Contested Ground: Immigration in the United States

Michael Jones-Correa
Date of Publication: 
July, 2012
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

"Contested Ground: Immigration in the United States," prepared for the Transatlantic Council in 2011, Cornell University Professor Michael Jones-Correa argues that the diversification of migrant streams to the United States, the growth in the size of the undocumented population and the dispersal of immigrants to states and localities with little recent experience with migration have "sparked anxiety among the American public." This anxiety is especially pronounced among the elderly population, who wield "disproportionate influence on the political system" and who grew up in an era when immigration was at a low point and when the racial complexion of the nation was different.

Jones-Correa finds little correlation between public attitudes towards immigrants and economic conditions in states and localities, suggesting that unemployment rates and perceived competition for jobs are not significant factors in shaping public attitudes. He concludes that "it would be a mistake to interpret the debate around immigration as solely about economics." Instead, there is a widespread belief that "immigration is changing society, largely for the worse" and, despite research to the contrary, this belief is hard to dispel.  

Although Jones-Correa offers no prescriptions for allaying this anxiety he does argue that "the central policy challenge" facing the country is different. By 2009, almost one-quarter of children under the age of 18, or 17.4 million youth, were immigrants or the children of immigrants. The future of the nation hangs on the ability of these young people to succeed in school and in the workplace. Regrettably, "integration efforts at the national level have been almost nonexistent." (Abstract courtesy Nicholas Montalto, PhD.)

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Jones-Correa, M. (2012). "Contested Ground: Immigration in the United States." Washington, D.C. :Migration Policy Institute and Transatlantic Council on Migration. Retrieved from