Different Groups of Immigrants

I would like to analyze the experiences faced by different groups of immigrants, taking into account their race, gender, social class, language skills with a focus on the experience of immigrants before and after the current political climate and recent changes in law. I hope my research can provide a way for people to get educated and see the world from the perspective of an immigrant. I believe many of the people who are prejudice against immigrants aren’t exposed to immigrants on a daily basis and have no way of knowing what one goes through.

This topic is very near and dear to my heart. Many within my community find themselves within the realms of this very important issue. Within the last few years, immigrants have been the targets of attacks, not only by the current administration, but also by the people within our own communities. I am very curious as to see how things have changed after the last election. Lately it seems as though racism and discrimination are more prominent than ever. That’s not to say that people were not racist before, but rather racist people have been empowered to speak their mind, even if it’s socially unacceptable. This clearly shows just how the law affects our everyday lives and actions, and vice versa. The law is also a reflection of our social practices, constructed through daily practices and legal consciousness. Before the current presidency, people weren’t so quick to speak their mind on certain issues. Unfortunately after a person of a high rank in our legal system, some might say the ”most important man” within our legal system, expressed hate and anger, the American people found it acceptable to do the same. I don’t know if maybe I was too young to remember or just simply didn’t understand, but I had never heard “go back to your country”. Nowadays, this phrase is used so much, I cant believe there was ever a time where I didn’t hear this phrase.

My main objective through my research is to analyze the way in which the experience of an immigrant has changed by comparing the immigrant experience from five years ago to today. The question specifically being, How have current laws and the current political climate affected the lives and experiences of immigrants within the Unites States of America? I will do so by asking the people I interview different questions about how they may have felt five years ago, to how they feel today. I would like to ask them open-ended questions to make sure I don’t somehow change or influence their answer. I will do my best to make sure to interview immigrants of all different races, backgrounds and social classes. Although I’ve read about many horror stories and seen many videos, I’ve never truly come across, or experienced myself an act of blatant discrimination or prejudice. Typically, it does not go farther than the occasional “speak English”, or the accusation of stealing. I’m also curious as to see how the experiences may differ between different groups of immigrants; how the experiences of a Latina immigrant who doesn’t speak English differs from the experiences of a Latina immigrant who does speak English or even how the experience of a light skinned immigrant differs from the experience of a dark skinned immigrant.

Current laws set in place, have definitely affected the everyday experiences of immigrants within the United States. Through my research I hope to demonstrate just how much our legal system/ government has influenced the live of immigrants. Not just in terms of how they may have legally changed the laws, but focusing mainly on how others treat immigrants after the recent changes. Have immigrants experienced more blatant hate, and prejudice after the recent changes in our government? Have they noticed a considerable change in the way they are treated/ spoken to? How many times have they been told to “go back to their country”? It seems as though both the laws set in place, and the current president have negatively influenced the sentiment of the American people toward immigration, that in turn has increased the amount of hate crimes and injustices committed toward immigrants.

After recent changes within the government, I felt there was a significant rise in tension and anger towards immigrant populations. Hopefully through my research, I can change the views and misjudgments of people towards immigrants.

For my research project, I decided to use the data captured through my interviews to examine the experience of immigrants and how they have changed throughout the years. These interviews will allow for me to analyze the experiences of Latino immigrants, both one legal immigrant and one undocumented immigrant. I asked both similar questions in terms of their experiences within the United States and their involvement with the legal system. The interviews were focused largely on their experiences as an immigrant throughout the recent years.

In order to perfectly transcribe these interviews I will record them on a device. These audio taping a will be deleted on Monday May 20th at precisely 1pm. The names used in my interview will also be pseudonyms in order to protect the identity of the interviewee. I did of course let them know they were being recorded, which they were completely at ease with after letting them know the audiotape would be destroyed. The safety of my interviewee is my number one priority and therefore I will be extremely cautious with these tapes. I will be interviewing two immigrants, one of them a legal resident, and one of them with a current illegal status. They were both asked the same questions, and the conversation with each of them developed fairly differently.

Unfortunately as with any research, I have a few limitations. For one, the immigrants I interviewed were both from the same, and therefore I didn’t have a wide spectrum of immigrants from different places to base my work on . Though I initially wanted to analyze the different experiences of immigrants of different backgrounds, I, unfortunately, ended up not being able to do so. While this may be a limitation, it also felt as though it was the right decision. Focusing solely on a specific type of immigrant, in my case Latino immigrants, I found I was able to compare the interviews more easily than I would any other.

Perhaps another limitation on my part was choosing a topic that I can identify strongly with. My bias towards this subject, I hope will have no effect on my research study and my findings. Being a Latina immigrant myself I found was also beneficial in that I was able to understand their experiences moreso than I would any other type of immigrant. This allows me to expand on different areas of Latino culture that perhaps play a role in the way Latino immigrants perceive and interact with the American legal system.

