4 The Danger of Devaluing Immigrants essential to the success and vitality of our economy and society. We advise industry and business leaders, interest groups, states, and scholars to exam- ine immigration as both a socioeconomic phenomenon and a matter of pub- lic policy. Further, we approach immigration from a number of different perspectives, including historical, economic, business, and sociological per- spectives, and we give voice to arguments based on the demographics and statistics of U.S. immigration, workforce participation, and job creation while presenting stories and case studies of immigrants who contribute to our economy, society, and democracy. Immigrants and the Bimodal Nature of Their Lives in the United States As we explore the role of immigrants in various industries, two facts become evident. Immigrants tend to be either highly skilled and well posi- tioned in their chosen industries or unskilled, undertaking tasks that the native-born population has no desire to do. This bimodal nature of our immigrant population is reflected in our attitudes toward immigrants, which is further reinforced by U.S. immigration policies beginning with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which provided an immigration pathway for “needed skilled and unskilled workers and their families,” and later through the Immigration act of 1990, which further strengthened path- ways related to needed skills. Much of this framework remains essential to the current visa system. In spite of the ways in which this skill bimodality impacts US policy and public opinion toward immigrants, most research is reported in a simplified way, missing the inherent nuances related to attitudes and treatment of immi- grants based on their skill level and employment type. By diving deeper into this bimodal nature, we can better understand its seeming contradictions- -how we both celebrate our highly skilled immigrants and demonize low- skilled, low-paying workers. Political arguments and public opinion research generally focus on the ways in which immigrants drain economic resources by accessing public services or by taking away jobs from native born Ameri- cans. However, most opinion polls show that regardless of income or skill- level, native born Americans view low-skilled, low-payed immigrants much less favorably than they do their highly-skilled counterparts. Thus, their opinion is not based on perceived competition in the labor market but instead based on ideological concerns that do not fully recognize the collective con- tribution of immigration on U.S. society and the economy.1 Regardless of their bimodal nature and treatment and in spite of native- born-American attitudes favoring the highly skilled over the low skilled, immigrants from all socioeconomic and educational backgrounds bring their capabilities and strengths to enhance our economy. Wherever they work, whether in low-skilled or high-skilled occupations, they infuse the U.S.
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