Why Immigrants Are More Hopeful Than US-born Americans

FILE - Rita Guevara of the Philippines, center, takes a photo with her family following a naturalization ceremony, Sept. 15, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

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Why Immigrants Are More Hopeful Than US-born Americans

Immigrants in America are more hopeful about the future than citizens who were born in the United States.

That is what a recent opinion study of 3,358 immigrant adults found.

The study, or survey, aimed to find out what the immigrant adults thought about a number of issues.

Shannon Schumacher is a researcher at KFF, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that works with health policy. It was formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation.

She described what the immigrants told her this way: “They said, ‘You know, I face challenges here in the U.S., but it's far better than where I came from. And I have this belief that things will be better for my children.’”

Schumacher added, “Whether that's their education, their safety, their economic opportunities…they think that they're better off and their children are better off.”

The survey was a partnership between KFF and the Los Angeles Times newspaper. The organizations carried out the study between April 10 and June 12, 2023.

The immigrants answered questions by telephone, mail, and online. The questions could be answered in any of the 10 most commonly spoken languages in the United States. They include English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Haitian-Creole, Arabic, French and Tagalog.

FILE - New U.S. citizens recite the Pledge of Allegiance after being sworn in during a naturalization ceremony on Independence Day at George Washington's Mount Vernon in Mount Vernon, Virginia, July 4, 2023. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP)

Schumacher said it is the most complete survey of immigrants in the U.S. today.

“The survey can really help inform the public more about immigrants and really bring their voices to the forefront,” she said. Schumacher added, “We don't actually hear about immigrants often in their own voices.”

Immigrants make up 16 percent of adults in the U.S. They come from many different countries and are from many classes of people. Their belief in a better future remains although they face many difficulties.

Most of the immigrants in the survey have jobs. About half said they have experienced discrimination in the workplace. Three in 10 said they had been paid less for doing the same job or have had fewer opportunities to get a better job or increased pay, compared to their U.S.-born coworkers.

Health care can be another problem. One in five immigrants delayed or did not get health care in the past few years. Often the reason is lack of money or health insurance. And if they see a medical worker, the experience is not always good.

Schumacher said: “About one in four immigrants say they've been treated unfairly in a health care setting, such as being talked down to.” She added that they might not have a health care provider explain things in a way they can understand. They also might not have had someone explain issues in their language.

FILE - Hundreds gather to protest peacefully against Florida legislation which imposes restrictions on undocumented immigrants, Thursday, June 1, 2023, in Immokalee, Florida. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

The survey said that Black and Hispanic immigrants face the most discrimination.

Researchers worked with activist groups within the different immigrant communities to find people to talk to. The researchers said the English word “discrimination” was a problem because it does not always mean the same thing in different cultures and languages.

“People aren’t sure what that means,” Schumacher said. She added that they might use different words, “or they say something that maybe we as researchers would say, ‘Oh, that's discrimination,’ but they call it bullying or someone just being mean.”

To deal with possible miscommunication, researchers asked direct questions to identify experiences that they defined as discrimination. They did this even if the survey subject did not call the experience “discrimination.” For example, the researcher might ask: “Have you ever been not paid for all the hours you've worked?” “Have you been harassed or threatened or been told to go back to your country?”

I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.

Dora Mekouar reported this story for Voice of America. Gregory Stachel adapted the story for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

challenge n. a difficult task or problem

opportunity – n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done

forefront n. the most important part or position

insurance – n. an agreement in which a person pays a company regularly so that the company will pay for part of, for example, a health care cost later on

talk down to –v. (phrasal) to speak as though you are talking to a young child when you are not talking to a young child

bully – v. to try to force people to do things by making threats

harassed – v. to annoy or bother (someone) in a repeated way over a period of time