Good Life

Learning for Life: Course educates on ever-changing America

While the United States historically is a country of immigrants, our nation’s demographic landscape has been altered in new and important ways as a result of changing patterns of immigration flows.

In recent years, immigration from Asia and Latin America has increased and a sizable number of immigrants are unauthorized. Immigration affects not only the lives of immigrants but also the social, economic and cultural fabric of American society. For example, almost one-quarter of all children in the Unites States are immigrants or have at least one immigrant parent, and the integration of these children into American society is important for the future of our country.

The spring Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course, “Understanding U.S. Immigration,” will overview several aspects of U.S. immigration. First, past and present trends in immigration will be explored, including the changing size and country of origin of immigrants; where immigrants settle; and important immigrant family, educational, and labor force characteristics of immigrants. The documentation of key facts about current immigration is the basis for understanding the current political and policy divides.

Second, the course will highlight some key findings from current immigration science, including findings about the “root causes” of immigration to the U.S., multiple indicators of the cost-benefit and economic impacts of immigration, and recent findings about how immigrants assimilate into American society. For example, do immigrants today demonstrate the pattern of upward inter-generational social mobility in education, jobs, income and home ownership that characterized immigrants of past generations?

With current immigration numbers and characteristics and immigration science findings as context, the course will turn to a consideration of contested topics of immigration policy and politics today. What are the important values and ideologies that Americans hold concerning immigration? How are these values and ideologies expressed in current U.S. immigration policy — for example, immigration policy regarding quotas, preferences, visas, citizenship requirements, federal benefit program eligibility, law enforcement, boarder security, etc.? These understandings are the basis for enlightened future immigration policy debates.