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By Lori K. Blevins

U.S. always attracted people from different countries all round the World to come and to settle there. The United States was founded and settled by immigrants. At first, the country was open to anyone wishing to make a new start. All immigrants have different reasons of settlement in States, but usually it was a search for “better life” and so called “American dream”[1].

Many people came to America to escape war, poverty, famine, or religious persecution. Some came seeking fortune and others were brought against their will to work as slaves.

The problem of immigration[2] and assimilation in the U.S. became an interesting issue for investigation.  The amount of immigrants enlarges each year. As of 2006, the United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than the rest of the world combined. In the research I’ll try to discuss the problems immigrants face when they come to States.

Early immigration laws aimed to preserve the racial, religious, and ethnic composition of the United States, which was then largely European. The first immigration laws were aimed at nonwhites. In 1882, for example, the Chinese Exclusion Act suspended immigration from China for sixty years. In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt negotiated an informal “gentlemen’s agreement” with Japan, under which the United States promised to desegregate California schools—which had separated Japanese students from others—and in return, the Japanese government promised to stop the emigration of its citizens.

Soon, however, Americans were complaining about European immigrants as well. For example, a law passed by Congress in 1921 encouraged immigration from western European countries such as Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia because natives of these lands seemed more likely to assimilate. Meanwhile, the law discouraged immigration from eastern and southern Europe. This law, along with many other immigration laws in the 1800s and 1900s, was based on quotas; only a certain number of individuals with a given background or heritage could move to the United States. In 1929, Congress passed the National Origins Act, which set an annual quota of 150,000 immigrants, only 30 percent of which could come from southern and eastern Europe.

After World War II, Congress passed the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. This law allowed some of the people left homeless after the war to come to the United States. In 1952, President Harry Truman signed the McCarran-Walter Act, which revised the National Origins Act. People of all races would now be eligible for immigration into the United States. However, under this law, ideology became a criterion for admission. Both immigrants’ and citizens’ political beliefs were questioned during the “Red scare” of the 1950s, as the government sought to weed out people with even a marginally communist background. The McCarran-Walter Act was overturned in 1990 when Congress made it illegal for the U.S. government to deny people entry because of their beliefs, statements, or associations.

The Immigration Act of 1965 represented a major reform of all previous immigration laws. It abolished quotas that discriminated against nationalities, substituting an overall limit of 170,000 immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere and 120,000 immigrants from the Western Hemisphere. The effects of the 1965 law are still being felt today. Before 1965, the United States had been a safe haven from poverty and civil war for masses of people in neighboring countries, such as Mexico. By limiting the number of immigrants from Latin America, the Immigration Act of 1965 touched off a serious illegal immigration problem.

During the later part of the twentieth century, U.S. immigration policy has addressed specific modern-day problems. In some instances, the federal government has set limits on the number of immigrants—who fall into certain classifications, such as refugee—who are allowed to reside in the country. The Refugee Act of 1980 legally defined a refugee as someone who flees a country because of persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” The act allows the president to admit refugees in a time of emergency and also places a limit on the number of refugees allowed to enter. In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which was designed to stop the flow of illegal immigrants from Latin America by imposing sanctions against employers who hire illegal aliens. In 1990, the Immigration Act increased the number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States by nearly 40 percent. Finally, in 1996, Congress passed three bills, including the 1996 Immigration Act, that will affect not only immigration control, as many previous laws sought to dictate, but also immigrants’ rights in the United States today. [3]

As the research shows the problem of assimilation is far more difficult then the problem of immigration.

Immigration can be both legal and illegal. I want to focus on immigration from Mexico. The US lets in far more immigrants from Mexico than from any other country. As a result, there are large Mexican enclaves in the US. The question of Mexican culture and how it influences the status of Mexican communities is worth to be known and discussed.

