Is America Losing its Image as the Land of Opportunity?

I find it interesting how some things change.  American has long been seen as a land of opportunity.  Immigrants, both legal and illegal go to great lengths to get into the country.  This phenomenon was beautifully expressed in a poem for Lady Liberty written by Emma Lazarus, which ended up as an inscription on the Statute of Liberty that we are all so familiar with.

I guess, as the old saying goes, “that was then, this is now.”  WCAX-TV ran an article today about illegal immigrants fleeing Vermont for Canada:

Derby Line and Stanstead are more like one community, with the border even running through the library.

“Until very recently it was a non-border; it wasn’t thought of as crossing into another country,” Roy said.

The area which largely remains open is an attractive place for smugglers, people sneaking into the U.S., and a growing trend– people looking to cross illegally from the U.S. into Canada.

In 2010, 85 people crossed the border illegally in Stanstead. The number jumped to 168 last year. So far this year there have been 260 illegal crossings.

If this trend was only playing out on our northern border, it might be able to be dismissed.  The problem is that we are seeing the same phenomenon on our southern border: “According to a new report released by the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of people coming into the US has dramatically slowed down in the past few years. In fact, it’s reversed itself in such a way that it now appears that more people are returning to Mexico than those who are coming in.”

At least past of the reason for this reversal in immigration patterns is a matter of less economic here in the U.S.: “The situation appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and broader economic conditions in Mexico.”

For there to be a net outflow of immigrants out of the U.S. into other countries, at least partly for economic reasons, those other countries must be seen as offering more opportunity.  If that is so, it is a matter of concern that we should take more seriously.  If America is losing its status as the land of opportunity, our living standards will suffer as a result.  Perhaps we should stop “whistling past the graveyard” and reconsider the direction our state and country are heading.