The history of immigrants to the United States is a controversial topic that has raised heated debates in recent years. Immigrants have been exposed to a lot of changes in their quest to getting assimilated to the American society.
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The U.S immigration policy has failed to limit the type and the number of immigrants coming to the United States. The first immigrants to the U.S were Britons of European descent. They were followed by German immigrants in the mid 1700s and owing to their ethnic background (different language) they lived in ethnic enclaves. As a result they were not culturally assimilated.
During the great slave trade, Africans were involuntarily immigrated to the U.S and were highly discriminated upon on account of their racial backgrounds. In addition, their intermarriage with the natives led to the emergence of African Americans or Negroes. With more than ten million immigrants, racial and ethnic diversity in the American society increased tremendously. The first, second, and third waves of immigrants contributed to high levels of immigrants in the U.S.
Immigration resulted in the emergence of various ethnic groups in the U.S. this had a dramatic impact on the ethnic and racial relations of the Americans. To better understand the history of U. S immigrants, it is important first to relate it to ethnic and racial relations.
The different races are classified as White, black, Asian, and Indian. In this context, Hispanics, Arab Americans, Asian Indians, and bi-racial people do not fit in the mentioned races of immigrants. In terms of ethnicity, the whites are the majority while other groups are considered as ethnic minorities.
Based on the immigrants’ history, the whites have been dominant compared to other races. In other words, the whites are highly placed followed on the U.S’ ethnic hierarchies, followed by Asian Americans and other ethnic groups (Hispanics/Latinos). Blacks or African Americans are at the bottom of the racial hierarchy. The historical legacy of immigration has played a crucial role in sustaining ethic hierarchies in the United States.
The reason behind this is that after migrating to the U.S, immigrants were hierarchically placed into different socioeconomic positions. For example, White Americans who forms the majority group were placed on the top to them, and for this reason, they tended to view other races as being inferior to them especially the minority groups such as African Americans.
Over the years, we have witnessed drastic changes in the composition of different ethnic groups and races. For example, the racial category of white Americans has been expanding constantly throughout the American immigration history. Currently, they constitute an estimated 75 percent of the United States’ population while the minorities share the remaining percentage.
Although whites form the largest percentage, there is fear that in the near future they will be surpassed by other minority groups thus making them socioeconomically and politically weaker. In understanding the U.S immigrants’ history, the African Americans cannot be ignored as they have contributed a lot in helping us to understand ethnic and racial relations in U.S. This ethnic group is of African descent although not all are hundred percent of African descent.
Although their socioeconomic status has considerably improved, the blacks lag behind whites. Because of their black subculture and pressure, the African Americans have culturally remained assimilated to the American society. However, because of civil rights movements and human rights activism as well as rebellious ethnic identity, the levels of discrimination and historical oppression have been reduced.
Second generation immigrants in the U.S have assimilated successfully into the society. Compared with the first generation Americans, the second generation Americans has shown significant differences in terms of socioeconomic statuses such as education and income levels. The differences in the average socioeconomic status and upward mobility of second generation immigrant minorities are easily explained through different socioeconomic factors.
For example, the socioeconomic status of their immigrant parents, different levels of ethnic/racial discrimination, immigration policies/political contexts of reception (whether their parents were legal immigrants, undocumented immigrants, or refugees), and their different rates of cultural assimilation. According to the segmented theory of assimilation, different people are differently assimilated compared to others.
In other words, social positioning in political hierarchy and an unequal economic, and ethnic factors rather than internal cultural or ethnic characteristics determine the success of the second generation. Different minority groups among the second generation have exhibited different upward social mobility levels and socioeconomic status.
The most important factor among the list given is the socioeconomic status of their immigrant parents followed by the different rates of cultural assimilation into the American society. Socioeconomic status of their immigrant parents (first generation) always plays an integral role in determining the social mobility and socioeconomic success.
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Most of the Asians Americans are more successful economically, socially, and well educated compared to other minority groups in second generations. Although not all Asian Americans are socioeconomically successful, they are highly placed compared to other minorities. Basically, the first generation or immigrant parents are well off socioeconomically and as a result, the second generation was born and brought up in middle class families compared to second generation immigrants from other minority groups.
Compared with other second generation minorities, more first generation Asian American immigrants are high-skilled professionals. Therefore, the second generation Americans are more likely to experience high socioeconomic and upward mobility levels. Most of the first generation African Americans and Hispanics are low income earners and have the least level of education.
Therefore, the second generations of these two minority groups are more likely to inherit low upward mobility and socioeconomic levels. Generally, children of second generation immigrants belong to the middle class and are more likely compared to their counterparts in lower class to move up socially and join the American main stream because they belong to parents who have access to educational opportunities and financial resources.
Second generation minorities in the U.S often experience varied rates of cultural assimilation to the American society. Based on the cultural assimilation theory, ethnicity and race play an integral role in ensuring that second generation are integrated into the society.
In other words, some races can easily assimilate in the American society because they are not hindered by discrimination in the workplace or in the society. For example, compared to American Latinos, Asian Americans in general probably suffer less ethnic discrimination in the U.S and as a result, they tend to integrate quickly in the American society.
Quick assimilation of the first generation and lack of social pressure ensure that the second generation is easily assimilated into the majority upstream. It is important to note that racial discrimination acts as a hindrance to assimilation among second generation African American immigrants in comparison with Asian Americans and other European Americans.
Also, easy cultural assimilation among Asian Americans has ensured that second generation immigrants have access to better education and professional jobs in comparison with the other minorities.