The United States admits approximately 900,000 legal immigrants every year, and annual immigration is swelled by another 300,000 people who illegally cross the borders of the United States. The Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that about 5 million illegal aliens currently reside in the United States. Both legal and illegal immigrants contribute to dramatic changes in the racial, ethnic, and cultural composition of the country . The 1996 Immigration Act is the most extensive immigration legislation passed by Congress in a decade. Focusing on the problem of illegal immigration, this law seeks to reduce the number of Mexican laborers crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in search of work. The new legislation doubles the border control force to 10,000 agents over five years and adds fences to the most heavily trafficked areas of the U.S.-Mexico border. It also includes a pilot program to check the immigration status of job applicants. However, the bill does not address the problem of illegal immigrants who gain entry into the United States with student or temporary work visas and then stay in the country after their visas have expired. [3]

According to the U.S. Census, the top ten countries of birth of the foreign born population in the U.S. since 1830 are shown below. These numbers show the foreign population in each census and people will usually show up for several census. Blank entries means they did not make it into the top ten for that census and not that there is ‘’no’’ data from that census. The 1830 numbers are from immigration statistics as listed in the 2004 Year Book of Immigration Statistics. The 1830 numbers list un-naturalized foreign citizens in 1830 and does not include naturalized foreign born. The 1850 census is the first census that asks for place of birth. The historical census data can be found online in the Virginia Library Geostat Center. Population numbers are in thousands. [1]

Country/Year

1830*

1850

1880

1900

1930

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

Austria

305

214

Bohemia

85

Canada

2

148

717

1,180

1,310

953

812

843

745

678

China

104

1,391

Cuba

439

608

737

952

Czechoslovakia

492

Dominican Republic

692

El Salvador

765

France

9

54

107

Germany

8

584

1,967

2,663

1,609

990

833

849

712

Holland

1

10

Hungary

245

India

1,007

Ireland

54

962

1,855

1,615

745

339

Italy

484

1,790

1,257

1,009

832

581

Korea

290

568

701

Mexico

11

13

641

576

760

2,199

4,298

7,841

Norway

13

182

336

Philippines

501

913

1,222

Poland

1,269

748

548

418

Russia/Soviet Union

424

1,154

691

463

406

Sweden

194

582

595

Switzerland

3

13

89

United Kingdom

27

379

918

1,168

1,403

833

686

669

640

Vietnam

543

863

Total Foreign Born

108*

2,244

6,679

10,341

14,204

10,347

9,619

14,079

19,763

31,100

% Foreign Born

0.8%*

9.7%

13.3%

13.6%

11.6%

5.8%

4.7%

6.2%

7.9%

11.1%

Native Born

12,677

20,947

43,476

65,653

108,571

168,978

193,591

212,466

228,946

250,321

% Native Born

99.2%

90.3%

86.7%

86.4%

88.4%

94.2%

95.3%

93.8%

92.1%

88.9%

Total Population

12,785

23,191

50,155

75,994

122,775

179,325

203,210

226,545

248,709

281,421

1830*

1850

1880

1900

1930

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

In the past few years, both state and federal governments have passed laws to deny benefits to illegal immigrants. In November 1994, voters in California overwhelmingly approved the “Save Our State” amendment, better known as Proposition 187. The law would deny illegal aliens all public social services, public nonemergency health care based on financial needs, and public education. Generally, illegal immigrants are not eligible for welfare grants such as unemployment or Social Security, but children and parents in need are entitled to some services. Officials in California report that providing illegal immigrants these social services costs the state $3 billion annually. Proposition 187 is not yet in effect, however, because it was immediately challenged in court by civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups. The U.S. Supreme Court may eventually rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 187.

Here comes the Demographic Trends related to Latino Immigration [2]

Ten Fastest Growing States in Latino Population Between 1990 and 2000.

n  North Carolina (394%)

n  Arkansas (337%)

n  Georgia (300%)

n  Tennessee (278%)

n  Nevada (217%)

n  South Carolina (211%)

n  Alabama (208%)

n  Kentucky (173%)

n  Minnesota (166%)

n  Nebraska (155%)

Immigrants to the United States from Mexico become assimilated into American society

much less rapidly than do other groups. A few facts from the 2000 US Census make the slowness of Mexican integration apparent:

  • Only 49% of Mexicans are fluent in English when they come to States.
  • Mexican immigrants have average wage income of on average $12,000 per year.
  • The typical Mexican immigrant has less than 8th grade education.

Mexican immigrants live in communities where about 15% of the residents are also born in Mexico. Mexicans come to the US disproportionately on the basis of family connections.

Mexicans live in communities with other.

Mexico is a very large country, having over 100 million people. In 2003, the US admitted (legally) about 115 thousand immigrants from Mexico. In a country as large as Mexico, it is inconceivable that there are not a sufficient number of talented potential migrants who would not assimilate more slowly than other immigrants to the US.

