Moving to The USA: Immigrants' Assimilation Problem
Immigration to countries considered developed or better placed socio-economically and politically is a common phenomenon. Most immigrants flee their countries to seek asylum in countries with stable political governments. Additionally, other cases are of foreign citizens in pursuit of better career opportunities and more favorable economic environments. The United States, for example, records the highest numbers of immigrants globally. The presence of immigrants in foreign nations has had both positive and adverse consequences at individual levels as well as national standards in their countries of immigration. In this essay, we will try to explain the specifics of integration and assimilation of immigrants in the context of immigration to the United States.
Individually, the immigrants have had to grapple with the challenges of cultural assimilations and adaptations. The transition from one culture to another has led to adjustments in their native cultural values to their advantage as well as to their detriment. Positively, the immigrants have acquired civilized characters and practices that have tremendously shaped their worldviews in a civilly honorable manner. Negatively, the immigrants have also developed foreign cultures that have demeaned their rich cultural heritage leading to the loss of some unique cultural practices.
A content review of carefully selected articles on the plight of immigrants and their posterity reveals several challenges faced by immigrants. These eight selected articles address the social and economic elements, among other trajectories on immigrants and their children. Each of the pieces uniquely reports their findings on assimilation procedures as well as the outcomes of such assimilations. Due to the different natures in each of the case studies, unique recommendations have been arrived at in each of the articles. However, some recommendations are universal, thus applicable globally with just little adjustments.
In one of the articles (Tran and Valdez 2017, 155), the authors purpose to tackle the discussion on the second-generation advantage and drop among individuals of Latino origin. The article provides a post-recession overview of how second-generation Puerto Ricans and Mexicans are disadvantaged in comparison to Latinos amongst them. The article reports that the United States has witnessed an increase in the Latino population over the past two decades. This population has recorded the highest number of immigrant population among other minority populations in the USA. Immigrants of Latino origin are anticipated to continuously grow to a projected 132.8 million people in the USA by 2050. This number represents 30% of the total US population. The high number has been attributed to the proper understanding of their socio-economic responsibilities once they become of age. This early acceptance of societal expectations has enabled them quickly assimilate into the native US society, an aspect that lacks among most immigrants.
Second, Latinos in the USA have continuously been replenished with a new population of Latino immigrants. The new immigrants, therefore, come into a Latino population that is already socially and economically established, thus reducing challenges in the immigrant assimilation process (Tran and Valdez 2017, 156). Additionally, most Latinos have opted to settle in smaller towns and cities not only within the USA but in other nations of immigration. They have shifted from the conventional immigrant’s entryways due to the unfavorable border control policies. From this shift, Latino immigrants assimilation has had both national and regional relevance.
In another article, ‘Becoming Ethnic or Becoming American?’ the authors dwell on the various pathways taken by the new second generation to achieve social mobility and assimilation. Zhou and Lee perform three significant activities in their research studies. First, they review the existing literature touching on the incorporation of immigrants with a particular concern on the movement patterns of this group of people. Second, the article evaluates the current assumptions on the etiology as well as pathways taken to assimilation and success. The authors assess the authenticity and reliability of major social mobility parameters as well as the variance between the subjective and objective criteria often applied in social science studies as recorded among second generation members. Finally, the authors analyze the identity choices made by this population with a particular focus being on how they individually settle for their individual identity choices and also the framework underlying their identity choices (Zhou and Lee 2007, 189).
The article begins by giving a reason for the unanimous approval of the HR 6061 bill in the United States Congress that advocated for the construction of a fence 7-mile-long that separates the United States and Mexico. This bill was approved a month before the attainment of 300 million population mark in the US. Studies and reports state that the US has experienced a significant upsurge in population since 1967 when it reached 200 million. Currently, out of the over 300 million people in the USA, 14% or of Hispanic origin, more than triple their population in 1970 when they were less than 5%. Out of the 300 million population figures, over 4% are Asians, an upsurge from the initial less than 1% population 49 years ago (Zhou and Lee 2007, 189-190). The Black community stands at 12%, having just a 1% increase from the 1970 population.
