|Type of paper:||Essay|
|Categories:||Discrimination United States Immigration Social issue|
Immigration has become one of the most popular subjects in the United States in recent years. Discussions around immigrants often focus on their economic, social, and political impact on the country. Statements like "immigrants take the jobs of others" or "immigrants-built America" are common. These phrases also reflect the attitudes that Americans have toward immigrants. Regardless of the different perspectives, the common belief is that those who move to America are looking for a better life. As a result, immigration is viewed as an escape, especially for poor people. However, the experience after moving to the U.S is not always as positive as one might assume. This paper begins by describing the latest wave of immigration delving into the issues of stratification that these immigrants face. The essay also offers a comparison of the impacts of the first and most recent waves of immigration. Finally, this paper analyzes ways of improving the negative implications of stratification, especially for Hispanic immigrants.
The Latest Wave of Immigration (1960s-Present)
Immigration has occurred in various waves through American History. In all cases, people had different reasons for leaving their countries of origin. The first wave of immigration occurred between the 1820s and 1920s. After this period, the number of immigrants coming into the country dropped until the 1960s. The trends starting from the 1960s to date mark the latest wave of immigration. This new wave is characterized by people moving in from mostly Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017).
Regarding the reasons for immigrating to the U.S, these vary depending on the individual or country of origin. Common explanations range from the escape from civil wars or oppressive regimes to the search for a better economic future. Most of the individuals coming in expect a welcoming America. After all, the groups that came before them got the chance at a new and, arguably, improved life. This latest wave of immigrants, however, has faced stratification issues that have prevented them from achieving these dreams/goals.
Stratification refers to the grouping of people based on factors like class, race, or economic position. In the United States, stratification is informal and does not directly prevent individuals from moving to a new level. While it might seem harmless, social stratification can facilitate hate and discrimination. The latest wave of immigrants has encountered different challenges due to this system. Legal steps taken in the 1980s, for example, affected the ability of immigrants to get employment. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, "criminalized the hiring of undocumented migrants" (Massey, 2011 p.1282). This law alone placed people that look like "foreigners" at a disadvantage. Hispanics and Asians were automatically regarded as undocumented by most employers who decided to avoid hiring them altogether. This move affected even Hispanics and Asians that were born in the United States. Race rather than immigration status became a strong determinant of employment among these groups.
The government continued to place anti-immigration measures in the name of national security. For example, the number of Border Patrol Agents increased to 20,100 from 3,700 with a significant budget rise (Massey, 2011). Such moves were in addition to existing measures that did not favor immigrants from some regions. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, for instance, had maintained a quota for national origins that favored European immigrants (Tienda & Sanchez, 2013). Such a selective system reflected the preferences based on not the only country of origin, but also (even though indirectly) race and ethnicity. Immigrants from European nations are likely to be White, while those from Latin nations will be classified as Hispanic. Despite some of the contrary laws, other reforms facilitated the increase of legal Latin American migrants. Such requirements include the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), Immigration Control and Reform Act (IRCA), and Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) (Tienda & Sanchez, 2013). The legal status improved some of the opportunities that Hispanics and other affected immigrants could access.
One would expect the progress in the law to make settlement easier for the latest wave of immigrants, but that was not the case. These individuals were coming into a society with systematic and social discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, and gender. Historically, minority groups have been denied fundamental rights and opportunities. As a result, their socioeconomic position has remained low. Take an example of income disparity in the United States. White males are likely to earn significantly more than any other group. The income gap between male Mexican immigrants and White men was $13 per hour in 2007 (Massey, 2011). This difference means that the Mexican male is likely to remain in a lower economic class for a long while. Data from different years shows that the position of Hispanics in the American system of stratification has decreased over time. Hispanics now stand at the same socioeconomic status as African Americans or lower (Massey, 2011). Perhaps this trend has to do with the differences in wages.
