Why So Many Children of Immigrants Rise to the Top  by Peter Coy reflects on the findings of two economists, Professor Abramitzky and Professor Boustan, displayed in their book, “Streets of Gold: America’s Untold Story of Immigrant Success.” The article explains that the children of immigrants were exceptionally good at moving up the economic ladder. They became nearly twice as likely to become rich as the children of people born in the United States: 15% of immigrants’ children become rich, while 9% of the children born there become rich (Coy). Furthermore, the article presents that second-generation immigrants are among the most vital fiscal and economic contributors in the U.S. Although immigrants became able to achieve the American Dream, the notion that they have become a permanent underclass, isolated from the American mainstream, became popular among immigration restrictionists.
The American Dream is a concept that has been central to American identity and is associated with upward social and economic mobility through hard work and determination. Some Republicans view certain aspects of immigration as a threat to the American Dream, particularly when it comes to undocumented immigrants, who may be seen as taking jobs and resources away from American citizens. In ”Strangers in Their Own Land,’’ Hochschild presents the idea that these conservative Americans have a “deep story,” which shows that the American Dream became almost unattainable. These Americans believe that because of the increased diversity in the United States due to immigration and the circumstances promoted by the government, which favor minorities, it became more challenging for them to achieve the American Dream. Consequently, they began to view immigrants as threatening their economic and social status, creating a sense of fear and anxiety.
As mentioned in “Why So Many Children of Immigrants Rise to the Top,” some Republican candidates describe immigration as a “full-scale invasion” (Coy). The belief that immigration is a threat to the traditional identity of the United States and a threat to American sovereignty and security fuel animosity among Republicans. Hence, members of the Republican Party now advocate for restrictive policies , including the deportation of illegal immigrants and increased border security. Support for such policies and perspectives is affected by the media. When media outlets frame immigration as a threat to national security or a drain on public resources and use demonizing language to describe it, referring to immigrants as a “pollutant” or “criminals,” they create a negative connotation around immigrants. Hence, they shape public opinion on policy proposals related to immigration and promote physiological and emotional hostility toward the outgroup and ingroup favoritism.
Since immigration became a polarizing issue in American politics, where the two political parties have taken different positions, with Democrats favoring policies that befit minority groups and the Republicans being against them, populist leaders have obtained a viable path to ascend into power in the United States. These leaders strike division among voters by exploiting this social cleavage, further polarizing the political environment and making compromise and cooperation difficult to achieve. In addition, they challenge norms of mutual toleration and institutional forbearance essential to democratic societies, as proposed by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. An example of a populist leader includes Donald Trump. He used anti-immigrant rhetoric  to demonize immigrants and mobilize supporters, creating a sense of us-versus-them and undermining mutual respect between groups. This political figure became attractive to voters by offering them emotional support, as they felt they were being culturally left behind, and affirming their values by describing them as the best, most hardworking and rightful true Americans deserving of the American Dream. However, wanting to “Make America Great Again,” Trump threatened American democracy by appealing to people’s fears and prejudices to justify policies that restricted immigration and discriminated against immigrants. Hence, he denied political accountability, a critical aspect characteristic of polyarchies, as suggested by Robert Dahl.
Immigrants who came from less affluent countries and were able to achieve the American Dream before Americans, rising on the social hierarchy, pose a threat to many conservative citizens who feel economic and social insecurity as they see their hard work is not benefiting them. Due to their fear, they began to support anti-immigrant policies and leaders who validated their sentiments. Using rhetoric and weaponized communication, leaders such as Trump became popular political figures as they used persuasion to appeal to the beliefs of their followers and create a sense of shared identity and purpose. Trump threatened the United States democracy by delegitimizing immigrants, isolating them from the political community, making compromise harder, denying accountability for his actions, eroding trust in democratic institutions, and denying institutional forbearance.
 Coy, Peter. “Why so Many Children of Immigrants Rise to the Top.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 July 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/07/11/opinion/immigrants-success-america.html.
 Deller, Rose. “Book Review: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild.” LSE Review of Books, 30 Jan. 2020, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofbooks/2019/01/14/book-review-strangers-in-their-own-land-anger-and-mourning-on-the-american-right-by-arlie-russell-hochschild/.
 Dunn, Amina. “Shifting Public Views on Legal Immigration into the U.S.” Pew Research Center – U.S. Politics & Policy, Pew Research Center, 30 May 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/06/28/shifting-public-views-on-legal-immigration-into-the-u-s/.
 “Remarks by President Trump on the Illegal Immigration Crisis and Border Security.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, 2018, https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-illegal-immigration-crisis-border-security/.
 Sotomayor, Marianna, and Theodoric Meyer. “Early Rift over Immigration Exposes House GOP’s Tough Path to Consensus.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 23 Jan. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/01/23/house-republicans-immigration-legislation/.