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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Xenophobia Continues to Plague Americans

    As the twilight hours faded into early morning on July 26, 1854, a battle over ethnic diversity, religious divisions, and political differences erupted.William Poole, a loyal Protestant squared off in a boxing match against his archenemy, John Morrissey, an Irish immigrant, at the foot of the Amos Street pier in Manhattan. The battle was fierce, and eventually spilled from the ring into the crowd of ethnic adversaries.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ While over the years the violence has become less intense, the increasing number of immigrants coupled with the fear of foreigners undercutting American jobs continues to make immigration a source of conflict and uneasiness among the current U.S. population.

    The United States has seen its number of immigrants triple from 9.6 million in 1970 to 28.4 million in 2000, according to an analysis done by the Center for Immigration Studies on the Current Population Survey taken in March 2000.This same analysis revealed that as a percentage of the country’s total population, immigrants have more than doubled, from 4.7 to 10.4 percent, during the same thirty year time frame.

    Despite this national surge of foreigners, Americans appear to be evenly divided when it comes to viewing immigrants and their impact on American society.A FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll of 900 registered voters nationwide conducted between April 25-26, 2006 revealed that 42 percent of the people surveyed felt that immigrants help our society, while 30 percent felt that they hurt it.Additionally, a Pew Research Center survey of 2,000 adults nationwide conducted between February 8 and March 7, 2006 showed that 41 percent of the people questioned felt that immigrants strengthen our country, while 52 percent believed that they are a burden to it.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Where you stand on the issue of immigration depends on where you sit,’ said Warren Sanderson, a professor of economics at Stony Brook University for the last 26 years.‘The reason why there is so much debate about immigration is that it has gains and losses.Some people win, while others lose.It’s as simple as that.’

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ In the recent past, the communities of Long Island, New York, could be seen as microcosm of this national increase in immigrants.According to The Brookings Institution study, ‘The Rise of Immigrant Gateways,’ conducted in March 2004, during the 1990’s, the amount of foreign-born Long Island residents born grew by 45 percent, to almost 400,000 people.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ The increasing presence of immigrants in American societies has caused some native born U.S. citizens to develop a negative view of immigrants.‘What it comes down to is that people don’t like change,’ said Eugene Redko, a current sophomore at Stony Brook University.

    Redko was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and moved to the United States with his family when he was three years old.Since then he and his family have been granted citizenship by the American government.

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Many of the older immigrants on Long Island were from Western Europe,’ Redko said. ‘But, today you have groups coming from Asia and Latin America where the beliefs and lifestyles are completely different.’

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Selcuk Eren, an assistant professor of economics at Hamilton College, had a similar view to that of Redko.‘People are suspicious of new things,’ Eren said.They may be afraid of losing a job or that an immigrant community in their neighborhood would affect the value of their houses. But we need to be fair.'

    ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' Eren was born in Turkey and came to the United States seven years ago for his graduate studies in economics which he completed at Stony Brook University.' Since then he has become involved in a plethora of activities relating to both economics and immigration, such as becoming active in the Long Island Turkish Cultural Center and teaching a course entitled 'The Economics of Immigration.''

    ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' The Turkish native, like many others who have studied immigration, feels that the current apprehension towards immigrants shown by some Americans is unjustified.' 'There is a general consensus among economists that any type of immigration is beneficial for the economy,' Eren said.' 'It definitely has a positive effect.'

    ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' One of the major premonitions that comes with immigration is the fear of immigrants undercutting American workers in the labor force.' However, according to the previously mentioned FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, 34% of the individuals surveyed felt that immigrants are taking jobs away from U.S. citizens, while 47% felt that they were merely taking unwanted jobs away from U.S. citizens.

    ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' 'The notion of immigrants stealing American jobs is a myth,' said Mitchell Zwaik, a founding and senior partner of the immigration law firm, Mitchell C. Zwaik and Associates.' 'It's very easy for people to assume that immigrants are taking jobs away from us.' It's a very stereotypical and ethnically biased way of thinking.'

    ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' There are two general ways for an immigrant to receive a green card, the document that will give an individual official immigration status or Lawful Permanent Residency in the United States.These ways are either through the sponsorship of close family or through the sponsorship of an employer.'

    'If an immigrant is applying for a green card through an employer, the employer has to first attempt to fill the position with American workers,' Zwaik said.' 'When they can't, my colleagues and I look to fill these vacancies with immigrants.'

    ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' Mr. Zwaik, who has been involved with Immigration Law for the last 27 years, believes that the United States would be better off permitting larger numbers of individuals into the country each year.' 'Our government's laws and restrictions are hurting us on both ends of the economy,' said the immigration lawyer.' 'We're losing the little jobs, like the grape picking industry, to places like Mexico, and we're losing the major technological corporations who are building more and more factories in foreign countries so they can hire the workers there and avoid our legal process.''

    ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' Both Zwaik and Sanderson feel that by having such tough immigration laws, the U.S. government is preventing some of the smartest people in the world from assisting the country's economy.' Within the last few semesters, the Stony Brook University economics department went through a long selection process of hiring two new professors.' The two professors hired were Peruvian and Chinese, respectively.'

    'Nationality has nothing to do with being smart, or capable, or beneficial to our nation' Sanderson said.' 'We went to find the best people to fill those positions regardless of where they came from, and that's what we did.'

    ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' 'Instead of restricting them [immigrants], we should be flattered that the best and brightest individuals from this hemisphere are willing to give up their entire lives to come and work here,' Zwaik said.' ' 'And we should adjust our laws to accommodate their efforts.'

    ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' While immigration issues continue to impact communities throughout the United States, one thing remains certain says Zwaik, 'immigrants have been a part of our culture for centuries, and they'll continue to be a part of our culture for centuries to come.'

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