People from different countries move to settle in the United States for various reasons such as seeking a peaceful life, job opportunities, and quality education.
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The successful incorporation of immigrants into the American society has always hinged on the potential for personal improvement through educational and economic achievement (Immigration in America Today: An Encyclopedia, Loucky et al.). Due to the complex process that legal immigrants have to go through to gain entry into the United States, most immigrants gain entry through illegal means.
For a very long time, immigration has led to so much tension in countries that have ended up receiving the immigrants. Ordinarily, immigrants are hailed by governments and business tycoons for economic reasons. However, the unity of a nation can easily be interfered with when the number of foreigners is too high. Over the years, nations have been inviting business minded individuals from places such as China, Israel, and Germany in order to strengthen their economies.
Recently, my family and I moved to settle in the United States in search of better education and a better life. To fit into the American community, we are all doing our best to learn the American way of life. Among others, this includes going to school and learning the English language.
This paper looks at three myths regarding immigration in the United States. First, there is the concern that immigrants are never willing to learn English. Secondly, immigrants are blamed for taking jobs and opportunity away from Americans. Third, immigrants are regarded as a drain on the American economy (Top 10 Immigration Myths and Facts, NIF).
Arguments on Immigrants not willing to Learn English
According to NIF many immigrants work hard to learn the English language immediately they step into the United States and within a short time, they are usually able to speak the language quite well. This claim may be supported by the fact that demand for adult English classes always creates a desperate need for institutions and teachers to handle teach the students.
Looking at my personal experience, I am strongly convinced that this claim may not necessarily be true. When my family and I moved to the United States, it was all because we desired a better life and great job opportunities. To be fully integrated into the American community, my parents and I have to keep on learning the English language. Personally, I had to take a part time job while undergoing my studies at the university. In support of my ambitions, my parents set up a home studio as soon as they acquired a family house.
Arguments on Immigrants taking Jobs and Opportunities away from Americans
The common myth here is that foreigners who enter and settle in the United States of America end up taking jobs and opportunities that are, allegedly, meant for the native-born Americans. However, studies indicate that immigrants greatly contributed to the growth of the American economy at a time when the nation was experiencing the lowest unemployment rate.
As observed by the National Immigration Forum (NIF): “The largest wave of immigration to the U.S. since the early 1900s coincided with the country’s lowest national unemployment rate and fastest economic growth.” (Top 10 Immigration Myths and Facts, NIF). Clearly, the growth in the economy can easily be attributed to the increased number of immigrants into the United States.
Immigrant business men and women contributed to the American economy by creating jobs for both Americans and foreign workers during this period. According to NIF, immigrant owned business can be found in places like the Silicon Valley, owned by Chinese and Indian immigrants. Apparently, these businesses managed to net over US$ 19.5 billion in sales besides creating close to 73,000 employment opportunities in the year 2000 (Top 10 Immigration Myths and Facts, NIF).
The open door policy in effect until the 1920s had positive consequences for many. This is contrary to thinking of some natives that immigrants would take away their job (Keeping the Borders Open Does Not Harm U.S. Workers, Oppenheimer). During this period, much of the nation, particularly its industrial cities, greatly benefited from large scale entry by immigrants, whether legal or illegal. As immigrants took bottom level jobs, employment opportunities for skilled native residents increased tremendously.
The cities of the Northeast and Midwest that became world class industrial centers during the nineteenth century owed much of their growth to these immigrants. In the decades following World War I, European immigrants comprised about a quarter of the workforce in America’s burgeoning industrial centers. Two cities, Chicago and New York, exemplified the contribution of immigrant workers who in 1920s, comprised about half their labor force. Both reached their highpoint of wealth and power during this decade.
However, not everyone benefited. In the rural areas of South and Midwest, where few immigrants settled, economic gains were negligible. I cities where immigrants did congregate, benefits among the native born accrued largely to property owners, members of the middle class, and skilled workers. Unskilled workers, especially blacks gained very little. As a matter of fact, the flow of immigrants probably dampened the economic progress of blacks by slowing their exodus from the South.
