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Understanding Immigration

January 26, 2017

Whether you view yesterday’s executive orders as positive or negative, the fact remains that immigration is complicated.

In a series of executive orders, President Donald Trump yesterday initiated sweeping changes to the country’s immigration policy.

Immigration experts and legislators on both sides of the aisle have long argued our immigration laws do not match current global and national dynamics and are in need of reform. The measures President Trump took represent some of the broadest reforms our immigration policy has seen in decades.

Whether you view yesterday’s executive orders as positive or negative, the fact remains that immigration is complicated. It intersects with other complex and emotionally fraught issues, including changes to the workforce, globalization, the economy, health care, education, crime and terrorism.

As with many issues, Americans don’t often have the opportunity or resources needed to come to a thoughtful conclusion on immigration policy.

Through the years, we at Public Agenda have spoken to immigrants about their experiences, as well as to citizens regarding their views on immigration. We have also examined approaches to immigration policy, and broken down the pros and cons of each approach so you can understand the issue in a non-ideological manner.

Below are some of our resources related to immigration. We hope these they help you come to a thoughtful conclusion about the best way forward for our country on this critical issue.


Immigration: A Citizens’ Solutions Guide

This voter guide, published in 2012, summarizes data and research on immigration. It also presents three potential approaches to immigration reform, including their pros and cons, framing the reform debate as pragmatic rather than partisan. It can be used to guide discussion or simply as a tool to guide your own understanding.


A Place to Call Home

This 2009 survey with 1,100 foreign-born adults living in the U.S. remains vital as a testament to the immigrant experience. Despite the worst economic crisis in decades, renewed national security concerns in a post-9/11 world and an immigration policy many consider to be broken, the survey finds immigrants themselves hold fast to their belief that America remains the land of opportunity and remain committed to becoming U.S. citizens.


Where Did the Jobs Go, and How Do We Get Them Back?

Would reducing immigration reduce unemployment? Chapter 14 of this book, from Jean Johnson and Scott Bittle, examines immigration within the context of the workforce. It is an indispensable and easy-to-read resource for understanding the interaction between immigration, jobs and the economy.