Professor addresses misconceptions with immigration


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Photo by Natalie Kolasa |

Rafaela Dancygier, assistant professor in the Department of Politics and Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, spoke to students yesterday about the misconceptions surrounding immigration’s advantages and disadvantages in the Loree building on Douglass campus.


Rafaela Dancygier believes Americans and Europeans have many misconceptions about immigration‘s advantages and disadvantages, and has found that often, common knowledge is based off ignorance.

Dancygier, an assistant professor of Politics and Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, hosted a seminar on immigration in the U.S. and Europe at the Loree Building on Douglass campus.

“When you open the newspaper, when you go online, it seems like most of the time when the issue of immigration is mentioned it’s in a conflicting way,” said Dancygier, author of the book ‘Immigration and Conflict in Europe.’

Dancygier said people often oppose immigration because foreign workers could lower wages or take jobs away from citizens. Europeans are also against a relaxed immigration policy for cultural and religious reasons.

“When you follow the debate, sometimes it seems like there is not a lot of systematic knowledge behind it, but in fact there is actually,” Dancygier said. “Systematic knowledge has definitely been accumulating over the last several years, and some of it is not really reflected in the debate.”

Immigrant populations had the same percentage of workers with a bachelor’s degree or greater as native populations in the U.S. and Europe, she said, contrary to the stereotype that immigrants are unskilled laborers.

Many people believe immigrants drain social services in welfare states and cost more money to taxpayers, she said.

However, she found young men looking for work comprise the majority of immigrants. These young men tend to leave their families behind while they work, and are themselves very healthy, so they contribute to the economy more than they cost, Dancygier said.

Contrary to popular belief, studies show that immigrants did not significantly lower wages, she said. Immigrants tended to work in mainly growing labor markets such as construction, so immigration did not correlate with decreased job opportunities nationwide.

“It’s a broad overview and comparison across European countries, the trends in immigration,” said Roger Kelemen, who teaches the class “Lessons from Europe” where Dancygier was guest speaking.

Kelemen, a professor in the University’s Department of Political Science, said Dancygier was a specialist in the field of immigration policies and politics in Europe and was perfectly suited to explain the tensions that arose from immigration.

“She is really one of the leading experts in the world on politics of immigration in Europe,” Kelemen said.

He said it is important for the students in the University to hear from experts such as Dancygier, to inform themselves on issues that are a part of the national debate today.

 “What, if anything, can the U.S. learn from the experience of European democracies? Because, they are confronting many of the same issues,” Kelemen said.

David Bedford, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said the lecture gave a rational argument as to why people should not be afraid of immigration.

“It’s very interesting to see it not only on the national level, but on the international level,” said Bedford.

He works with the University tuition equity coalition, which works with immigration on the state level, he said.

“Working where I work, everyone gives a much more rhetorical based arguments, and everyone is either very pro or very anti-[immigration], not only was this very well-done but it was a very well-balanced take,” Bedford said.

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By Zachary Bregman

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