Andrea Archer, a 32-year-old children’s safeguarding specialist based in London, started spending holidays and other vacation time with her father in California when she was 4 years old. She always knew she would move to the U.S. when she grew up.
Archer pursued a green card — she was eligible for one because her father is an American citizen — in 2012. Barack Obama was president at the time, and Archer felt that a new era was beginning for the U.S.
But when Archer received her green card in 2017, the country that once seemed hopeful felt unsafe. The U.S. seemed volatile and politically fraught. She decided that she didn’t want to migrate to the States, despite her lifelong plan. In 2021, Archer returned her green card.
Archer is one of the many people whose outlook on the U.S. has changed drastically since 2017, according to Gallup World Poll data released Tuesday. Although the U.S. is still the country most people around the world would most like to migrate to, the number of people who want to do so is lower than ever before.
The poll surveyed 16% of adults worldwide, or about 900 million people, regarding their desire to move to another country. Globally, people’s desire to move reached its highest point in a decade, but interest in moving to the U.S. plunged. When asked where in the world they would want to migrate, 1 in 5 potential migrants — or about 18% — named the U.S. as their desired future residence. The new numbers marked a historic decline that began in 2017, when just 17% — the lowest rate ever recorded — said they’d want to move to the U.S. In previous years, the U.S. has polled between 20% and 24%.
Donald Trump’s presidency was in full swing by 2017. As one of his first acts as president, Trump signed into law the first iteration of a policy that banned travelers from several Muslim-majority countries. Children began being separated from their parents at the southern border that same year under the administration’s zero-tolerance program. In August 2017, white nationalists and members of the alt-right gathered for a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Such policies and events likely deterred people from moving to the U.S. and tainted how immigrants around the world saw the country, said Julie Ray, the managing editor for World News Gallup and one of the authors of the report. “It is a pretty well-documented, chilling effect,” she said.
Archer said 2017, the year she received her green card, was also the year she started to reconsider moving to the U.S.
“It was quite an unsettling time,” she said. “It felt as though the kind of American dream that we had bought into was kind of slowly crumbling before our eyes.”
Archer hoped it would pass, and she ping-ponged back and forth between the U.K. and the U.S. She kept moving forward with the plan to resettle and was on track to receive her Social Security number.
But when George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis in 2020, Archer officially changed her mind. She no longer wanted to live in the U.S.
“Once we had that incident on a world stage and once we kind of saw the response by President [Trump], it just didn’t feel safe,” she said.
The recent political climate is not the only thing deterring some people who previously considered immigrating to the U.S.
Anas Almassri, a 27-year-old Ph.D. student, also decided the U.S. was not for him. Born and raised in Palestine, Almassri arrived in Washington, D.C., in 2019 to earn a second master’s degree from Georgetown University’s renowned Arab studies program.
He was attracted to the U.S. for its “infinite opportunities,” he said. However, he said what he found was a “workaholic culture,” a lack of fulfillment and that a person’s value was diminished to their job status.
Almassri immediately returned to the U.K. after completing his degree, even though the U.S. could offer him better career prospects.
“I was trying to find the balance between finding safety and validation, but also not sacrificing your value as a human being, as a person, beyond your network beyond your institutional affiliations,” Almassri said. “I thought the U.S. couldn’t offer me that.”
Back in London, Archer said she doesn’t know if she’ll give the U.S. another chance. She wants to be optimistic, but she said she’s hesitant. For now, the U.S. isn’t the country where she sees her future. Not anytime soon, she said. If she would, she’d have to go through the process again to obtain another green card.
“It just felt that this wasn’t a country that aligned with some of our core principles and values anymore,” she said.