Immigration in America Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1929 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: American History


The United States is a country populated primarily by immigrants; in fact, the nation was founded by European settlers fleeing the Continent for various reasons including perceived persecution and financial opportunity. Although the vast majority of immigrants to America arrived in search of economic opportunity or personal freedom, a large number came strictly as refugees. Immigrants arriving on American shores due to war or extreme poverty in their homelands comprise a far different demographic base than those who left their homelands voluntarily. Refugees are thus granted separate status in United States immigration policy. Regardless of the conditions of their countries of origin, immigrants also assimilate differently or at different paces. Some expatriates form ethnic enclaves within urban or suburban centers that preclude total assimilation, allowing individuals to retain elements of the culture of origin including religion and language. Other immigrants integrate into American society almost seamlessly. Interestingly, language and culture do not necessarily have a bearing on how completely a particular culture assimilates into American society. For example, Cubans, Vietnamese, and Philippine nationals all have high assimilation rates in spite of linguistic and cultural barriers. Most Northern Europeans and Canadians also assimilate relatively easily due to similar cultural norms, values, and familiarity with the English language. Regardless of their countries of origin, though, immigrants to the United States arrive for personal, financial, or political reasons.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Immigration in America Assignment

Immigration to the United States has also fluctuated depending on domestic politics. In the middle to late nineteenth century, immigrants were welcome, almost wooed, because of a booming industrial and manufacturing sector that depended on low-wage labor. Immigrants tended to be willing to work for lower wages than many residents of the United States, leading to a still existing connection between ethnicity and social class status. Chinese laborers were openly and aggressively recruited to help build American railroads and other features of Westward expansion during the nineteenth century. Mainly men, Chinese laborers generally arrived as temporary workers even though many stayed in the United States and started new lives. Others did remain on American soil only temporarily and never became part of the American social fabric or melting pot. A similar situation is evident in the current influx of Mexican laborers who do not intend to remain in the United States longer than would be necessary to earn contract labor income for their families in Mexico. Therefore, throughout American history temporary labor has been a major draw for potential immigrants. Some temporary laborers unintentionally or inadvertently stay in the country and later become citizens. Others do not and return home as planned. Still others remain in the United States as illegal immigrants, which skews census information and affects the American economy in ways that cause enormous political and social controversy.

Whether or not immigrants intend to remain in the United States, the size of the immigrant community, and its proportion of males to females are all factors that affect assimilation. Also, the preexistence of an ethnic enclave and the political climate of the era or region are factors affecting assimilation. Racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice may also impact the ways or extent to which individuals and families adapt to American society. Being ostracized would preclude assimilation, as would poverty or a lack of social institutions that facilitate assimilation. Assimilation is not necessarily desirable, and some immigrants resist trying to conform to American society (Branigin). Assimilation is, as Branigin notes, "not always a positive experience - for either society or the immigrants themselves," because the process entails sacrificing time-honored social norms and languages to a dominant Anglo culture. Moreover, assimilation in a society as new as America's is akin to acknowledging the superiority of that dominant culture. Yet some research shows that assimilation enhances civic responsibility and fosters community relations. For instance, the Federation for American Immigration Reform claims that not assimilating "exacerbates ethnic separatism and related problems."

Noting that the United States is a "peaceful country," Lino Nakwa fled his native Sudan because of the horrendous ongoing war (cited by Laster). Like millions of other political refugees throughout American history, Nakwa hopes that the United States will welcome him with open arms but has so far been refused citizenship. American immigration policy has become stricter over the course of the past several decades for several reasons: domestic population growth and economic factors being among the most important. However, the United States has always inserted special, if only temporary, clauses to its immigration policy for refugees like Nakwa (Laster). Based on Nakwa's experiences and personal testimony, it would seem that refugees are more likely to assimilate into American society. Immigrants who have no chance of returning home are far more likely to adopt their new culture as their own; those who arrive on American soil believing their stay to be temporary may resist assimilation more readily. In an interview with a Washington Post correspondent, Maria Jacinto notes "I think I'm still a Mexican...When my skin turns white and my hair turns blonde, then I'll be an American," (Branigin). Jacinto, notes Branigin, has not learned English in spite of living in the United States and seems to cling to her Mexican heritage rather than losing it to blend in better in the United States. The repercussions of resisting assimilation on social, fiscal, and political domains is not fully known; opinions vary as to whether assimilation is beneficial for communities, individuals, and America as a whole. Furthermore, assimilation varies. Some immigrants learn how to speak English fluently but still do business only within their ethnic communities; others do the opposite and assimilate fully on an economic level but not on a linguistic or cultural one.

Often immigration is tightly controlled by the United States government, affecting where refugee communities are located and consequently, how they integrate into American society. Immigration is sometimes phrased as being architected by the American government. For example, a New York Times article reads, "the State Department resettled 131,000 refugees from war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina in the United States," as if the State Department physically lifted up and replanted the Bosnian refugees (Clemetson). Moreover, Clemetson notes that a large number of Bosnian refugees -- from a war the United States had a part in -- were transplanted to a location chosen by the United States government: Chicago. More than 9000 refugees from the war in Bosnia were allowed to take up residence in Chicago; it was not as if the refugees could choose to live in Miami or Los Angeles or Seattle.

The United States government plays a major role in determining the demographics of communities. Prospective immigrants to the United States are sometimes evaluated on the basis of whether or not they can contribute to, or assimilate well into, American society. The economy plays a major role in determining American immigration policy. For example, a demand for cheap labor might mean looser immigration policies whereas a tighter job market may entail only allowing those immigrants who have special skills. At other times, refugees are admitted for human rights or for diplomatic purposes that better serve political purposes than humanitarian ones.

Immigrants integrate into American society differently depending on their social, cultural, and economic resources. Knowledge of English enables but does not guarantee employment. Advanced university degrees from one's native country also does not translate into viable work, as employers are usually suspicious of credentials from foreign schools or organizations. As a result, many immigrants to the United States are unable to find work for which they are qualified. A highly trained individual might find themselves working at a menial minimum wage position in America. On the contrary, some ethnic communities have thrived in America because of micro-economies. Korean immigrants, for example, have used self-employment and entrepreneurial skills to thrive in an otherwise tough environment (Tumulty). Because self-employment enables new immigrants to mitigate language and cultural barriers, those who have the opportunity to work within their ethnic community usually fare better economically than immigrants without community support (Tumulty).

Winn notes that "immigrants in the 21st century are doing a better job of assimilating into American society than did the generation of immigrants that arrived at Ellis Island a century ago." The globalization of American culture is most likely the main reason why new immigrants know what to expect. Movies, television shows, music, and international news networks broadcast American culture worldwide. The whole world is familiar with American culture and so new immigrants are generally more prepared than they might have been two generations ago when technology prevented the rapid dissemination of culture.

Upon arrival immigrants face situations ranging from warm welcomes from family members to jail time. A New York Times op-ed piece disparages the "suffering" of immigrants, especially those deemed a terror threat because of the widespread panic following September 11 ("The Great Immigration Panic"). Quotas placed on specific immigrant groups have long been associated with racism, like the ban on Chinese immigration in the nineteenth century. Groups like the Hmong have faced problems of their own including difficulties acquiring language and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Immigration in America" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Immigration in America.  (2008, June 15).  Retrieved July 3, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Immigration in America."  15 June 2008.  Web.  3 July 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Immigration in America."  June 15, 2008.  Accessed July 3, 2020.