Crossing the Bridge to Citizenship the Struggles of Immigration
The sociology of immigration involves the analysis of immigration, social structure, and assimilation. The road to gaining citizenship in the United States is a hard task itself, but there’s also the more challenging task of assimilating to this society once you accomplish receiving a green card. Imagine packing up everything you know and love from your home in a place like Mexico, the Philippines, Greece, India, China, or The Dominion Republic and moving to a place you’ve probably never even seen, just heard about; America.
The fee to simply apply for citizenship into the United States is astronomical and can only be paid in one lump sum by cash or check, no credit cards. At 680 dollars per application, the naturalization fee for many is prohibitively expensive. Time and again, immigrants identify the fee as a barrier (Raza). Obtaining this money just for your paperwork to be processed is the first barrier in the long journey to gaining citizenship. These people want a new beginning. They want to leave their lives in their original countries in the past and not look back. And most of the time, the reason they’re trying to leave in the first place is because their lives weren’t good there, or they expect and want more. Most immigrants or want-to-be-immigrants just want a fresh start, with the possibility of not living their lives under the poverty line. Then again, America is “”The Place of Second Chances””.
Once the sacred green card is finally in their hands is when things start to get truly tough. The scariest thing to imagine, is coming to a country you’ve never seen before, not knowing anything. You now must worry about things like difficulty speaking and learning English, raising children and helping them succeed in school, securing work, securing housing, accessing services, transportation, and cultural barriers (Nu?±ez). You have to accomplish all of this with your family right behind you, relying on you to support them. But even after getting all the success-deciding, important factors handled like a steady income and a place to live, you’re suddenly faced with different society norms and ways of living. You might see your children lose all the sense of your original culture. You’ll watch them slowly become “”Americanized”” and see the sparkle in their eyes when they talk about their home country start to fade a little more each time they tell their story. This is when, most say, immigration becomes the hardest to continue with.
Assimilation is the process of individuals or groups of differing ethnic heritage absorbed into the dominant culture of society. Cultural assimilation is the process by which a person or a group’s language adopts the practices of another, thereby becoming a member of that culture. Assimilation has two stages: suppression of the parent’s culture and the acquisition of new ways, including new languages. (Cultural Assimilation). The rate of a cultural minority depends upon whether the facilitating factors predominate.
Immigrant assimilation is one of the most common forms of assimilation, and it is a very complex process. The term assimilation is often used in reference to immigrants and ethnic groups settling in a new land. Immigrants acquire new customs and attitudes through contact and communication within a new society, while they also introduce some of their own cultural traits to that society. (Learning, L). Any group such as a state, immigrant population, or ethnicity may choose to adopt a different culture for a variety of reasons such as political relevance. Other than marriage, citizenship is one of the most significant factors of assimilation. Immigration debates focus not only on the number of immigrants that should be allowed into a country and the processes of incorporation but also on how citizenship should be extended and to whom. Questions of citizenship in relation to illegal immigration is a particularly controversial issue and a common source of political tension. By measuring socioeconomic statuses, researchers seek to determine whether immigrants eventually catch up to native-born people in matters of capital.
The study of immigrant assimilation is important because it provides insight into not only how immigrants and their children have been incorporated into the United States, but also how their incorporation might reshape patterns of ethnic and racial inequality. Between 1880 and 1920, the United States took in roughly 24 million immigrants. By sharing their experiences and histories, they blend into the common cultural life. Some may have arrived with a strong desire to assimilate, but little knowledge of how to do so.
The word assimilation comes from a Latin root “”simulate”” which means, to make similar. Assimilation is the process of becoming similar to the people you’re surrounded by. For some, assimilation is based on pragmatic considerations, like achieving some fluency in the dominant language, some educational or economic success, some familiarity with the country’s history and culture. For others, it runs deeper and involves relinquishing all ties, even linguistic ones, to the old country (Lalami). Some have to give up their strong beliefs and religious traditions to simply fit into America and their norms. These beliefs and traditions become lost mostly because of culture clash. Culture clash is a conflict arising from the interactions of people with different cultural values.
Culture shock, going hand and hand with culture clash, is the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes. For the most part there are four phases to culture shock. The first is the honeymoon stage, then comes the frustration stage, then the adjustment stage, then finally the acceptance stage (The 4 Stages of Culture Shock – Global Perspectives – Medium). The honey moon stage is self-explanatory. This is when the immigrant first arrives to a new place, where they can be a new person, and have a new beginning. The frustration stage begins when the immigrant becomes fed up with not comprehending street signs, other people in the place, and social quests. These [immigrants] may not even have known which names were common in the U.S. Others may not have cared about assimilating at first, but eventually felt the urge to blend in…They may have started to navigate the dominant culture with greater ease. Their children may have attended schools with children from other cultures and have spoken with American accents (What History Tells Us about Assimilation of Immigrant). The adjustment phase is when the immigrant starts to understand and become comfortable with everything about the new country, including the food, people, languages, and environments. The final stage of culture shock is overcoming the home sickness in the new country. This is when the immigrant accepts the fact that this, for the time being at least, is their new home. Every successful immigrant comes to this realization.
