The United States is a nation of immigrants. It may not seem like it at times, as many modern families enjoy long histories dating back centuries when their ancestors crossed the ocean seeking new opportunities in America. In those centuries, these families have largely assimilated to its English colonial culture, learning its language and laws, while providing its own contributions to the cultural mosaic.
These immigrants built the country we know today. While certain periods in American history experienced more immigration than other times, like the potato blight in the 1800s that led to a massive migration of Irish immigrants, the influx of immigrants has remained steady until recently. Today, the issue of immigration has garnered a fair amount of attention, as the current rate of illegal immigration has hit an all-time high.
Largely from Latin America, these new immigrants do not assimilate to the culture as many past immigrants have, most recognizable by the increasing Spanish-English bilingualism in a traditionally English-speaking country. The rapid and obvious growth of immigration has angered opponents on both sides, as some argue that immigrants built the country, and should always be welcome, while other natural born citizens cite the latest wave of immigrants and their refusal to adopt American traditions or follow the proper channels for obtaining citizenship as creating a problem with current laws.
Current immigration laws need to be stricter in the United States, as it is far different in nature than previously, threatens to upset the cultural and economic balance of the country, and contains large elements of its population that do not go through the proper legal channels to become American citizens. As the United States is a nation of immigrants, it seems strange that immigration would be opposed. However, with the constant threat of terrorism and population explosions it only makes sense. In addition to terrorism, many Americans are concerned over jobs, finances, and the erosion of American culture.
The gray areas of immigration only irritate these anxieties, and something like a large minority of the population speaking a different language definitely falls into this gray area. While the basic ideals of equality and freedom negate the oppression of such expression, it can become confusing for Americans that only wish to protect the traditions and culture that they know. With Hispanics becoming the largest minority population in the United States, not to mention the millions more unregistered illegal Hispanic immigrants, it seems that this group causes the greatest amount of concern when it comes to immigration.
While it is fair to say that loose borders with Mexico could allow Muslim terrorists to enter the country undetected, it must be remembered that the terrorists that executed the 9/11 attacks all came to the country legally. The majority of Hispanic immigrants are legal, yet there still seems bias against this particular group when the topic of immigration is discussed. This can only be attributed to the overwhelming refusal of Hispanic immigrants to assimilate to American culture.
Many Americans feel that English is the national language, even though it is not. However, it remains a unifying aspect of the culture, and when a large portion of the population refuses to learn it, it can become alienating and frightening to many. This seems to be the largest issue concerning Hispanic immigrants and American citizens’ prejudice against them. This was eventually displayed in the many political efforts to make English the national language, as well as pass legislation designed specifically to curb the influx of Hispanic immigrants.
While all Americans are essentially immigrants or descended from them, the idea of assimilating to American culture has always acted as a unifying factor, and this includes the English language. The refusal of Spanish-speaking immigrants to adopt English can be construed as un-American by nature, and has caused significant controversies in public and private life. Legislation like making English the official language of the United States could significantly curb social problems caused by the massive amount of immigrants that refuse to assimilate to American culture, and create a better environment for citizens and immigrants.