Changing Attitudes on Immigration


A Pew Research Center poll indicates that Americans are softening their stance and changing their attitudes on immigration.

The poll released earlier this year showed 59 percent of respondents believe immigrants are strengthening the country, up from 45 percent in 2011.

Meanwhile, 33 percent thought they are a burden, down from 44 percent over the same time period.

Part of that change could be millennials knowing that the United States is part of a global economy and embracing different cultures, experts said.

Government leaders across the country are recognizing the positive benefits of immigration and developing strategies to become more welcoming, said Dan Wallace, director for state and local initiatives for the Partnership for a New American Economy.

In the past, it’s been nonprofit and faith-based institutions focused on immigration issues. But since 1970, none of the 50 largest metropolitan areas grew without a large influx of immigrants, Wallace said.

“More and more governments are realizing they have an important role,” he said. “Not only at the federal level, but at the local level as well.”

Earlier this year, the International Institute of Akron received a $12,500 matching grant to help make Akron and Summit County more welcoming to immigrants and refugees.

Local leaders are meeting now to develop a strategy for the Gateway for Growth initiative.

One of the biggest challenges for communities is developing a coordinated effort, Wallace said.

The faith-based World Relief Organization, which has offices nationwide and is based on Grant Street, also is working in the community and has brought in 132 refugees since opening in February 2015.

Kara Ulmer, office director of World Relief Akron, views the International Institute and World Relief as complementary organizations.

“Akron has done a good job welcoming and serving” the refugee community because of the International Institute, she said.