The US admits more Mexicans than any other group, accounting for 16% of immigrants in

2003. This ignores the illegal immigrants entirely, who are more likely to come from Mexico.

Because so many come from Mexico, it is not surprising that Mexican immigrants find it easier to locate in concentrated communities.

Also revealing is the effect of admission policy. The US admits a far greater proportion of

immigrants from Mexico on a family basis (sponsored or immediate relatives) than from any other country. About 3% of Mexicans come in on employment (skills) preference, whereas 13% of non-Mexican immigrants come in through this channel. Some countries, like India, have a very high proportion of immigrants entering the US on job-based visas.

These differences might explain some of the differences between Mexicans and other groups, but probably not all. Among non-Mexicans, 13% of immigrants are employment based whereas only 3% of Mexicans are admitted on an employment basis. Suppose that everyone who comes in on employment basis is fluent in English. It is also true that 49% of the Mexican immigrants, almost all of whom come in on a non-employment basis, are fluent in English.

Those who are admitted to the US because they have desirable skills are more likely to speak English, have high levels of education, and obtain higher salaries than those who are admitted on a random or family basis. The fact that those who come in from Mexico do worse than those from other countries may reflect to significant extent admission policy of the US, rather than anything about country of origin.

Mexican immigrants assimilate more slowly than other immigrants as reflected in English

fluency. They also have lower levels of education, lower wages, and live in more concentrated areas than other immigrants.

The source of the problem seems to be US immigration policy. By admitting large numbers of Mexicans relative to other groups on a family rather than job basis, the US selects a group of immigrants from Mexico who are already at a disadvantage. The large numbers allow highly concentrated ethnic enclaves to form, which is not conducive to assimilation. Additionally, the fact that such a small proportion of Mexican immigrants are admitted on an employment preference basis means that the average level of skills of incoming Mexicans is lower than that for other immigrant groups.

Mexico is a large country with an abundant supply of highly skilled potential immigrants to the US. Changes in US immigration selection policy that moved in the direction of employment based preferences for Mexican immigrants would likely close the gap between assimilation of Mexicans and other immigrants to the United States. [4]

In my research I also would like to address the book by Roberto Suro Knopf  STRANGERS AMONG US: how Latino Immigration Is Transforming America. I consider it to be a good example of the problems Latino faces in States. Those problems arise not only because of the lack of rights and benefits Latinos get from U.S. Government.

Even as Suro writes with deep empathy for Latinos already locked in the barrios of this country–the people who clean our houses, mow our lawns, and sort our garbage–when it comes to the question of the folks who are forced to steal across our borders and crawl through our deserts just to find work, he shows no mercy. Sounding more like California Gov. Pete Wilson than the son of immigrants, Suro favors imposing strict controls at the borders, penalties to bar arrested undocumented crossers from future entry to the United States, and making economic aid to countries such as Mexico dependent on cooperation in stopping illegal immigration. He suggests Latinos legally living in the United States take the lead in attacking illegal immigration, advocating they point their fingers at illegals living in their communities. “Latinos who have decided to make a permanent home in the United States–legal immigrants, new citizens, and the native born-must accept the fact that a large-scale illegal influx is harmful to their long-term interests,” Suro writes.

As an answer to the puzzling problems that beset Latinos in the United States today, Suro’s analysis is strictly myopic. He fails to consider that most illegal immigrants are relatives and friends of those here legally, and that many of those who are legal residents today were not when they arrived. He fails to consider the effect of closing our borders on countries such as Mexico, where both emigration and the drug trade serve to keep internal chaos at bay. And he gives short shrift to the great truth of all immigrations in history–that people are propelled to leave their homes in large numbers only when driven by economic necessity or repression. Without addressing its root causes, trying to address the effects of that flight are doomed to failure.

Wherever Suro lands, he never lets up on his urgent and mostly pessimistic thesis: Instead of learning how to succeed in the United States, as immigrant groups before them have done, Latinos are learning how to be poor; that even as Latinos tend our children, sweat and smile for us, serve us fast food, and pick our fruit, they are at risk of forever dwelling in an internal borderland.