I found that the number of people I was able to interview was a huge disadvantage. Interviewing only two people limited my exposure to different types of experiences among immigrants. Both my interviewee’s were Latinos from the same country. This of course limits my data capture and how universal it may be. To fully understand the experiences of immigrants, I should have interviewed more people.

Legal consciousness refers to the understandings and meanings of law that circulate in social relations. This theory analyzes the ways in which legal institutions intersect with everyday social relations. The study of legal consciousness emphasizes the way law is perceived, interpreted and experienced by individuals whether they decide to engage, avoid or resist the law.

The theory of legal consciousness will further my research by analyzing the ways in which our legal system today affects and influences our society and social relations. The theory will help focus on how the recent changes within our legal system has influenced the way in which we treat one another. How do people interpret and understand the law, and how do they engage, avoid or resist the law? I would, of course be focusing mainly on how people within our society treat immigrants, and in what way that was influenced by the recent changes within our legal system. I also intend to place a special focus on how immigrants themselves perceive the law. Do they frequently interact with the legal system? If so, in which ways?

Legal consciousness is a type of social practice that not only reflects social structures, but also creates them. This theory demonstrates how experiences of people within a particular society are influenced by law, while simultaneously contributing to law. In other words, people are both the authors and the victims of their own creation.

One common theme in legal consciousness throughout many distinct articles was legal interpretation and the way it influenced and played a role on legal consciousness. Often laws are interpreted in different ways and therefore many may disagree on what law actually entails. For example, the classic form of Islamic legal theory is vastly different from the beliefs that exist in contemporary Malaysia (Moustafo,2013). While the classic form Islamic legal theory is widely known for its use of pluralism, Muslims within Malaysia believe and understand Islamic law as the complete opposite. The common misconceptions of Islamic law that exist within Malaysia have led to failure to reform family law.

A major theme I found across different research studies was centralized around the role that class, race and gender play in legal consciousness. Often times a group of marginalized people will have a different understanding and perception

of the law than those who are not. For example, in China, although prostitution is illegal, opinions about prostitution policies varies (Boitton, 2013). As revealed in the research conducted, marginalized people do not view prostitution through the same lens as others. In this study, the disconnect of the lower working class with the law is clear, as many fail to abide by it.(Boitton, 2013) Through out the articles, a clear distinction is made between the experiences of different groups of people based on their class, gender and race. Throughout the research it was clearly evident that different variations of experiences and legal attitudes exist throughout the community based heavily on race, class and gender.

Another important common theme was that legality does not necessarily shape an individuals view on a certain matter. Legality also does not always reflect morality, and therefore different individuals choose whether or not they agree and want to follow the law. The author Fritsvold analyzes how a group of people knowingly engage in illegal tactics in order to fulfill their radical environmental activism (Fritsvold, 2009). This research study also suggests that individuals will often ignore the law when they perceive it to be fundamentally illegitimate. As mentioned before, Boitton also centralizes around this idea. In this research study, the author interviews many different sex workers whom suggest that legality is of little importance to them

Legal consciousness will play a major role in furthering and developing my research. Through the use of the theory of legal consciousness I intend to analyze the ways in which treatment of immigrants has changed. In my research study, I will conduct a series of interviews with different groups of immigrants from different backgrounds. I will ask them general questions about their lives and problems they face in their communities, schools and workplaces. This, I hope, will allow for the interviewees to expand on what role the law plays within these work places. I believe the most important is to make sure that I, in no way, suggest or mention anything about legal consciousness. I would prefer it that the subjects begin to talk about the law without any incentive from me.

Through my research, many different important factors of the legal consciousness theory will be tested. Legal interpretations and the role it plays in legal consciousness, is one of the key points that I am sure will arise during my research. The interpretation of law can change the meaning of law entirely. In fact, this tactic has been widely used by the United States legal system to adjust laws that may seem out of date. Therefore, the interpretation of law can differ depending on many different factors; or depending on how someone may want to manipulate the law to their advantage. Recent laws set in place, have set out different types of negative rhetoric, especially regarding immigrants. This in turn has negatively impacted their overall experience within the United States.

As many may assume, legality does not always reflect morality. In fact there have been many instances in which our legal system has taken part in what we now consider to be immoral. The important theme will definitely arise within my research as I hope to interview immigrants who may have come here illegally. I find this important because they represent a significant part of the population that is not heard enough. Legality does not always shape an individuals view on certain matters.

The United States was once a land that not only yearned for immigrants, but also fully accepted and embraced them. Yet throughout the years, the narrative of immigrants within the United States has changed drastically. While they were once considered and perceived as to be hard working, and resilient people, immigrants are now perceived in a negative light. In todays society, criminals and rapists are among the few adjectives used to describe the current immigrant population. This narrative has only recently become popular, and has not always been the case.

