Attitudes Toward Foreigners
Welcome to America
Times Have Changed Since 1900
Immigrants tend to be people much poorer than the average person here in the United States. There's a very good reason for that. People leave their native land to live in another country because there is something wrong with remaining where they are. The ones who come into America seem tremendously disadvantaged by our standards of education and lifestyle. But they tend to expect much more from the government in terms of healthcare because in most countries this care would be free, although waiting in a public clinic is usually a tedious task most Americans would find outrageous. The goal overall is to come into America not so much to get used to our higher standards of lifestyle, but usually just to stay here briefly, then return.
Politics have entered into the immigration issue directly. The immigrants naturally will be in favor of the liberal political party in America. Those Americans who are conservative tend to favor strict laws designed to keep immigrants out of the United States. While the French who gave us the Statue of Liberty wrote romantically idealistic words on the statue, many conservative Americans feel it's wrong to allow a liberal policy of immigration into our country.
When Arab terrorists killed innocent Americans on September 11, 2001, this caused the issue of immigration to become very important. Before this, we had the Immigration and Naturalization Service, a name that sounded almost friendly enough to welcome immigrants. But even back then, the purpose of this agency really was to block entry into America and treat immigrants as guilty until proven innocent, especially in regard to such suspicious activities as marrying Americans possibly only for a green card. But after the 2001 terror, the name changed to Homeland Security, a war-like name that gave the impression that immigrants were dangerous people, even tourist visa visitors could be included in that fear.
While conservative politicians wanted to protect our Homeland from another sneak attack by people entering the country under false pretenses, and while this surely was the goal of every American, so many innocent people were blocked from entering America that it started to appear that some politicians thought America would be made dirty by the masses of poor people entering. We had to come to terms with the words on the Statue of Liberty welcoming the "huddled" masses yearning to be free.
Part of the tragedy of the 2001 terror was that this placed Americans in such great fear that many voters favored keeping immigrants out. The borders were protected both by fences and by strict police at airports. But this still has not kept out the immigrants who are desperate to get out of their countries. They see America as their last chance to obtain financial security. They will do almost anything to come in, remain for a while, and make money here, which is illegal to do without a Social Security number given by a green card's right to work. Homeland Security is just another obstacle in the game of hazards. Only brave foreigners would attempt to do what these illegals do. They are not harming Americans physically, but surely they are earning money without the legal right to do so.
Presently there's a lot of contempt for the many people of color from all over the world who sneak into America illegally and make money washing clothes, cleaning apartments, working as nannies, delivering pizza, or driving cabs. They do these things because they want to return rich to their friends and families back home in their native countries. They keep wiring the dollars to their bank accounts back home.
The reason this is different from our ancestors' generation is that the current foreigners who enter America have no intention of remaining here unless their lives really are threatened by war or terror back in their own countries. They want to stay here and hide peacefully and make money. But the immigration laws, badly in need of reform, assume people want to get green cards and citizenship. People who work at US consulates overseas and the border control police usually know that this is not the case. Currently, revamping the immigration laws is a prime issue in Washington DC.
Back around the year 1900 when many immigrants traveled to America by ship across the ocean, it was not practical to return to one's country of origin, but now it is. This greatly affects immigration and is a key factor why the laws need revitalization to bring them in line with reality. The big political question is whether the United States should share its wealth with the rest of the world in terms of being lenient on foreigners who want to work here temporarily on manual labor jobs. Some politicians are liberal and very compassionate toward these foreigners. Others are concerned primarily with financial issues affecting the strength of the dollar and indirectly the value of investments.
Different views concerning financial matters and the desirability of having people of lesser education and different cultures entering our population even temporarily have drawn a battle line between liberal and conservative politicians fighting one way or the other for immigration reform. Surely the terrorists of 2001 have aided those who argue for excluding immigrants and visitors as much as possible. But this has sparked an angry debate in which other politicians are accusing conservatives of greed and prejudice. Faith in our democratic system, however, leads to the logical conclusion that with free speech and debate, and freedom to vote one's own opinions, the immigration issue will be resolved so that America can carry on in strength and popularity within our world full of many competing interests and values.
What Do the People Want?
Immigration laws concern such issues at the legal status of people living in America, overstaying a visitor visa, deportation, migrant farm workers, and above all, politics. The political relationship between America and another country might govern the issue of how easily people in that foreign country can obtain visitor visas, for example. Another factor is the feelings of Americans toward foreigners at any given time, which will govern the political aura in which laws will be passed by Congress concerning immigration, because elected officials will have to please the mainstream American people or else not get elected again. Democracy will govern what immigration laws exist, therefore.
More and more, people are coming to America for economic opportunity without any sense of loyalty to America, but just to stay for a time, make some money, and preferably go back home where they feel far more comfortable.
Immigration laws favor people from countries that are well off economically, and therefore don't have a high rate of people wishing to leave the country and live elsewhere. America trusts these people more than others. There are fewer problems will illegalities such as overstaying a tourist visa to work and get paid under the table on casual gigs for many years beyond the cut-off date of the tourist visa.
Homeland Security since 9/11 has increased the list of suspected visitors and applicants for residency. The Great Recession has increased the anti-foreigner sentiments of many Americans who resent outsiders taking jobs away from American people. Border crossings and international airports are becoming very strict, screening everyone. Even Americans who are lawfully married to foreigners are having to live in separate countries from their spouses due to the strictness of immigration laws.
The immigration laws now are in flux, with President Obama offering to loosen the hold on families with mixed citizenship, grant asylum to more people, and do other liberal things to soften the blow of strict laws on innocent people. But the feeling in America is decidedly against foreigners at this time.
Those who work in the consulates and some of the Homeland Security officers admit that the immigration laws are based on the false premise that people want to stay permanently in America. They often prefer to be in their own countries, but have come to America to hide from the immigration police long enough to do menial tasks and earn money that can buy a lot more back home than it ever could in America.
But America is not alone in its strict immigration laws. Other countries have laws just as strict. There seems to be a feeling all around the world that each nation wants to control its citizens, keep its citizens from emigrating or immigrating, and protect its own economy by shielding it from opportunists through strict immigration laws. Even thousands of years ago when early passages of the Bible were written, there was a feeling of suspicion toward mixing with or intermarrying with outsiders who did not belong to the Hebrew nation. This still exists today in immigration laws all around the world for all nationalities and races of people.