As the average income of American workers rose, the gap between the rich and the poor widened, fueling antagonism toward immigrants among citizens who were less well off.
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When, beginning in the 1920s, restrictions were imposed on immigration the impact was greatest in those cities with large immigrant populations (Employment Verification Will Deter Illegal Immigration, Rector). Natives who migrated to cities once immigrant flow ceased appear to have contributed less to urban development than did the foreign born population.
Most probably, the decline of America’s large industrial cities, beginning immediately after World War II may as well be linked to the change in immigration policy (The New Americans: A Guide to Immigration since 1965, Waters et al.).
The latest immigration surge, which began in the 1960s, has facilitated urban renewal by strengthening small businesses, providing low wage labor, and maintaining the population base necessary to sustain a high level of economic activity.
Seemingly, the new immigrants who include unskilled workers, professionals, and entrepreneurs have encouraged the flow of investment, furnished workers for factories and service industries, and helped revive deteriorating urban neighborhoods (Employment Verification Will Not Deter Illegal Immigration, DeWeese).
This has been especially true in cities serving as gateways to other continents such as Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and San Francisco which, since the mid 1970s, have sprouted new offices, added jobs, particularly I the service industries, reduced unemployment, and shown other sign of urban renewal. Apparently, these cities have the highest concentration of new immigrants in the United States.
The most striking evidence of urban transformation has been the changing racial composition of major cities. In the 1920s, 95 per cent of the residents of dozen largest cities were of European descent. Today, non Hispanic whites have become a minority in most of those cities. It is quite obvious that additional immigration into the United States will only hasten these changes.
Arguments on Immigrants being regarded as a Drain on the American Economy
Despite claims that immigrants generally drain the American economy, studies prove otherwise. As argued by NIF, most new workers in the United States during the 1990s were foreigners. Notably, immigrants occupied various positions left by native-born Americans (Top 10 Immigration Myths and Facts, NIF).
Studies by the National Academy of Sciences, Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, and Federal Reserves indicated that jobs in critical economic sectors in the United States were taken up by foreign nationals. Immigrants also work hard to start their own businesses and as a result, they contribute tremendously to America’s economic growth.
Statistics also indicate that total benefit associated with immigration to America is a net of close to US$10 billion per year. In addition, most people who move to settle in the United States are working age. These are people who have already earned their education and are ready to use the skills they have acquired over the years to serve in different sectors of the US economy (Top 10 Immigration Myths and Facts, NIF).
This argument clearly points to the fact that immigrants are not in any way a drain to the US economy. Instead, they are the very people who have contributed to what the American economy is today.
It is also important to note that throughout the American history, immigration has been favored by American presidents interested with seeking economic expansion for their country (Immigrants and the U.S. Labor Market, Marcelli). These presidents were totally convinced that immigrants are a blessing to the American economy and as such, they should be invited in.
Sadly, however, these presidents often met with great opposition coming from native-born Americans opposed to the idea of letting immigrants flow into the country. Despite the popular discontent that the presence of immigrants often provoked, leaders in the United States as well as other Western countries have acted in a manner likely to suggest that they are not ready to let their countries lose economic gains associated with immigration.
Since the first Congress debated the issue of immigrants, immigration policy in the United States has been bound up with some very basic concerns which include economic well being, national identity, internal stability, and the American role in the world. Over the years, public opinion on immigration has been marked by uncertainty.
While some people see immigrants as productive workers who can be absorbed into the national mainstream without much disruption, others tend to take a much narrower view, regarding immigrants primarily as economic competitors or as foreigners with alien values.
Most American presidents, viewing immigration from a national perspective, attach considerable political and economic importance to the large urban centers in which immigrants concentrate (Preface to “Does Illegal Immigration Harm US Citizens?”, Hanson). Although television has particularly become a major shaper of opinion, the images shown on the screen generally send conflicting messages. On one hand, immigrants are favorably portrayed as hardworking exemplars of the American dream.
