The US has yet to fall out of the international Top Ten, as other federal and state policies are still in place to offer a slightly favourable path for legal immigrants to contribute to American society. First and foremost, the US’ traditionally strong anti-discrimination policies in many areas of life, from employment to education to health, encourage discriminated groups to demand justice and equality. Immigrants who obtain a legal status can find a job, but perhaps not as good a job as those Americans citizens enjoy. Their US-born children are US citizens and should receive the educational support they need to achieve and feel as safe and at home as other children.
Since 2017, the US federal government has exacerbated the costs, delays and insecurity that defer many from the American dream of citizenship, a secure family, and a good job. These symptoms of the so-called ‘broken’ immigration system are eroding the US’ traditional gift for integration. The US immigration system has been so politicised that US policymakers may need to look internationally for new solutions for policies at federal and state level. The path to citizenship and integration is more attainable in other Top Ten countries. In Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, Finland and Sweden, immigrants enjoy more equal opportunities and long-term security than in the US.
A country’s approach to integration matters because the way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Drawing on 130 independent scientific studies using MIPEX, integration policies emerge as one of the strongest factors shaping not only the public’s willingness to accept and interact with immigrants, but also immigrants’ own attitudes, belonging, participation and even health in their new home country.
Under traditionally inclusive policies like the US’, both immigrants and the public are more likely to interact together and think of each other as equals, as neighbours and as fellow citizens. But restrictive policies can spiral into a ‘vicious circle’ of exclusion that reinforces fear and separation. Policies that treat immigrants as threats lead more people to see immigrants as general threats and treat them in ways that harm integration. Under restrictive policies, the public experiences higher levels of xenophobia and islamophobia and lower levels of social trust, which leads them to fewer contacts and positive experiences with immigrants. Immigrants experience greater attacks on their identity and sense of belonging and report lower levels of satisfaction with their life, trust in society and participation in politics.
- Labour market mobility: Slightly favourable: Slightly lower in the Top Ten, the US provides equal access but little targeted support like Brazil, Italy and Spain. A legal status in the US gives most legal residents the chance to find a job, with greater support since 2014 to invest in their English and vocational training. Still, their job may be far below their skills, because of the bureaucracy and limited support to recognise foreign credentials.
- Family reunification: Slightly Favourable: The US has fallen out of the MIPEX international Top Ten on reuniting families. The US’ traditionally family-friendly policies have been seriously undermined by the administration’s 2019 “public charge” and wide discretionary grounds to reject applicants. The US scores below all other traditional destination countries. The amount of obstacles for separated families to reunite in the US is now comparable to MIPEX countries like Iceland, Japan and several Central European countries.
- Education: Favourable: Ranked #4 on education just below Canada and Nordic countries, US schools provide some support for equal access, support and opportunities for immigrant pupils under the 2015 “Every Student Succeeds Act”. However, US targeted policies better at addressing access and needs than opportunities that immigrant pupils bring to the classroom
- Health: Slightly favourable: Slightly lower in the Top Ten on Health, the US offers accessible and responsive healthcare services to immigrant patients who can meet the complicated entitlement rules. Like other English-speaking countries, the US pays greater attention than most countries to migrant and minority health, thanks to longstanding federal policies on accessibility and cultural competence, coordinated by the Office of Minority Health.
- Political participation: Slightly unfavourable: Newcomers to the US face slightly unfavourable conditions to contribute to democratic life. Outside of election cycles, immigrants are rarely informed, consulted and involved in local civil society. Only a handful of states offer basic information and support to immigrant-led civil society. The US provides fewer democratic opportunities than 20 other MIPEX countries (e.g. Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Nordics).
- Permanent residence: Slightly favourable: The 2019 decision to revise the “public charge” rule is one indicator of the greater obstacles under the Trump administration for temporary residents to become legal permanent residents (LPR, a.k.a. Green Card holders). Already, the 2015 MIPEX noted that the US denies a path to LPR for many categories of immigrants, while those eligible face relatively high fees, a second-class status and fewer rights than in most other MIPEX countries.
- Access to nationality: Favourable: Ranked 5th alongside Canada and below Argentina, Brazil and New Zealand, the US’ core principles on citizenship are shared with many destination countries inspired by its standards: five-years’ residence, dual nationality and a citizenship entitlement for children. Still, the process of becoming an American is more expensive and bureaucratic than in most MIPEX countries. Immigrants are better supported with simpler procedures, lower fees and more free courses in countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Portugal and the Nordics.
- Anti-discrimination: Favourable: In Top Ten on anti-discrimination, the US’ anti-discrimination laws and equality policies secure high levels of awareness, trust and reporting on discrimination. Potential victims of discrimination in the US can turn to strong mechanisms, equality bodies and equality policies to demand enforcement of the law. These standards set in the US have inspired laws and policies across Europe and the developed world.