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Sociology – Immigration

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Immigration is the movement of non-native people in order to settle in a different place or country. People move out of their country of origin for many reasons. Whether it is for a better job, better education, or simply to be with loved ones, immigrants have come to the United States with dreams of living a better life. The United States is none other than a make up of immigrants from diverse countries. Immigrants have been coming to the United States since its founding and have shaped the way this country is today. Some immigrants pursue the legal route – getting a visa in order to work for the status of a citizen while others illegally enter the country and risk being detained and deported. It is estimated there are approximately 11.7 million illegal immigrants living in the United States today (Preston). While some Americans believe that immigrants take away jobs, hurt the economy, and don’t fit in, I believe immigrants bring more benefits to our country than what meets the eye. Immigrants help boost our country economically and culturally.

It may seem that immigrants act as threats, however it is proven that they improve our economic energy. Immigrants can offer a comparative advantage in the United States. Many U.S. businesses outsource abroad and hire foreign workers thereby reducing their production cost, improving competitiveness, and enabling them to offer goods and services at a much lower price. This is a positive effect as it makes goods and services more affordable, thereby stimulating economic activity. Immigrants act as an advantage to our businesses because hiring immigrants for low-wage jobs help keep many other jobs in the United States and still allows for consumer items to be cheap (Cowen 2010). Even if we do not realize it, there are occurrences of economic benefits that happen all of the time because of immigrants. As immigrants stay in the U.S. and progress their lives, it connects us to the rest of the world making doing business abroad easier as well.

Some Americans believe, however, that immigrants are a detriment to the economy. The main argument citizens opposed to immigration make is that they take economic values away from U.S. citizens by displacing U.S. citizens from their jobs. In July 2013, the Center for Immigration researched and stated that the number of Americans employed decreased by 1.5 million since the year 2000 whereas the number of immigrants employed has increased by 5.5 million (Constable 2013). Even though the job rates for immigrants are increasing, it does not mean that Americans would have those jobs if immigrants were not here.

Many immigrants fill in gaps in American job markets that citizens do not want to fulfill. A clear example of this is the swift raids we discussed in lecture. Meat packing plants in Greely, Colorado hired illegal immigrants for a significant amount of production jobs. The government intervened and deported all of them, but the unexpected result was there were not enough American citizens willing to take the jobs, and the company shut down (Lambert Lecture). In other words, an immigrant will oftentimes take the jobs that citizens won’t which adds value to the companies and the economy. Low wage labor is not the only category of work immigrants fall into when they come to the United States. There are a significant number of well-educated, high I.Q. people that flock to U.S. education institutions, research entities, and corporations. Immigrants have played a vital role in the advancement of U.S. society, innovation, and worldwide leadership.

Also as the U.S. continues to fall behind in STEM education, there is an increasing demand by U.S. entities to recruit highly educated immigrants. Another argument citizens against immigration make is that immigrants are a burden to our healthcare system. Americans with that mindset believe that they are the only ones paying taxes and that immigrants absorb an unfair share of the benefits. In reality, about 70% of undocumented immigrants pay taxes, but receive little to no benefits (Lambert Lecture). For Example, immigrants are fractional users of Social Security and Medicare, and are less likely than legal citizens to receive welfare (Lambert Lecture). Not only are immigrants benefitting our country economically, but also they are assimilating well into American culture. On average, immigrants are more assimilated now than they ever were since the 1980s (Vigdor 2013). Because these immigrants were assimilating now more than ever, it’s a sign or progress for our country. There are some, however, that do not agree with this assertion.

Samuel Huntington, a political scientist, disagrees with the idea that immigrants are assimilating. He thinks that out nation is becoming “two peoples and two cultures” (Huntington pg. 1). Huntington claims in his article “The Hispanic Threat” that immigrants are not assimilating language and do not have patriotism. He focuses on the majority immigrant group in the United States, Hispanics, and explains how “in 2000, more than 28 million people in the United States spoke Spanish at home, and of those 28 million, 13.8 million spoke English worse rather than very well” (Huntington pg. 5). Huntington, and others who share his beliefs, think that as Spanish culture and language increases in the United States, the more committed Hispanics will be to their ethnic identity, not assimilating to the Anglo-Protestant culture America was built on (Huntington). There is strong evidence that proves that otherwise, however.

Edward Telles, a sociology professor at Princeton University, argues that immigrants are assimilating in the United Stated and that old arguments about immigrants are not that case anymore (Lambert Lecture). The data shown in Telles’s article “Mexican Americans and the American Nation” shows that although Hispanics generally do keep their language longer, they do not keep it forever (Telles). By the time that a family has reached its fourth generation after immigrating to the U.S., only about 5% speak Spanish to their children providing evidence for assimilation (Telles). Part of the reason why they don’t keep language longer is the increasing trend of intermarriage for Hispanics. According to Fox News Latino, interracial marriages in the U.S. have increased to 4.8 million, and 1 out of 12 are Latinos in the trend. Daniel Lichter, a sociology professor at Cornell University, explains that “the rise in interracial marriage indicates that race relations have improved over the past quarter century” (Fox News Latino).

America has come a long way as mixed children of these interracial marriages help eliminate the color line, interacting with each other and learning how to understand different backgrounds. Although immigrants are clearly assimilating in America while simultaneously improving our economy, there are common stereotypes of what an illegal immigrant looks like. A common stereotype about immigrants is that they are criminals in the United States for just being present here, and that they bring even more crime into our country. This is a misconception because even though the number of immigrants has doubled since 1994, violent crime has decreased by 34% and property crime has decreased by 26% in our country (Maloney). Taking a look around, it is impossible to conclude who is an illegal immigrant and who is a citizen because for the most part, illegal immigrants look and act just like us. Illegal immigrants are our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and even family. An example is Mary, a Canadian born citizen, mother of three, who has been living in the United States like a normal citizen for 10 years.

In the documentary “Lost in Detention”, we learned that after a bad check bounced for only 230 dollars, a warrant was out for Mary’s arrest and deportation. As mentioned earlier, Mary was just a woman trying to live a better life in the U.S. for herself and her children. She was a neighbor, friend, and mother. How is she supposed to be torn away from her loved ones and put into a detention facility with no rights after she’s been living like a normal citizen for a decade? There needs to be a better system to protect the ones who came here willing to contribute great things to the United Stated in order to live a better life. A solution I propose would be for the government to work on a better pathway towards citizenship. There are so many negative stereotypes about immigrants that the government feels pressured to deport whoever and wherever just so they can tell upset citizens that they’re taking action, and that is not okay.

I believe in the principals mentioned in the DREAM Act that was introduced in 2001. Immigrants who arrived as minors and graduated from U.S. high schools would be eligible for permanent residency. As for adults, if they had good moral character, completed service for the military, or lived in the country for 5 years with a steady income, I believe they should then be eligible. If an undocumented immigrant with a strong past of drugs and violence is found or if they are currently engaging in that activity, they should be deported immediately.

This system would work because the qualifications would demonstrate immigrants have learned the language, made an income for themselves, and are willing to assimilate to our culture by going through the process of getting their papers. Anyone who goes through this process clearly cares about this country and is patriotic towards it. These people who help enrich our culture and boost our economy do not deserve to do their part and then be kicked out. A majority of these undocumented immigrants already behave like normal Americans and after following these guidelines will be fully assimilated and treated like the citizens they are.

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