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American as Anxiety and Ambivalence

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, a professor of globalization and education at NYU and editor of three UC Press anthologies, Globalization, Learning in the Global Era, and Latinos, was invited to speak at a special town hall event on immigration presented by MSNBC’s The Last Word.

As Suárez-Orozco toured Ellis Island with host Lawrence O’Donnell, he discussed our country’s historical relationship to immigration, noting that immigrant populations have always been greeted with suspicion and distrust, from the Irish to Italians to Eastern Europeans. “There’s nothing more apple pie than anxiety and ambivalence,” he says.

Suárez-Orozco argues that fears about immigration tend to spike during times of economic insecurity. Two commonly held beliefs—that immigrants “steal jobs” and bring in crime—aren’t borne out by actual data. In fact, economists have established that immigrants generate a vigorous surplus to the U.S. economy, and are less likely to commit crimes than comparable groups of non-immigrants.

Watch the first video to see Suárez-Orozco’s conversation with Lawrence O’Donnell and his panel appearance with David Shirk of the Trans-Border Institute and actress Rosario Dawson. Then, check out the second video for more of the panel and a discussion of solutions to the debate.

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