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Being a first-generation immigrant, I have experienced all difficulties of immigration and assimilation processes. When I first arrived at Ellis Island with my family, the feelings of both excitement and fear overwhelmed me, as nobody was sure he/she would not be sent to the country we had just left (Staton, 2010). We were afraid of inspections and the possibility of being separated from our family members. After all the procedures on Ellis Island had been finished, I felt the biggest relief. However, the American Dream we came for turned out to have some dark sides.
Though I have expected that the communication with compatriots from my fatherland would help me to adapt myself to new conditions and find some support from people whose native language and land were the same as mine were, the things turned out to differ a lot from my expectations. In fact, I discovered that newly-arrived immigrants are not treated equally by the earlier generations. I have quickly realized that my compatriots that came to the United States a long time ago feel superior to new generations of immigrants. Instead of finding help and support, I often face hostility. Everyone is preoccupied with the willingness to become a successful and well-to-do American and the former compatriots often treat those who have just arrived at this land as unequal.
Another challenge faced by me after immigrating to the United States was the pressure to pledge my loyalty to a political machine. As a person that escaped the native country and found shelter across the ocean, I continuously feel obliged to stay devoted to the official authorities that govern the United States. I have shared my thoughts with many immigrants and found out that many of them have the same feeling of the obligation to stay loyal to the political machine of this country due to the generosity it demonstrated by accepting us among its citizens.
The feeling of obligation I described above appears to be the key to understanding why most immigrants do not support any expression of dissatisfaction with the government’s actions. It looks like Americans that have lived here the whole life are more inclined to oppose the government, organize protests, etc. I would not agree to engage in any strike as I have a fear of being expelled from the country in case of social misbehavior. Many other first-generation immigrants share my positions and try to avoid being engaged in any protests. Such a situation creates a certain separation between the workers with different origins.
Besides ethnic disparities, social boundaries also contribute to the feeling of inequality among the citizens. For example, leisure opportunities are divided by social class. Such a situation makes many immigrants face disparities between people having different occupations and levels of income. However, some organizations, such as Knights of Labor, try to unite the workers and eliminate the inequality. Knights of Labor are guided by “the Equal Rights philosophy” and capture the leisure-time interest of many residents by organizing picnics, fairs, and other types of entertainment (Dawley, 2009, p. 227).
I think the evolvement of such kind of organizations is vital for bridging the boundaries that complicate the life of immigrants and other people that come from different cultures and are willing to become full-fledged citizens of the country that has opened new opportunities for them.
Dawley, A. (2009). Class and community: The industrial revolution in Lynn. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Staton, H. (2010). Symbols of American freedom: Ellis Island. New York: Chelsea House Publishing.