Immigration ambivalence in suburbia

Immigration ambivalence in suburbia

The Chicago metropolitan area has long been the destination of immigrants from around the world. One of the features of the most recent wave of immigration is that immigrants are moving not just to the city of Chicago, but also to its suburbs—with some moving from the city to the suburbs, but many moving directly into the suburbs from their home countries. Researchers, community leaders, and residents themselves are interested in what this means for their communities and immigrant/non-immigrant relations. Lake County, Illinois has been one of these ‘new’ destinations, more than tripling (+332%) its (largely Latino) immigrant population since 1980. Lake County therefore provides a window into the landscape of communities that are experiencing rapid increases in immigrant populations. At the same time, our nation has been engaged in debates at the local, state, and national level about immigration policy. Indeed, the lack of national leadership on immigration policy is regularly cited as prompting the patchwork pattern of state and local policies attempting to prevent, reverse, or in some cases, encourage immigration. Most recently, upon his re-election, President Obama and Congressional leaders are promising new action on a comprehensive plan that deals with the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country today and regulates flows of future migrants.This research brief reports basic results from a 2010 survey of residents in six communities in Lake County, IL. We provide these data as one window into the context in which the policy debates, and policies, have and will be playing themselves out. In 2010, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago1 began a large, multi-faceted study of how immigration was being experienced in six communities in suburban Lake County, IL.2 This project included in-depth interviews with residents, community leaders, and advocates as well as a large-scale representative survey of residents. Respondents were interviewed either in person or by telephone, and asked a number of questions about their attitudes toward and experiences with immigration and immigrants.

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"While ambivalence could be a sign of indifference or uncertainty about the role of immigrants in American life, it likely reflects recognition on behalf of native residents that immigration both contributes to and challenges major U.S. institutions in important ways."

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