Images from recent protests over immigration policy

How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration

In The Atlantic, sociologist Ariela Schachter examines the factors that influence how native-born whites view immigrants.

"Promoting assimilation need not mean expecting immigrants to abandon their culture. But it does mean breaking down the barriers that segregate them from the native-born. And it means celebrating America’s diversity less, and its unity more.

Writing last year in American Sociological Review, Ariela Schachter, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, examined the factors that influence how native-born whites view immigrants. Foremost among them is an immigrant’s legal status. Given that natives often assume Latinos are undocumented even when they aren’t, it follows that illegal immigration indirectly undermines the status of those Latinos who live in the U.S. legally. That’s why conservatives rail against government benefits for undocumented immigrants (even though the undocumented are already barred from receiving many of those benefits): They know Americans will be more reluctant to support government programs if they believe those programs to be benefiting people who have entered the country illegally.

Liberal immigration policy must work to ensure that immigrants do not occupy a separate legal caste. This means opposing the guest-worker programs—beloved by many Democrat-friendly tech companies, among other employers—that require immigrants to work in a particular job to remain in the U.S. Some scholars believe such programs drive down wages; they certainly inhibit assimilation. And, as Schachter’s research suggests, strengthening the bonds of identity between natives and immigrants is harder when natives and immigrants are not equal under the law."

Read more of the article in The Atlantic. 

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