At the center of the ensuing debate is the query of how the parents and children of America’s newest immigrants are incorporated into modern society. The Mexican population is cited for their unwillingness to be assimilated into their host society. Most of the Mexicans in the USA have non-European cultural cultures that they are unwilling to trade to let go. Not only their pride in ancient Mexican culture but also low education levels, lack of required job skills, and also their unwillingness to integrate into this environment affect their assimilation rates (Zhou and Lee 2007, 190-192). Other causes for lack of immediate assimilation as compared to Latinos in the USA are ideological controversies. The political ideologies in Mexico, to a great extent, differ from those in the USA in a manner that often leaves Mexican immigrants divided. In recent cases where the US has resolved to implement unfavorable policies on Mexico, the Mexican immigrants living in the USA have tended to incline to their countries of origin rather than their new nations of habitation. Such scenarios of conflicts of interest could make immigrants reluctant to get assimilated into a nation’s culture.
In the other article, Jiménez,ethnic-racial, and Horowitz address how non-white immigrants redefine their societal achievement in an ethnic-racial setting. The authors divert their focus from the general studies on immigrants and their children to study how this third-generation adjusts to values and norms dictated by the immigrant-origin population. The study focuses on California, which is viewed as a significant immigrant pathway with high skilled immigrant populations. This population uses the white population as a benchmark for laziness, low achievement, and academic mediocrity. The Asians, on the other hand, are viewed as high achievers, strong-willed, successful, and hardworking (Jiménez and Horowitz 2013, 849-850). Even though this approach is discriminative as it sets one race to be superior to another, it has enabled social and economic achievements among the immigrants in California compared to citizens in their native nations of origin.
The alteration in ethno racial encoding among immigrants in California proves how such shifts in racial definitions could have an effect on immigrant generations as well as third-generation citizens. Third-generation citizens are United States-born citizens of United States-born parents. This redefined view of the third-generation plus individuals presents a reverse of how native citizens in a host nation are viewed. In most cases, their opinions are often used to set norms and standards in society at the expense of other more ideal aspects of non-natives in the same community. This shift calls for the query into the analytic stand embedded in the assimilation and racialization of the white population in European nations such as the USA, whereby they are used as the benchmark population responsible for defining socio-economic achievement norms (Jiménez and Horowitz 2013, 864-866).
In the fourth article, ‘Assimilation and the second generation in Europe and America: blending and segregating social dynamics between immigrants and natives,’ Drouhot and Nee observe that immigration flows in the western nations have contributed to cultural diversity in the host nations. However, diversity is not short of setbacks. One prominent political factor is the unavailability of proper legislation safeguarding immigrants. Another social factor that hinders effective immigrant assimilation in the US and other western nations is the religious contrasts between the host nations and the immigrants’ religious affiliations (Drouhot and Nee 2019, 1-37). The social factors are mainly due to the cultural differences between the two cultures in conflict. Unless cultural boundaries are defined, there looms a possibility of socio-economic defiance by the immigrants.
In the fifth article, Ruiz, Kabler, and Sugarman address the plight of immigrants and student refugees in the United States. The study aims to offer vital information on refugee students and immigrants to education institutions’ psychologists to enable the professionals to treat this unique population appropriately (Ruiz, Kabler, and Sugarman 2011, 23-24). The article also offers vital information on how unprofessional handling of this population could cause serious societal drawbacks not only to the affected immigrants but also to their children. These drawbacks could lead to hostility among the immigrant population against a population they view as more advantaged.
The authors confirm that immigrant children and refugees comprise one of the rapidly growing populations in the USA. As of 2010, this number stood at an estimated 9 million children. Ten years down the line, this number has grown to over double what it was back then. This continuous increase has led to the construction of more learning institutions as well as housing facilities to accommodate this population (Ruiz, Kabler, and Sugarman 2011, 24-25). The Upper Darby School District, Pennsylvania, for instance, received students from over 75 countries in the world. Rather than view the high influx of learners in their schools as a challenge, the psychologists saw diversity as their strength. With such a kind of different view of immigrants, these unfortunate populations are likely to develop a positive attitude towards their host society, hence assimilation being easier. A culture that positively embraces ethnocultural diversity is an environment that is destined to thrive socially, economically, and politically.
In another article, ‘Generational Differences in Academic Achievement among Immigrant Youth: A Meta-Analytic Review,’ the authors study generational variations among immigrant youths concerning academic achievements. The study seeks to reconcile the discrepancies in the differences. In the research, the educational evaluation of first, second, and third or later-generation individuals was conducted. From the analysis, it was observed that the first and second-generation individuals did not significantly differ academically. However, the third-or-later generations recorded lower academic achievements compared to the other generations. The first-generation, mainly Asians, had an outstanding performance compared to the second-and-third generation. From the studies, the Asian population stood out as resilient and quickly assimilated into the US society compared to the other generations (Duong et al. 2016, 4-20). Additionally, most native Asians hail from poor nations; therefore, migrating to the US gives them the zeal and passion for academic excellence. The cultural setting allows motivated them to pursue academic excellence.
