It has been the mix of all different cultures from around the world that has made this nation great since its inception. The United States is a nation of immigrants and whether we are descendants or immigrants ourselves, we all have our immigration stories… I have my own. Regardless our nationalities and no matter how or why we came, immigrants go through pretty much the same experience when we decide to live in a foreign country. Leaving one’s homeland, family and friends is the main downside. To immigrate, no matter where, means a change of lifestyle, culture and environment.
Its impact is no less when it is a decision made on the spur of the moment, or in my case, after years of contemplation. In order to function well in another country, immigrants have to be willing to integrate into their adopted nation’s daily life. The biggest adjustment of all is to learn another language. I believe the key to success in the host country, lies in the ability to assimilate its culture successfully, bearing in mind that assimilation does not mean to forget or deny our roots and origins.
Just as the newcomers of the former time assimilated into American culture, so are immigrants expected to do it in today’s world. Although, the mainstreams of recent immigrants do not hail primarily from Europe as in the waves of previous eras, but from Latin America and Asian culture, the motives that bring immigrants into American soil remain nearly the same. They come here to attain a better life for themselves and their children, to leave behind oppression and persecution, famine, genocide and more. They come in the pursuit of happiness, that for many of them consists in the fulfillment of the so longed for “American Dream”.
Not all of them make it, but considering the overwhelming number of immigrants that arrive in the country every year, the overall of the cases has a success story. The upper-middle and middle class immigrants, those skilled newcomers who come with some education or money are more likely to accomplish their goals and have a far easier time, than those poor, uneducated immigrants, who arrive carrying little more than dreams of a better life and who start at the bottom of a ladder where they remain throughout their lives.
Even if we go back in time, we see that “for the Eastern and Russian Jews who started to reach American shores in the 1870s, adapting to the United was much more difficult, as they were typically poorer and more unskilled that the German Jews and thus found it more difficult to establish an economic foothold” (Egendorf 17) . The legal or illegal status of the immigrants in the country, have a meaningful influence on their life quality.
Those who are illegal usually work in jobs that Americans do not want to do, getting paid less than the minimum wage, struggling to survive, but in most cases satisfied with what they have, because where they stand now, is by far better where they would stand in their home lands. Everyone wants a piece of the American cake and the popular belief that this country is the land of opportunity, makes of United States an appealing destiny for immigrants; nevertheless their influx must be regulated, and the borders play a leading part in this aspect.
Steven A. Camarota said that “most Americans understand that our border is a critical tool for protecting America’s national interests” (9). These are important for the country not only to restrict the huge flow of illegal immigrants, but also in the defense of national security, keeping possible threats from international terrorists out of the country, and in the fight against the smuggling of illegal drugs. As stated by Mark Krikorian “even in a purely economic sense, the idea of open borders is a pernicious one”.
The thought of dropping borders in United States is utopian. It could be only possible in a world equal in opportunities for everyone, whose societies would have political and economic stability, in this way people would not rush into this nation, leaving their home homelands in search of a better future. After what happened on the 9/11, the government is not willing to take the risk of repeating its tragic history.
Open borders would make the country vulnerable to further attacks because it would give green light for terrorists to come to the country with no restrictions at all, the borders must be secure from those who mean harm for the country. Thus, far from dropping borders, United States has stepped up controls on immigration and visa issuance, otherwise the number of immigrants would skyrocket to such unmanageable proportions that it would overpopulate the nation. Anti-immigration groups consider immigrants to be invading the nation, representing a threat to country’s identity, and stealing jobs from Americans.
If we analyze American colonization from another point of view, beyond the romantic version that has been drilled into us, we could say English settlers were invaders of native Americans lands and homes, the same way opponents of immigration see newcomers as invaders these days. Rather than cultural interchange, the colonists imposed their religious beliefs and customs to the American Indians. On the contrary, immigrants nowadays come to enrich, contribute and add diversity to American’s culture.
Johnny Burke affirmed that “unity through diversity will strengthen American culture” (58). It is true immigrants come to United States to work; otherwise they would not bother about coming here in the first place. They work hard to make it into the mainstream trying to get jobs as soon as they arrive, but they do not take jobs away from Americans. In my opinion they make the employment market more challenged and competitive, making people in the country not to take anything for granted.
If a person has a high education level and is enough qualified for a certain job, he should not see a talented, skilled immigrant as a threat to him. There are examples throughout history of the hard work and ideas immigrants have brought to the country such as “the Irish immigrants of the early nineteenth century who helped build the canal that made it easier to America to travel and trade and the Chinese immigrants who helped strengthen America’s infrastructure by constructing railroads in the west” (Egendorf 19).
As long as people around the world keep thinking that the grass looks greener on the other side, and see the prospect of better life in America, and as long as American economy needs new infusions of cheap labor, immigration will continue. Each wave of newcomers will assimilate the country’s culture, but without losing its uniqueness and contributing at the same time to the rich blend of the country’s evolving diversity. The United States is a composite that has been built up over the years from the contributions of many groups, and future immigration will undoubtedly continue to play a significant role in American history.