Racial income inequality gaps become wider when other elements like gender are considered. For example, the median weekly earnings for Hispanic women was $600 compared to about $700 for Hispanic men in 2017 (Inequality.org, 2017). A similar trend is evident when comparing earnings among Blacks; $650 for women vs. $710 for men. When comparing the profits of women, White, and Asian women earn significantly higher ($795 and $903 respectively) than Blacks and Hispanics (Inequality.org, 2017). These differences place women of color at a higher risk of poverty. The combination of discriminatory factors (race, gender, and background) makes the situation worse for Black an Hispanic females. According to Anna Carastathis (2014), the intersectionality concept in feminist theory shows that women can experience interconnecting oppressive systems. In this case, Black and Hispanic women are affected by both sexism and racism. Additionally, language can become a barrier for some of these women, especially those from non-English speaking countries. The result is a set of unique challenges that prevent these individuals from progressing even as legal immigrants.
Furthermore, a culture of racism and fear-mongering has increased discrimination against immigrants from individual nations. For example, the ethnic and religious profiling that came after the 9/11 attacks affected people with Middle Eastern origins. The profile for a terrorist became Arab and Muslim (Fitzgerald, 2014). Individuals that fit into these two classifications faced harassment from some security agencies and some form of hate from community members. The media continued to fuel this narrative by associating Islam and the Middle East with terrorism. A new description is hating Hispanic immigrants. The President has continually called Mexicans rapists and argued that migrants take the jobs of Americans (Pengelly, 2019). The result is increasing xenophobia in some areas. Another narrative fueling this hate for immigrants is the argument that minority groups will become dominant. The current system in America is as explained in the conflict theory. Here, the competition for resources is between the majority and minorities. Some people fear a change in power dynamics.
In addition to these challenges, there is the argument of Americanism. Here, people believe that immigrants should adopt American ways once they settle in the country. Some immigrants have been accused of acting un-American especially when they protested oppressive systems or expressed criticism. Recently, hate comments asked Congress Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar to go back to their countries (Pengelly, 2019). These comments stemmed from their criticism of the treatment of immigrants at detention centers. The President, who was the first to make these remarks, said that these women spoke severely of the country. Similar statements are often made when certain immigrants want to maintain their cultural identity and norms. Critics of Robert Park's ethnicity paradigm described this concept as Anglo-conformity (Fitzgerald, 2014). Anglo conformity expects foreigners to be assimilated into the Anglo-American culture. This idea takes away the possibility of cultural pluralism, which expresses the diversity of Americans.
The First and Latest Waves of Immigration: A Comparison
The first wave of immigrants consisted mostly of white people from Europe, while the latest group consists of a diverse range of people from all parts of the world. However, individuals/families from Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East make up the majority of these immigrants (Fitzgerald, 2014). This difference in types of population means that the latest wave is having an impact on the number of minority groups. Research shows that a quarter of all births in the U.S. are by immigrants (Massey, 2011). The countries and regions of origin mean that the communication abilities varied among these waves of migrants. English is not the primary language in most nations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. As a result, these individuals are not fluent English speakers and often have to learn the language as a part of the immigration process. The impact of language differences is the ability to integrate into American society. It is harder for most of the individuals in the latest wave than it was for those in the first wave.
Regarding the reasons for migration, only the specifics differ. For example, those who came in from Europe in the 1820s were escaping negatives like starvation, limited resources, and religious discrimination (Massey, 2011). Similarly, some of the individuals in the latest wave are fleeing unfortunate economic circumstances, oppressive regimes, and various forms of discrimination. The goal in both cases appears to be freedom of one way or another. For example, those who came to the U.S as investors were looking for new economic opportunities in a free environment. Individuals escaping negative situations, on the other hand, want a safer place to settle. Some of the impacts like a relatively diverse population are also similar in both cases. However, the latest wave of immigration is more culturally and ethnically different than the first wave. As a result, it is easy to use traditionally discriminative factors like race and ethnicity to paint a negative picture of these new immigrants. Some hostility towards immigrants from Latin American, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia has been evident in recent years (Massey, 2011). Another overall effect of both waves is on the economy. Immigrants bring additional skills and labor in different industries. Some of them also come in as investors.
Improving the Negative Consequences of Stratification
Specific actions to change will improve the negative impacts of stratification on particular communities. First, a program educating employers on the differences between undocumented, documented, and illegal immigrants are necessary. The application should be communal and include engagement between potential employers and people. This way, the idea that everyone who has a Latin accent or is Hispanic is probably undocumented will decrease.
In most cases, discrimination comes from a place of ignorance. Community engagement, education, and awareness might erase some of the stereotypes against Hispanic immigrants. The political narratives that encourage fear and hate also fuel discrimination.
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