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The Experience of Immigrants in the United States
The United States has been a host to a wide diaspora of people. Immigrants have had to transition from their familiar land to a new-fashioned foreign land that they must consider home. They bring with them the essence of their initial homeland such as customs, traditions and beliefs that inadvertently change the dynamics of culture within the United States. As a result the United States is an extremely culturally diverse nation. The continual changes or accretions that Americans encounter have always been a controversial topic depending on the experiences of individuals and communities that have immigrant populations. This essay will critically explore the impact that American culture has on immigrants within the United States through an in-depth look at cultural transition, homeland relocation stresses and modes of adjustment.
Moving from a house, neighborhood, city or state is often difficult for a number of personal reasons. A piece of a person’s history, family, or memories are going to become extremely precious because of the transition of moving. Now imagine moving to another country without knowing the language, customs and life pace, among other considerations. This is a situation that occurs very frequently for some individuals that find moving the better option. The reasons for such a drastic move are numerous but no less difficult. Refugees seeking political asylum or more work opportunities are only two reasons for moving, however, there a hundreds more.
Moreover, immigrants that relocate to the United States don’t find instant comfort and community. Rather, they feel misplaced; like outsiders. Immigrants must become acquainted with the customs and social norms within American society. The entire structure within the United States can be very daunting because it is very fast, isolationist, xenophobic and monotonous especially for someone that has never experienced it before. Language barriers make it difficult for immigrants to establish relationships outside there own communities and it is often easier for them to build their stores and neighborhoods. Cultural community stores or working for minimum or less than minimum wages are not uncommon within immigrant communities. Hmong community had established their own cultural community as a support system and/or familiar setting.
Another significant issue would be that many times cultural lines become blurred because of the different life styles. Cultural roles continue to be ever present but the roles of women and men in the work place are not as rigid because the economic stability becomes more significant than the male breadwinner role. Instances such as this were the male/female roles are diverged become significant because the dynamics of the essential cultural beliefs begin to mold according to necessity and environment. Within American society it is more customary to see women in a work environment than in Laos were traditional male hierarchy is present. In addition the cost of living in America is considerably higher so it’s more practical for both parties to contribute. Concerns and ambiguities arise after set norms begin transitioning toward assimilation. This becomes more evident with children as they begin to take the American culture as their norms and drawing a balance between their dual cultures is often a challenge. A Tongan observed that girls were becoming more competitive as a result of living within the United States; this illustrates the culture changes that beginning to take place (Small, p.161).
Cultural or life transitions are extremely complicated for immigrants, especially when faced with scrutiny and ridicule by American citizens. Immigrants are blamed for the loss of jobs, deviation from “core” American culture and consider the Hmong a burden on tax payers as immigrants are thought to “milk” economic governmental assistance. Yet, this could not be further from the truth, immigrants work and pay taxes. They contribute to the economic stability of the United States but are often not given credit for participating without being represented. Immigrants are labeled “other” and are not readily accepted as members of American society and are marginalized to a subclass society. Many times immigrants experience an element of witch hunting by anti-immigration groups. The Mexican and Central American communities within the southwest United States have experienced excessive efforts to defame, denigrate and ostracize them in an attempt to keep them from entering the United States. Massive metal walls that stretch into the ocean have been constructed and skewed pictures that depict ape characteristics have tried to propagate an “otherness” that appears unapproachable and intimidating in an attempt to create a division between both the immigrants and Americans.
However, many have overcome the exaggerations and learned to tune them out in both the immigrant and Americans communities. Immigrants have built their life in the United States as best as possible and as close to home as they can possibly achieve by incorporating their customs in to American Life and creating communities of like cultures. Their children are American citizens, attend the schools and live the culture. Despite the anti-immigration propaganda that is blasted everywhere they create a place for themselves in America and achieve their American Dream. Communities, stores, schools, and places of worship have become part of both their culture and the American culture. Future immigrants have neighborhoods that make them feel more at ease due to the diversity that immigrants bring.
In conclusion the impact that America has had on immigrant individuals and families is an array of experiences and changes that have been both positive and negative. However, immigrants bring with them not only new practices and beliefs but also a type of change that helps all individuals tap into untouched personal resources. For example, in Wisconsin Americans started programs to help to the Hmong transition and the Hmong broke the homogeneity and incorporated new perspectives in to the way of life in Wisconsin.
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