other health care provider because of their racial or ethnic background, their accent or how well they speak English, or their insurance status or ability to pay for care.
-Immigrants who are Black or Hispanic report disproportionate levels of discrimination at work, in their communities, and in health care settings. Over half of employed Black (56%) and Hispanic (55%) immigrants say they have faced discrimination at work, and roughly half of college-educated Black (53%) and Hispanic (46%) immigrant workers say they are overqualified for their jobs. Nearly four in ten (38%) Black immigrants say they have been treated unfairly by the police and more than four in ten (45%) say they have been told to “go back to where you came from.” In addition, nearly four in ten (38%) Black immigrants say they have been treated differently or unfairly by a health care provider. Among Hispanic immigrants, four in ten (42%) say they have been criticized or insulted for speaking a language other than English.
-Even with high levels of employment, one third of immigrants report problems affording basic needs like food, housing, and health care. This share rises to four in ten among parents and about half of immigrants living in lower income households (those with annual incomes under $40,000). In addition, one in four lower income immigrants say they have difficulty paying their bills each month, while an additional 47% say they are “just able to pay their bills each month.”
-Among likely undocumented immigrants, seven in ten say they worry they or a family member may be detained or deported, and four in ten say they have avoided things such as talking to the police, applying for a job, or traveling because they didn’t want to draw attention to their or a family member’s immigration status. However, these concerns are not limited to those who are likely undocumented. Among all immigrants regardless of their own immigration status, nearly half (45%) say they don’t have enough information to understand how U.S. immigration laws affect them and their families, and one in four (26%) say they worry they or a family member could be detained or deported. Confusion and lack of information extend to public charge rules. About three quarters of all immigrants, rising to nine in ten among likely undocumented immigrants, say they are not sure whether use of public assistance for food, housing, or health care can affect an immigrant’s ability to get a green card or incorrectly believe that use of this assistance will negatively affect the ability to get a green card.
-About half of all immigrants have limited English proficiency, and about half among this group say they have faced language barriers in a variety of settings and interactions. About half (53%) of immigrants with limited English proficiency say that difficulty speaking or understanding English has ever made it hard for them to do at least one of the following: get health care services (31%); receive services in stores or restaurants (30%); get or keep a job (29%); apply for government financial help with food, housing, or health coverage (25%); report a crime or get help from the police (22%). In addition, one-quarter of parents with limited English proficiency say they have had difficulty communicating with their children’s school (24%). Working immigrants with limited English proficiency also are more likely to report workplace discrimination compared to those who speak English very well (55% vs. 41%).
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This article was supported in whole, or in part, by funds provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library and the Latino Media Collaborative.
Escritor y periodista de Paysandú, Uruguay, quien actualmente reside en Nueva York, EE.UU., en donde ha trabajado en diversos medios. Su corazón es charrúa y su pluma es latina.