Attitudes toward immigrants are more positive than you think

Refugees Welcome march
Courtesy of Ilias Bartolini

Although it may seem that recent shifts in US policy reflect a negative change in American attitudes toward immigrants, the opposite is actually true.

Gallop, a respected national polling organization, has been asking questions about immigration since the 1960s. In nearly every category of questions about immigration, their results show that American attitudes toward immigrants today are more supportive than at any other time in their polling history. Here is a graph that shows one important change:

graph of attitudes toward immigration

Standing with our neighbors

Across the country, people are coming together in ways big and small to celebrate and defend the diversity that makes this country strong.

Not a single US state or major city has taken up President Trump’s offer to allow them to ban incoming refugees under an executive order authorized in September.
In fact many states have already issued statements in favor of continued refugee resettlement well ahead of the deadline to consent. Conservative Utah even wrote to the president to ask for an increase in refugees! In other places, such as North Dakota, residents took the lead in advocating for refugees in the face of elected leaders who were considering a ban.

People all around the country are coming together to protect their neighbors from deportation.
Hundreds of cities are committing to welcoming immigrants of all backgrounds. The sanctuary city movement prevents local police from working with immigration enforcement in a symbol of protection for its residents. Today even individuals are standing with undocumented immigrants, as in Nashville, Tennessee, where neighbors formed a human chain to protect a father and his 12-year-old son from ICE.

Cities and states are electing immigrant public servants into leadership positions in record numbers.
From 23-year-old Somali-American Safiya Khalid elected to city council in Lewiston, maine, to former lost boy Chol Majok in Syracuse, Nûyork, to Bhuwan Pyakurel, a former refugee from Bhutan, in Reynoldsburg, Ohio – every year our elected officials further represent the beautiful diversity of our communities.

The courts are taking a stand against harmful immigration policies.
Judges have overturned several of the policy changes that the current administration proposed. One of these would punish US residents who legally accessed berjewendiyên giştî. Other recent court decisions concerned how penaxwazan are treated at our borders. In September, a judge stopped the government from changing the Flores Agreement, which says children cannot be held in detention for more than 20 rojan.

Immigrants are giving back to their communities and helping to make others feel welcome.
Examples include Kazi Mannan, an immigrant from Pakistan and owner of Sakina Halal Grill in Washington, DC, who provides thousands of free meals to poor and homeless people in his community – no questions asked. Marie Ronise of Haiti is a proud business owner in Flint, michigan, whose child care service puts families first, often forgiving child care debt and collecting supplies for local families. Once a year, she and her husband have a tradition of donating a used car to a local family in need. Dr. Dairon Elisondo Rojas, an asylum seeker from Cuba currently stranded in Mexico, has become a makeshift camp’s only physician, seeing to his fellow asylum seekers’ health needs every day without a single day off since he started in October.

Although these stories are encouraging, we know of course that most good deeds never make the news.

Immigrants’ acts of kindness often go unseen. Whether it be a few extra minutes spent cuddling a child, baked goods shared with an elderly neighbor, or an extra shift to cover for a sick co-worker, immigrants are an integral part of an American society that is giving and kind at its core. We know that while the few who are working hard to make others feel unwelcome may be loud, the vast majority of us, and our attitudes toward immigrants, are not represented in those voices.

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Ji dor Sarah Ivory
Sarah Ivory is the President of USAHello.