There are myriads of challenges that young immigrants face when they visit the United States of America. According to a survey conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2004, young immigrants in the United States face a lot of impediments even as they attempt to transmit to the American culture far away from their native lands (Garret, 2006).
In the survey, it emerged that the young people who are especially not educated find it extremely difficult to acquire high-quality education. Worse still, there are those who land in the US with no background in the English language. Therefore, they are compelled to start the process of learning the language so that they can be able to transact or even interact with the new culture.
The survey also revealed that there are youths who enter the United States while in the status of refugees from other war-torn countries. Secondly, the focus groups also came out with a finding that this vulnerable group faces economic hurdles to the extent that it cannot afford basic needs due to a lack of ready employment opportunities. As a result, they end up living in squalor conditions. They can hardly afford decent housing facilities.
The young immigrants are also discriminated from the rest of the indigenous population. They are concentrated in refugee camps where they can hardly access basic amenities. Consequently, most of them develop several episodes of stressful moments that eventually culminate into depression.
It is against this backdrop that this essay seeks to explore the challenges facing young immigrants in the United States and the proactive measures that can be taken to rescue this vulnerable group in transiting towards the new culture.
Before fully embarking on the actual challenges facing the young immigrants in the United States, it is perhaps necessary to briefly point out today’s immigrants in the US. Since these young immigrants come to the United States for various reasons such as seeking refuge due to political tension back home or seeking employment, they face unique challenges daily (Garret, 2006).
Ethnic persecution and religious tension are also some of the reasons why these immigrants move to the United States. Most of the immigrants originate from the Afro-Caribbean basin, Asia, and Latin America, while less than 20% come from other regions across the world.
This explains why the nature of challenges faced by a particular group of immigrant youths is largely determined by their place of origin. Nonetheless, the stress associated with being an immigrant is usually shared by all groups irrespective of their countries of origin (Preston, 2013)
Secondly, young immigrants are also vulnerable to discrimination during the period when they are seeking to belong in the new society. On the same note, the high level of joblessness has significantly contributed to poor living conditions among young immigrants.
Since they are not in a position to secure working opportunities, they also find it almost impossible to cater for the cost of education, especially if they have not acquired high school or college certification.
As it stands now, there are several anti-immigrant initiatives that are coming up with the aim of restricting certain benefits to immigrants. Hence, young immigrants are excluded from enjoying certain benefits that any ordinary American resident is supposed to access.
A couple of months ago, quite several young immigrants were found to be illegally residing in the United States. When calls were made to deport such youthful immigrants, they went on the streets protesting and calling for the intervention of the Obama administration to stop the attempt.
In a case study of Phoenix, for example, the detention center for the federal immigration was packed with activities in August involving youthful immigrants who were out in their large numbers to protest against being deported for being in the country illegally. A large number of those who took part in the protests were youthful immigrants.
They refused any attempt by the government for deportation, arguing that they found themselves as children immigrants who were not required to have legal immigration papers because they were still under the care of their parents or guardians.
Some arrests were made, but it did not deter the youths from camping outside the immigration offices. This is a vivid indication of how stress and difficult living conditions are compelling these youthful immigrants into street protests with the hope of rescuing their dilapidating situation (Perkins, 2005).
Structures that have been set apart for residential purposes are not safe at all in Benson, N.C. There are several residential units that occupants do not use any mattresses during sleeping because the authorities argue that these structures are safe. There are cases when over ten people use a single toilet facility. Generally, the immigrant farm workers in this county face serious health concerns due to the deplorable living conditions.
Discrimination has been witnessed in Arizona, whereby the state government is no longer ready to issue driving licenses to those considered to be youthful immigrants. The state authorities argue that most youthful immigrants lack better education and in particular, they are not in a position to use English as the common medium of communication.
The language barrier has been a widespread challenge that young immigrants are still grappling with daily. The worst hit group is young immigrants who can hardly afford basic education due to poverty.
The ability to communicate in English has become a major impediment among young immigrants because there are several employment opportunities that demand fluency in both spoken and written English. If an immigrant in Arizona is not capable of speaking and writing in English, he or she may not be in a position to secure even the least paying job.
Youthful immigrants who migrate into the United States for various reasons often face the threat of being separated from close members of their families. This separation may go for a relatively extended period. For example, there are some children in Arizona who have been sent to reside with relatives.
In other cases, some parents move to the United States to prepare residential places for their incoming families who eventually live in Arizona and other regions in the United States. For immigrants who grow in the absence of their parents or other family members, it is disturbing and unsettling to be separated from the family fabric for that long.
When a study was conducted in Arizona, and other neighboring states, slightly over 80 percent of the 400 young immigrants surveyed responded that they had been excluded from their families ranging from months to years. This was causing a lot of personal stress in the lives of these young immigrants.
As already mentioned, the Governor of Arizona has been pushing for illegal immigrants to be denied benefits coming from the state government. This attempt has caused a lot of outrage among the local population that constitutes the young immigrants.
There are thousands of young immigrants who are reluctant to seek assistance from state authorities. Due to lack of proper documentation, they fear that they may be deported whenever they present themselves to the immigration officers. This has caused them deep pain because they are torn apart between being the legal US citizens and remaining in the status of immigrants.
All the young immigrants who do not possess the right papers cannot receive government assistance on matters such as housing, employment opportunities, or healthcare. Identification of residential status has become a mandatory requirement, even in healthcare facilities.
This implies that these youthful immigrants will eventually miss the opportunity to access any service from the local, state, and the federal government. This complicated situation has put young immigrants into a state of despair.
There are also risks of paying back government services if they secure government documentation as young immigrants in the United States. The worst thing that can happen in this scenario is that citizenship may never be granted to them even at a later date because their status will have been identified as that of the immigrants.
The basic rights, freedom, and privileges of young immigrants in the United States are not clear. In Arizona, for instance, a survey conducted way back in 2004 revealed that immigrants were being treated poorly at work, discriminated upon or even harassed at will.
The truth of the matter is that most of these young immigrants are found in various states without proper documentation, and hence, they have been classified as illegal immigrants. As a consequence, there are no prescribed rights and freedoms that are being enjoyed by the immigrants. There are those who argue that fair treatment for young immigrants will never come to fruition even if they acquire the legal status as immigrants.
They will still be discriminated and prejudiced by the American society that has always perceived them as opportunists and trouble makers. This notion has hindered the young immigrants from championing the rights which are continually violated by law enforcement agencies, landlords, and employers.
It is not surprising that young immigrants who were interviewed in the above survey reiterated that they were living in constant fear in the United States because they are targeted all the time. When one immigrant from Mexico was interviewed, he pointed out that laws are not applied in the same way across the board (Rhodes, 2005). The state laws are stricter for the immigrants than the ordinary US citizens.
Finally, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has never clarified the laws and regulations concerning immigrants in the United States. INS is charged with the duty of making sure that all immigrants understand their rights. However, this may not be the case on the ground.
Most young immigrants are unaware of their roles and responsibilities because they are handled at random with the local authorities, employers, and other government agents. Unless a clear framework that governs the rights, freedoms, and privileges of immigrants is embraced and adopted, the young immigrants in this country will continue to go through difficult times (Borjas,1999).
Borjas, G. J. (1999). Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Garret, E. K. (2006). Living In America: Challenges Facing New Immigrants and Refugees. Web.
Rhodes, J. (2005). Research Corner: Mentoring Immigrant Youth. Web.
Preston, J. (2013). Young Immigrants Protest Deportations. Web.
Perkins, M. (2005). A Note to Young Immigrants. Web.