People have been immigrating to the United States ever since the European settlers first founded the nation. The first immigrants were white European settlers who came for an assortment of reasons. These different reasons included; freedom of religion and employment opportunities. Waves of immigrants poured into the United States until restrictions were made in the 1920s, which were largely for cultural and economic reasons. Many saw immigration as the only way to prevent starvation, extreme suffering, and death. The United States is thought to be a land of hope and prospect. It became a safe haven and melting pot for many different cultures and nationalities. It is seen by many as a way to escape the hardships they go through back in their home land. Many years ago, people flocked to the United States seeking for a better life, not only for themselves, but for their families as well.
However, it was not easy to be an immigrant, since they faced much racism, religious persecution, and criticisms from Americans. Due to this, they often banded closely together, settling with their own kind and forming their own tightly-knit communities. In these tightly-knit communities, they established their businesses primarily to serve themselves. Whatever the reasons may be for immigrating, they affect our country in enormous ways. These impacts can either be advantages or disadvantages to us in the United States. The children of immigrants and immigrant children can be viewed in order to clearly look at these advantages and disadvantages of immigration. Immigration has been a hot topic in our nation; it has been a great source of political debates over the years. It has an effect on several different aspects including; economics, socially, politics, crime and terrorism, and education.
It is known that immigrants cause a net loss in regards to the economy. This is seen when viewing taxes paid in relation to social services received. Government expenditures on immigrants are much lower than those for natives, no matter how immigrants are classified, and welfare expenditures for immigrants are slightly more than for natives. These welfare expenditures are only small fractions of total government expenditures on immigrants and natives. Schooling costs and payments to the elderly are the bulk of government expenditures; natives use more of these programs, especially Social Security and Medicare (Simon, 1995). Immigrant children have significantly higher rates both of poverty and of program participation than do native children. Nearly half of immigrant children are being raised in households that receive some type of public assistance, compared with roughly one-third of native children. Although the shares of immigrant and native children living in poverty are lower, the rate for immigrant children is nonetheless about 15 percentage points higher than that for native children-about the same as the gap in public assistance. Poverty and program participation rates among different groups of immigrant children also vary widely, depending in part on place of birth, parents, and national origin (Borjas, 2011).
However, immigrants do contribute quite a bit of the United States economy each year. Overall, immigration was a net economic gain due to an increase in pay for higher-skilled workers, lower prices for goods and services produced by immigrant labor, and more efficiency and lower wages for some owners of capital. Although immigrant workers compete with domestic workers for low-skilled jobs, some immigrants specialize in activities that otherwise would not exist in an area, and thus can be beneficial for all
domestic residents. Another claim supporting expanding immigration levels is that immigrants mostly do jobs Americans do not want. Increasing immigration levels have not hurt employment prospects for American workers. Many economists have compared the wage structures, such as the gap between the earnings of college graduates vs. high-school dropouts, of cities and states with high and low shares of immigrants. Throughout this study they found the immigrants share of the population to be of little or no influence. Wage structures aside, it also looks like immigration has no effect on broad economic trends. With that said, immigrants are drawn to locations with strong economies, and shun those with weak ones (Riley, 2006). On the poor end of the spectrum, the "New Americans" report found that low-wage immigration does not, on aggregate, lower the wages of most domestic workers. while earlier European immigrants were often poor when they arrived, by the third generation they had economically assimilated to be indistinguishable from the general population.
Racism among and between minority groups does occur. America has had discrimination against minorities for a long time and it will continue to have it until people treat minorities with respect. Discrimination is when people treat minorities bad because of their skin color, ethnicity and the place they were born. For immigrants, the problems they had to arrive in America were not a good experience only by the struggle to gain acceptance among the population. Most immigrants came to the U.S. to have a better life and give education to their children. Almost all immigrants have experienced discrimination at some point in their life and even some are still experiencing it today.
For example, the conflicts between blacks and Korean immigrants, in particular, the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Another example is the long running racial tension between African American and Mexican prison gangs, as well as significant riots in California prisons where they have targeted each other, for ethnic reasons. There have been reports of racially motivated attacks against African Americans who have moved into neighborhoods occupied mostly by people of Mexican origin, and vice versa.
Immigration policy is a controversial but rarely debated issue in U.S. politics. Politicians usually do not take strong stances on immigration, and rarely does a candidate make immigration policy a key piece of his platform. However, the issue is very divisive and decisions concerning immigration will have a large impact on this country's future. Immigration discussions often evoke strong feelings due to the racial and ethnic issues involved. Often, those seeking to immigrate to the U.S. are part of racial or ethnic groups that are minorities in this country. Therefore, anti-immigration views are often associated with racism and nativism. It is no surprise that immigrants differ on their political views. However, the Democratic Party is considered to be in a far stronger position among immigrants overall. Research shows that religious affiliation can also significantly impact both their social values and voting patterns of immigrants, as well as the broader American population. Hispanic evangelicals, for example, are more strongly conservative than non-Hispanic evangelicals. This trend is often similar for Hispanics or others strongly identifying with the Catholic Church, a religion that strongly opposes abortion and gay marriage. In addition, ethnic politics affect party politics as well, as groups
compete for relative political power within a party. However, the authors argue that currently ethnic interest groups, in general, do not have too much power in foreign policy and can balance other special interest groups.