The presence of the economic needs of immigrants creates the need for academic excellence among immigrants. The immigrant populations hold that the only pathway to societal acceptance and relevance in a foreign nation is through academic success. This value has been passed over to children of immigrants not only in the USA but in societies that accommodate asylum seekers, refugees, and other kinds of immigrants. With immigrants continuously coming to the USA, this culture is passed on to them. The inherited cultural values could either lead to the children of immigrants resolving to be conservatives of their native cultures or only adopting the foreign norms that are likely to work to their advantage.
In the seventh article, ‘Academic resilience of immigrant youth in Greek schools: Personal and family resources,’ a commonality to the findings in Duong et al. resurfaces too. The article is a cross-sectional study on how the personal and family resources of immigrant youths contribute to their academic achievements. Furthermore, the study also seeks to ascertain whether the immigrants’ status and social risks also contribute to the observed academic results (Anagnostaki et al. 2016, 378-380). According to the article, financial family resources and self-efficacy significantly predict academic success among immigrant youths (Anagnostaki et al. 2016, 377-390). These factors play a significant role in creating an atmosphere for academic pursuits. Other determining factors are the immigrant status and family social adversity which together work in support of immigrant children’s academic success.
Finally, in the eighth article, Zhou conducts a study on the segmented assimilation and socio-economic integration of the children of Chinese immigrants in the United States of America. The author delves into an under-studied topic on immigrants coming to the USA. The study is on the ethnic path of Chinese parents to see their children into educational achievements to rise above the rank of middle-class Americans. The Chinese use education achievement as the pathway into mainstream America using the resources generated within the Chinese community that aid the actualization of the educational goal. Paradoxically, the Chinese children also applied ethnicity to empower them in the war against negative stereotyping tendencies on them (Zhou 2014, 1172-1174). In this article, the author asserts that the Chinese and other immigrants live in an environment highly stratified by class, ethnicity, and race, such that assimilation becomes multidirectional and segmented. Zhou explains that some ethnic values, such as the value of education in the Chinese culture, could work better for the attainment of social actualization better than assimilation. In this paper, pleasant and positive cultural values could work better while stereotyping treatment and discrimination. Additionally, ethnic resources support could help the goal easier than in its absence. However, this path would require the Chinese child or any other immigrant’s child to brave up the negativity in their immediate environment to rise through the societal limitations (Zhou 2014, 1181-1182).
In conclusion, as long as there are global social, economic, and political inequalities, the presence of immigrants is a situation that shall always recur. It is, therefore, upon the host nations to provide favorable social, economic, and political atmospheres that support positive assimilation and adaption within the new societies immigrants find themselves in.
- Anagnostaki, L., Pavlopoulos, V., Obradović, J., Masten, A., & Motti-Stefanidi, F. (2016). Academic resilience of immigrant youth in Greek schools: Personal and family resources. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 13(3), 377-393.
- Drouhot, L. G., & Nee, V. (2019). Assimilation and the second generation in Europe and America: blending and segregating social dynamics between immigrants and natives. Annual Review of Sociology, 45, 1-37
- Duong, M. T., Badaly, D., Liu, F. F., Schwartz, D., & McCarty, C. A. (2016). Generational differences in academic achievement among immigrant youths: A meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 86(1), 3-41.
- Jiménez, T. R., & Horowitz, A. L. (2013). When white is just alright: How immigrants redefine achievement and reconfigure the ethnoracial hierarchy. American Sociological Review, 78(5), 849-871.
- Ruiz, M., Kabler, B., & Sugarman, M. (2011). Understanding the Plight of Immigrant and Refugee Students. Communique, 39(5).
- Tran, V. C., & Valdez, N. M. (2017). Second-generation decline or advantage? Latino assimilation in the aftermath of the great recession. International Migration Review, 51(1), 155-190.
- Zhou, M. (2014). Segmented assimilation and socio-economic integration of Chinese immigrant children in the USA. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37(7), 1172-1183.
- Zhou, M., & Lee, J. (2007). Becoming ethnic or becoming American?: Reflecting on the divergent pathways to social mobility and assimilation among the new second generation. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 4(1), 189-205.
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