At the heart of his analysis is the belief that Latino immigration today is different than any immigration before it, and that the failure of Latinos in the United States to climb out of the ghetto at the rate earlier immigrants did is the result of forces beyond their control. Latino immigration is a different animal than earlier immigrant flows, Suro writes. It is vast, already larger than any single ethnic influx before it. It is largely illegal. And because Latinos come from countries that are close by, because new communications technology allows them to travel back and forth between their new land and their homeland, Latinos often straddle two worlds in a way earlier immigrants, whose homelands were lost in the mists of memory and nostalgia, did not. The effort often keeps Latino immigrants from mustering the energy to succeed here. And it leaves their children born here at a loss, vulnerable and uninvested in the American way of life.

Suro writes that factors that helped European immigrants move up in earlier generations elude Latinos today. Whereas Irish and Italians were able to climb a generational stepladder from canal diggers to factory workers to white-collar professionals, Suro argues the ladder is now missing its middle rungs. In information-age America, there is less room for immigrants to move up, Suro writes. Latino immigrants, who often come to the United States poorly educated, have a particularly hard time getting a foothold on the ladder in the new economy, Suro believes. Social scientists who say Latinos are locked in poverty because they are unprepared for life in the United States are wrong, he writes, insisting that it is the economy, society, and lack of good public education and social services that are failing Latinos today. Societal structures that helped earlier immigrants–unions, churches, schools–are in disrepair, he writes. Instead of the “level playing field” that confronted immigrants a generation ago, he writes, Latinos today are victims of a deteriorating life in the United States that exerts a powerful influence on their fate. The past, Suro writes, does not serve as a model for the future. [5]

As a conclusion to the research I want to tell that U.S. as well as centuries ago attracts immigrants. People come here in search for “American Dream” and who knows what else. Since 1996 after the President Clinton signs welfare reform bill that cuts many social programs for immigrants. Legal immigrants lose their right to food stamps and Supplemental Security Income (a program for older, blind, and disabled people). Illegal immigrants become ineligible for virtually all federal and state benefits except emergency medical care, immunization programs, and disaster relief. The larger part of all immigrants come from Mexico, but as I proved in this work it is rather hard for them to assimilate to American culture compared to the immigrants from other countries. The main problem for Latinos is their original culture and lack of education.

References

  1. Immigration to the United States, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_the_United_States
  2. The Demography of Latino Immigration: Trends and Implication for the Future, Rogelio Saenz, p.7, from: http://www.mexnor.org/programs/TRP/April%20cumbre%20saenz%2004-22-05.pdf
  3. U.S. Immigration Policy, Written 1998, from: http://www.closeup.org/immigrat.htm
  4. Mexican Assimilation in the United States, Edward P. Lazear, from: http://www.aeaweb.org/annual_mtg_papers/2006/0108_1015_0304.pdf
  5. Strangers Among Us: How Latino Immigration is Transforming America. – book reviews, by Esther Schrader, from: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1316/is_n10_v30/ai_21211734
  6. Undue Influence – the Government of Mexico and U.S. Immigration Policies, The Social Contract (Winter 2002) by Allan Wall, from: http://www.thesocialcontract.com/cgi-bin/showarticle.pl?articleID=1122&terms
  7. THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, USA, An Online Journal of Political Commentary & Analysis Volume VI, Issue # 251, November 26, 2004, Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor, from: http://www.proconservative.net/PCVol6Is251CarubaImmigrantAssimilation.shtml
  8. Latinos Against Illegal Immigration!, from: http://www.alipac.us/article615.html
  9. Immigration Reform, Recent Polling of Latinos Shows Importance of Comprehensive Immigration Reform to President, GOP, October 14, 2003, from: http://www.immigrationforum.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=558
  10. U.S.-Born Latinos Oppose Illegal Immigration, from: http://www.informationliberation.com/index.php?id=9391

[1] The American Dream is the belief that through hard work and determination, any United States immigrant can achieve a better life, usually in terms of financial prosperity and enhanced personal freedom of choice. This Dream has been a major factor in attracting immigrants to the United States. According to historians, the rapid economic and industrial expansion of the U.S. is not simply a function of being a resource rich, hard working, and inventive country, but the belief that anybody could get a share of the country’s wealth if he or she was willing to work hard. Many have also argued that the basis of the American greatness is how the country began without a rigid class structure at a time when other countries in Africa, Europe, China, India and Latin America had much more stratified social structures. [1]

[2] Immigration to the United States of America is the movement of non-residents to the United States, and has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the American history even though the foreign born have never been more than 16% of the population since about 1675. [1]