Ethnic enclaves are in sociology, are where those of the same ethnicity congregated or settle down and live their lives. It’s always been said that America is a “”melting pot”” where there’s hundreds of different kinds of nationality, ethnicities, and cultures inside it. But if the “”melting pot”” scenario was truly the case everyone would melt their beliefs, cultures, and ethnicities and we would all eventually become the same exact person.
Extreme examples of ethnic enclaves would be places like China Town in Chicago. Some ethnic enclaves, such as those like China Town, can be so large and powerful that the people living in it would never even have to learn English. These are extreme cases, but they do offer benefits to those that belong in one.
The theory of social capital and the formation of migrant networks create creates social enclaves. (Poros). Immigrants tend to settle down close to one another because it’s easier. It’s easier to have someone to rely on and have a constant reminder that you’re not the only one going through this hard shift, and it’s not impossible to accomplish a new life, in a new place. This migration network does more than just comfort those in it. It also helps them to exchange valuable resources and knowledge. This affectively lowers the cost of immigration for everyone inside the migration network. Therefore, ethnic enclaves can help immigrants in obtaining economic prosperity by providing a social and economic development of its members by banning together in the new said place.
But ethnic enclaves can also have their drawbacks. Immigrants sometimes become so comfortable and content with their lives so much so that they never try to leave it. They accept what they think is the best and never strive for anything better, outside of their group. They become trapped in some sort of a glass ceiling.
Several immigrants choose to settle in the United States because of the many of opportunities that are open to them such as jobs, obtaining legal citizenship, and unique experiences with their own culture right in America. During the colonial era, the United States had a major wave of immigration occur from the first part of the 19th century and from the 1880s to 1920. A lot of immigrants came to America seeking greater economic opportunities. Others came seeking personal freedom or relief from political and religious persecution. Immigrants were experiencing fleeing crop failure, land and job shortages, rising taxes, and famine before they came to the United States.
Immigrants are motivated to leave their former countries of citizenship, or habitual residence for reasons that include a lack of local access to resources, a desire for economic prosperity, to find or engage in paid work, to better their standard of living, family reunification, retirement, or even climate. Since 2000, legal immigrants to the United States number approximately 1,000,000 per year. Legal immigrants are at their highest level right now in the United States, estimating at just over 37,000,000 immigrants. (Immigration to the United States). The effects of immigrants on U.S. employment and productivity can be very debated. Some believe that immigrants diminish job opportunities of workers born in the United States. Others think that immigrants fulfill essential jobs that local Americans could not.
“”I think of many immigrants throughout American history who are coming from places that repress innovation, that repress freethinking, that repress all of those rights that we as American now sometimes take for granted”” said Lisa Sasaki (Binkowski). There are several places where it is not safe for citizens to express their point of view such as speaking freely because the consequences could be going to jail. Regarding the immigration law, Congress has the power to make immigration policy subject to judicial oversight.
Overtime, immigrants tend to realize that it is totally worth coming to the United States even though they experience assimilation, ethnic enclaves, cultural shock, and the dreadful road to citizenship. Immigrants do not take for granted their opportunity to become a legal citizen in America. The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all across the world. Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most important decision in an immigrants life let alone any individual. If an immigrant decides to apply to become a U.S. citizen, the level of commitment to the United States from that individual will be shown and the loyalty to its Constitution.
The value of citizenship is very important in ways such as the rights and privileges that are apart of U.S. citizenship. America values the contributions of immigrants who continue to enrich this county and preserve its legacy as a land of freedom and opportunity. (USCIS Policy Mauna). As for when it comes to obtaining a green card, immigrants have a long process ahead of them. A green card allows an individual to live and work permanently in the United States. The most common path to U.S. citizenship is the process of obtaining a green card and if you become a green card holder for at least 5 years, and individual must meet a list of eligibility requirements in order to apply for naturalization. Naturalization is the legal act or process by which a non-citizen in a country may acquire citizenship or nationality of that country. (Naturalization Information).
In conclusion, immigrants struggle on their road to citizenship. Some will give up and never become a legal citizen and others will wait patiently for years while still being a person of good moral character. It is not always easy in the beginning but in the end, it is worth it and fulfilling for any individual who is looking to obtain a better socioeconomic background from where they came from.