The Immigrant Experience

Both welcoming immigration and fearing its consequences are central to U. S. history. The gates opened wide for a massive wave of immigrants who arrived in the late nineteenth up until the present time. Since 1980 a second great wave of immigration has brought almost one million new residents to the United States each year. Unlike the first wave, which was almost exclusively from Western Europe, this second wave has brought with it much greater variety. It is changing the U. S. racial and ethnic mix.

If the current trends in immigration keeps up somewhere between the years 2056 and 2080 the average American will trace their ancestry to Africa, Asia, South America, the Pacific Islands, and the Middle East. In reality they will be able to trace their ancestry anywhere but white Europe (Wheeler, 1971). In some states, the future is arriving much more quickly than this. In just a couple of years, California is expected to be the first state in which ethnic and racial minorities together constitute the majority.

Already this is true in California’s schools, where Latino, Asian-Americans and African-Americans students outnumber non-Hispanic white students. Californians who request new telephone service from Pacific Bell can speak to customer service representatives in English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Mandarin, or Cantonese (Ngai, 2007). There is a widespread concern that too many immigrants will alter the character of the United States.

Throughout the history of American immigration there is a consistent belief that has been the fear that immigration would somehow undermine the institutions of this country and would lead it down the path of disintegration and decay. This is a widespread fear held by native born European Americans in the early part of the century was that immigrants would sway the democratic system in favor of communism. In today’s issues some fear that the primacy of the English language is threatened.

The age old fear that immigrants will take jobs away from the native born Americans is strong. Many believe that minority groups that struggled for political representation fear that newer groups will gain political power at their expense (Ngai, 2007). Assimilation is the process by which a minority group is absorbed into the mainstream culture. There are two types. In forced assimilation the dominant group refuses to allow the minority to practice its religion, speak its language, or follow its customs.

Before the fall of the Soviet Union, for example, had a dominant group that were the Russians and that Armenian school children were to be taught exclusively in Russian and they were to honor Russian holidays. In permissible assimilation the minority group is allowed to adopt the dominant group’s patterns in its own way and at its own speed. In Brazil, for example, an ideology favoring the eventual blending of the country’s diverse racial types into a “Brazilian Stock” encourages its racial and ethnic groups to intermarry, but assimilation does show difficulty for many immigrants (Wheeler, 1971).

Immigrants are seeking a better life. To find it, they are willing to give up the security of their family and friends, and move to a country with a strange language and unfamiliar customs. To understand migration a look at both push and pull factors are needed. The push factors are what people want to escape like poverty, lack of religious and political freedoms and maybe political persecution. The pull factors are the magnets that draw people to a new land, such as a chance for higher wages and better jobs.

Around the world, the flow of migration is from the least industrialized nations to the more industrialized countries. After migrant paths are established then immigration is often accelerated and used as networks of kin or friends are created this become additional magnets that attract more people from the same nation and even from the same villages. Immigration is contributing to a shifting U. S. racial-ethnic mix.

The United States is the world’s number one choice of immigrants and this nation admits more immigrants each year than all the other nations of the world combined. Twenty million or one out of every twelve Americans is born in another country. Large numbers will enter the United States illegally creating a pressure on cities and states across America. Experts cannot really agree whether immigrants are a net contributor to or a drain on the U. S. economy. Some sociologists insist that immigrants helping while others have them draining the economy.

Changes to cities cannot be ignored if you were to look at southwestern America the Mexican influence if very evident (USA Today Magazine, November 2007).

Works Cited: Wheeler, Thomas C. The Immigrant Experience:  The Anguish of Becoming American. New York: The Dial Press, 1971. Ngai, M. “Nationalism, Immigration Control, and the Ethnoracial Remapping of     America in the 1920s. ” OAH Magazine of History, 21(3), July, 2007: 11-15. “Woe Is The Politics of Immigration. ”  USA Today Magazine, November, 2007     Retrieved November 26, 2007, from Academic Search Premier database.