“A clear majority of the American public favors legalization as the best approach to the current population of unauthorized migrants,” according to a new book on immigration on both sides of the North Atlantic being published by the Migration Policy Institute and the Germany-based Bertelsmann Stiftung.
“There is little doubt that immigration systems in the United States and Europe are dysfunctional at best, broken at worst,” MPI said in a press release.
The book, Migration, Public Opinion and Politics, studies how the public debate –including media coverage, political discourse and public opinion– advances or impedes policy reforms in the northern migrant-receiving countries.
While a majority of Americans favor legalization for the undocumented, support for this measure “is lower among older Americans and those without a college education,” according to the press release.
Immigration is also problematic in Germany, where although “a series of political reforms” have been approved in recent years, “certain issues such as labor migration and dual citizenship remain highly controversial.”
Britain mirrors some of the concerns usually expressed in the American immigration debate, though not all.
“Concern about immigration is not directly linked to economic competition over jobs but rather more to other factors –says the release–, such as being ‘swamped’ by foreigners, perceptions that immigrants have unfair access to public housing and other state services, and concern about weakening of community.”
The report’s authors said any reform package —like the one expected from Democratic legislators early next year– has to be accompanied by a public relations push to persuade the population to support it.
“Words matter in the immigration debate on both sides of the Atlantic. In order for governments to reform immigration policy, they must do more than just present a sensible reform package to parliament.
“They must also win the public debate on immigration by speaking to the hearts and minds of their voters,” said Jörg Dräger, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Executive Board.
Thinking about these issues becomes ever more important as developed countries start to emerge from a recession and will presumably attract higher numbers of immigrants.
“As governments begin to recover from the global economic crisis, it is more important than ever to craft sensible, thoughtful immigration reforms that not only make a difference — but that also have a realistic chance of being implemented,” said MPI President Demetrios G. Papademetriou.