Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Immigration: Bypassing Difference

By Winnie

With the failure of the immigration bill still causing murmurs across the nation, the topic of immigration, legal and illegal, has finally moved to the front burner of American politics. Public opinion surveys suggest that Americans see both the good and bad sides of immigration at the same time. A June 2006 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found the public evenly divided on the fundamental question of whether immigration helps or hurts the country, with 44 percent saying it helps and 45 percent saying it hurts the U.S.

Several individuals who oppose immigration argue that immigrants steal jobs from the loyal Americans, overcrowd schools; ruin the health care system and abuse health, public and federal services. Michael Huffington, a former member of the U.S House of Representatives from California, explains: “Spending on illegal immigrants is out of control.” On the other hand, many argue that immigrants are actually good for America’s present and future status. Statistics show that immigrants lower unemployment rates, pay more taxes and expand our economy by consumption of goods and other services.

Immigration has also long divided both the Republican and Democratic Party, with advocates and opponents in each. Among Republicans, support for immigration was economic (corporations), while opposition was cultural (nativists). Among Democrats, it was the reverse: support for immigration was cultural (ethnic groups), while opposition was economic (unions).

But are immigrant’s job- takers or job-makers? Are they really overcrowding schools and ruining health services?

One of the very first myths that came with the wave of immigrants was the fact that Americans believed that immigrants stole jobs from native-born Americans, and thus, increased the competition for jobs. Immigrant workers do increase the competitiveness for both local and international industries but they are also revitalizing our cities...building our new economy...strengthening our ties to the global economy, just as earlier waves of immigrants settled on the new frontier and powered the Industrial Revolution. They are also energizing our culture and broadening our vision of the world. Almost all the relevant research has concluded that immigrants do not displace native workers. In truth Immigrants workers stimulate local economies, create jobs and pay far more in taxes than they receive in public services.

Another issue that troubles the U.S public is the immigrant right to benefits and public services. Do immigrants pay their way in the welfare state? Some of these benefits include housing and Urban Development, General Assistance, Medicaid, emergency services, services for pregnancy women and many other benefits.

Maybe immigrants are job-takers, maybe they do energize our culture and revitalize our economy; but I also believe that these different views about immigrants and immigration is the cause to the many problems and questions that in some respect create the insecurity and doubt among the American public today. So, I say, it is time to bypass these differences and create policies that institute some consensus among policymakers, immigrants and the American public and maybe, just maybe the immigration issue will be resolved.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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