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Cass R. Sunstein

The Real Reason So Many Americans Oppose Immigration

It's not economic anxiety. It's not concerns about public spending.
Not universally agreed upon.

Not universally agreed upon.

Photographer: Jensen Walker/Getty Images

Why do so many Americans oppose immigration, and why has it become a central issue in the presidential campaign? A growing body of research suggests that the answer isn’t economic anxiety, or concerns about public spending, or even general nationalism. It is more specific -- and more disturbing.

The question of what drives anti-immigrant sentiment is put in sharp relief by an extensive report released last week by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report finds that immigration has positive effects on economic growth -- and doesn’t hurt the employment or wages of native-born workers.