Within the past few years, there have been an abundance of changes within our legal system regarding immigration. Perhaps one of the most controversial acts committed by the current administration was the removal of the DACA program, also commonly known as Deferred Action for childhood arrivals. DACA was an important resource among the immigrant population, that helped instill hope and desire within the undocumented part of the immigrant community. Although DACA is not a permanent solution, and does not provide a path for citizenship, it helps undocumented children by providing them with protection from deportation, allowing them to apply for a social security number and awarding them the work authorization they need. The removal of DACA, one of the only resources set in place to provide help for undocumented immigrants, has prompted fear and distress among the immigrant population of the United States. This has also fed into the hateful rhetoric and narrative that exists in todays society about undocumented immigrants.

Also quite recently uncovered was the cruel practice of family separation that has been seemingly occurring for many years. Thousands of children have been ripped apart from their families, in an unfamiliar land, with no one to look after them or care for the. Unfortunately, it could take upwards of two years, if not more to be able to identify and unify the thousands of families that have been separated. This wait could be devastating not only to the parents of these young children, but the young children themselves; causing a certain amount distress, emotional and psychological trauma.

Family based immigration is an important and essential part of our immigration system, yet has been demonized throughout the last couple of years. Family based immigration allows for the reunification of families within the United States. Through this process, a person is allowed to receive a green card if they have a family member, a spouse, sibling, parent or even child within the United States already. The current administration set in place has demonized this practice and threatened to abolish it altogether, instead opting to focus instead more on a merit based system for immigration.

The acceptance of refugees within the United States has been a quite controversial topic within the past few years. The term refugee refers to people forced to escape and leave their country because of the threat of war, persecution, or even natural disasters.

Through my research, I found many similarities between both my interviewee’s. For one, they both felt afraid to interact with the legal system of the US. All form of interaction with the law was out of the question for both my subjects. From calling the police, stepping foot in the courthouse, to even visiting the doctor, they did not partake in any forms of interaction. One thing I noticed was legality had little to no effect on their decision to avoid the law. Whether legal or not, they both didn’t trust the legal system of the United States. They both were equally as scared.

The idea of not going to the doctor surprised me when it was mentioned by one of my interviewee’s. The fact that he would avoid something as necessary as going to the doctor out of fear, not only endanger his well being, but is also unfounded. I found through this research that immigrants are afraid of things they shouldn’t be afraid of. Services that are set in place to protect them are actively avoided. This fear I believe must also extend to other immigrants as well. Like for example, calling the police. The police are supposed to protect and ensure ones safety, yet they instill fear in many immigrants.

The fear of going to the courthouse, I found was based on stories they have heard, and even seen on social media. They believed that “they”, didn’t specify who, would be waiting for them outside the courthouse to deport them. Again, in this scenario, legality did not matter. In other words, both my interviewee’s, one legal and the other undocumented, felt the same way. This also further demonstrated the effect that media portrayal has on their views. Media portrayal of deportation cases and family separations have grown to implant fear into immigrants, although possibly unintentional.

Media portrayal of deportation cases and family separation have grown to implant fear into immigrants, although possibly unintentional. The deportation stories shown on television, and the perceived criminalization of immigrants has only led immigrants to believe that they were unwanted and unprotected.

Both interviewee’s expressed an increase in discrimination and racism within recent years. They described themselves as feeling isolated and unwelcome. One of interviewee described a racist experience that had happened to her for the first time since moving to the United States more than twenty years ago. She claimed she had never had such an experience in all the years she has resided in the United States.

Another aspect of their interviews that I found similar was their experience with discrimination. Both immigrants had different yet also similar run ins with racism and discrimination. I found that in this aspect, legality also didn’t matter. In fact the legal immigrant that I interviewed had a particularly worse experience than that of the undocumented immigrant. This was a surprising find, as many people seem to claim that they have nothing against legal immigrants, but rather have a problem with immigrants who reside in the country illegally. Yet this just comes to show that whether undocumented or not, immigrants of all types face similar types of discrimination. Legality is clearly irrelevant to the way immigrants are treated in there everyday lives. Even so, one cannot physically determine whether or not someone is residing in this country legally. Thus the question rises of why these immigrant experience acts of discrimination where there legal status is being questioned? What trait do they possess that suggests illegality?

This thus brings me to my last and final point. Both immigrants described similar experiences with the language barrier that exists in their lives. The immigrants that I interviewed both spoke Spanish as their first language, and knew little to no English. They both expressed feeling alienated as a result of not knowing how to speak English. Not to mention the discrimination they had to endure for not being able to fluently speak English. They also both expressed an immense desire in learning the primary language of the United States, but found it really difficult. While they can certainly get their point across speaking English, they don’t feel comfortable speaking the language. This in turn has affected not only their social lives, but also their careers. Both immigrants found it decisively hard to find jobs without knowingly the English language.