Description of the disconnect
Peter Schuck writes, in a chapter of the essay collection Debating Immigration, that:
Writing in 1997, I summarized the then existing survey evidence on public attitudes toward immigration as follows:
Americans like immigrants more than they like immigration, favor past immigration more than recent immigration, prefer legal immigrants to illegal ones, prefer refugees to other immigrants, support immigrants’ access to educational and health benefits but not to welfare or Social Security, and feel that immigrants’ distinctive cultures have contributed positively to American life and that diversity continues to strengthen American society today. At the same time, they overwhelmingly resist any conception of multiculturalism that discourages immigrants from learning and using the English language. … Americans treasure their immigrant roots yet believe that current immigration levels are too high. Anxiety about immigration, it seems, is aroused by the newer immigrant groups, a bias that a 1982 Gallup poll places in a revealing historical light. When asked about its views on the contributions of particular immigrant groups, the public gave the highest scores to precisely the groups that had been widely reviled in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the lowest scoring groups were the newer arrivals (in 1982 Cubans and Haitians). Professor Rita Simon has captured this ambivalence in an arresting metaphor: “We view immigrants with rose-colored glasses turned backwards.” … When viewed over time, however, the polling evidence suggests that in attitudes toward immigration as in so many other areas, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The public, it appears, has always thought that the immigration levels of their day were too high. Over the course of the past fifty years, Americans asked (in slightly different formulations) whether immigration levels should be increased, reduced, or kept the same have responded in remarkably similar ways.
Carol M. Swain, ed. Debating Immigration (pp. 19-20). Kindle Edition.