When it comes to crime, it seems that immigrants are underrepresented in criminal statistics. With that said, immigrants themselves are less likely to be arrested and incarcerated, however, it seems that the children of some immigrant groups are more likely to be arrested and incarcerated. This can be contributed due to the strains that emerge between immigrant parents living in poor, inner city neighborhoods. This occurs particularly in immigrant groups with many children as they begin to form particularly strong peer sub-cultures. An interesting find is that immigrants are much less likely to be incarcerated than native born Americans. There are many possible explanations for this find. For one, legal immigrants are screened for criminality prior to entry of the United States. Second, legal and illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes are deported, which leads to a decrease in the chance of committing more crimes. Third, immigrants actually understand the severe consequences of being arrested after given their legal status. For example, one severe consequence would be deportation.
Terrorism encompasses both crime and social aspects in relation to immigration. In the United States, when many citizens see someone who looks "different" they find them almost unapproachable. In particular, this is the case when we see a certain ethnic group or someone of a particular nationality that evokes some kind of raw, negative emotion. An example that most of us can relate to is the attacks on September 11th. After
the 9/11 attacks, many Americans entertained doubts and suspicions about people of Middle-Eastern origins. It reached excruciating worries in United States citizens; people of the United States began to look and judge these people differently, and some people would not even get on airplanes if they saw someone of Middle-Eastern descent. This caused strain throughout Middle-Easterners.
The educational levels of immigrants have been increasing from decade to decade. No major shifts in educational levels of immigrants relative to natives are apparent (Simon, 1995). However, immigrant children have historically been greatly affected by cultural misunderstanding, language barriers, and feelings of isolation within the school atmosphere. Immigrant children disproportionately face stressors in early childhood such as low family income, low parental education, and lack of exposure to the English language that may affect their ability to enter school ready to learn (Karoly, 2011).
More recently, however, immigrant children are finding a more welcoming school atmosphere. This does not undermine the difficulties immigrants face upon entering U.S. schools; immigrant children maintain their native tongue can leave them feeling disadvantaged within English speaking schools. A good deal of evidence points to an immigrant advantage in multiple indicators of academic progress, meaning that many youths from immigrant families outperform their peers in school. This apparent advantage is often referred to as the immigrant paradox, in that it occurs despite higher-than-average rates of social and economic disadvantages in this population as a whole. The immigrant paradox, however, is more pronounced among the children of Asian and
African immigrants than other groups, and it is stronger for boys than for girls. Furthermore, evidence for the paradox is far more consistent in secondary school than in elementary school (Crosnoe, 2011).
A recent study, provides conclusive evidence that there are advantages to bilingualism beyond the functional ability to communicate with one's parents. It also provides evidence that demonstrates that bilingualism is only advantageous in those communities with low levels of English proficiency and high levels of resources and networks (Golash-Boza, 2005). One policy that is meant to benefit immigrant is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. The DREAM Act was introduced to several Congresses and was meant to allow undocumented students to be eligible for legal permanent resident status (Elizabeth Segal, et al, 2011). This particular policy helps immigrants get one closer to achieving their goals and living the American dream that they always wanted, and in regards to their past ancestors, immigrants who arrived in the 1990s are on average better educated, which shows a great variation in both educational levels and English proficiency among different groups (Rosen, 2005).
America is known for being a "melting pot," a place where immigrants of different cultures or races form an integrated society can come and live. Unfortunately, American has now become more of a "salad bowl," where instead of forming an united entity the people who make up the bowl are unwilling to unite as one. America started as an immigrant nation and has continued to be so. People all over the world come to America for several reasons. Most people come to America voluntarily, but very few
come unwillingly. For whatever reasons they may have for coming they all have to face exposure to American society. When exposed to this new society and new world they choose whether to assimilate or not. Assimilation in any society is complex. Since assimilation is not simple, people will have negative experiences when assimilating into American society. In American society, learning to speak English properly is a crucial factor in assimilation. People who have decided to come to America have found it rather difficult to assimilate into American society, but still push forward to achieve their goals and become successful in this competitive country.
In recent decades, the majority of immigrants have come to America for economic prosperity and for more opportunities. However, because of the many different cultural responses which immigrants undergo, economic success does not always occur. Often times, culture conflicts arise. The American culture may prove to become an obstacle. This obstacle can make it difficult for an immigrant to succeed economically. In addition, language barriers may also exist, complicating the achievement of economic success. These obstacles must be overcome in order to succeed. By integrating or acculturating into the American culture, the obstacle will not be able to hinder one's success. Hence, the best way of achieving economic success involves assimilation and acculturation into the American culture. Immigrants effect the economy, politics, social environments, crime, and education on all levels and I believe with assimilation and acculturation they can be very successful and be accepted in all of these aspects within the United States.
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Simon, Julian. "Immigration: The Demographic & Economic Facts." Cato Institute and the National Immigration Forum 11 Dec. 1995: 1-15. Web. 9 April 2011. <http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/pr-immig.html>