Whenever legislators consider revising immigration laws, dire predictions are issued regarding the economic and social consequences of accepting more aliens. Apparently, these forecasts often turn out to be wrong. For example, two generations ago, restrictions were placed on the influx of Eastern and Southern European immigrants on the grounds that they were undesirable.
Today, the nation proudly trumpets the achievements of these same groups. Indeed, Americans who favor continued immigration point reassuringly to the contributions of immigrants and their children as evidence of the nation’s ability to assimilate more aliens.
Some people, however, view, with so much uneasiness, the growing number of immigrants, most of them from under developed nations. They fear that America will not be able to cope, economically or socially, with the multitudes of the poor and hungry people eager to cross borders into the United States of America. With the global population doubling every forty years, they see no end to the torrent of immigrants into their country.
Seemingly, this fear extends to the countless refugees who flee their home lands when political repression becomes intolerable. Interestingly, however, fewer people express concern that the number of legal entrants is also growing primarily as a result of family reunification. In suburban areas across the nation, antigrowth sentiments are witnessed all over. Congestion has replaced the weather as a major topic of casual conversation.
Complaints about traffic proliferate, but, like the weather, it seems beyond control. The nation seeks economic growth to satisfy material wants yet appears unwilling to deal with its adverse consequences such as too many cars and too few places to dump trash (Why Immigrants Come to America: Braceros, Indocumentados, and the Migra, Stout). In addition to these, national organizations are formed to support zero growth policies.
In spite of the fact there is quite a huge population in the United States which is strongly opposed to the idea of welcoming immigrants into the country, immigrant business men and women are doing so much to help fuel the American economy through job creations and taking on jobs considered unacceptable by the native-born Americans (Immigrants: the Unsung Heroes of the U.S. Economy, Rayasam).
Notwithstanding the contributions of immigrants, American Central cities continue to face serious economic disruptions and social problems. The abandonment of massive public housing projects, many built on the foundations of tenements that housed earlier immigrants, stands as a constant reminder of the failed urban social policies.
Over the years, violent crime has been on the rise, drug abuse continues to take its deadly toll of the young, and neighborhoods that house the underclass remain plagued by unemployment, poverty, and despair. Residents of formerly safe neighborhoods now fear to leave their homes.
Restricting the flow of young immigrants could exact an economic price. America’s native population is aging, increasing the ration of non workers to workers. Also, as the base of the economy continues to shift from manufacturing to services, productivity gains in the coming years are expected to be modest.
Unless there is an inflow of new labor, particularly skilled workers, the living standards in the United States could drop drastically. A report of the National Commission for Employment Policy suggests that, in order to meet projected labor demands, the nation may need to strongly encourage immigration. However, it seems unlikely that any such encouragement will be necessary since the United States still remains as attractive as ever to would be immigrants.
DeWeese, T. (2009). Employment Verification Will Not Deter Illegal Immigration. Web.
Hanson, G. H. (2012). Preface to “Does Illegal Immigration Harm US Citizens?” Web.
Loucky, J., Armstrong, J., & Estrada, L. J. (2006). Immigration in America Today: An Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
National Immigration Forum (NIF). (2003). Top 10 Immigration Myths and Facts. Web.
Oppenheimer, M. (2010). Keeping the Borders Open Does Not Harm U.S. Workers. Web.
Rector, R. (2009). Employment Verification Will Deter Illegal Immigration. Web.
Stout, R. J. (2008). Why Immigrants Come to America: Braceros, Indocumentados, and the Migra. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Waters, M. C., Ueda, R., Marrow, H. B. (2007). The New Americans: A Guide to Immigration since 1965. Harvard Yard Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Rayasam, R. (2007). Immigrants: the Unsung Heroes of the U.S. Economy. U.S. News & World Report, 00415537, 2/26/2007, Vol. 142, Issue 7. Web.
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