Political Science 355
Reflection Paper: Assimilation into the United States
Immigrants leave their countries in search for a better life and improvement of their situation. There is no singular reason for immigration; motivations range from better economic prospects to political safety. As of late, the number of immigrants living in the United States is an estimated 11 million. Those who immigrate are expected to contribute to the United States culturally, politically, and economically. Yet, full assimilation becomes difficult to achieve when the immigrant is made into “the other” by the country of reception.
The interaction between the immigrant and the citizens of the receiving country varies on whether or not their introduction into the new country is seen as a loss or something positive. These differing stances serve as a buffer for an immigrant’s desires, as they can either advance or stagger depending on how far their new situation allows them to advance. For this reason, the likely success of the individual depends on the descending community’s desire to embrace them. This acceptance or denial presents itself in the form of the resources available to “the other.” If these outsiders are not given the tools with which to function properly they will likely find solace in the ethnic specific networks that provide them with a means to survive.
The distance between the new arrivals and the natives fosters a sense of distrust on both ends. However, the concern that the growing population of immigrants will compromise America’s national identity undermines our national reality. Historically, those who have willingly immigrated to the United States have had a desire to become part of American society, crossing borders and seas to reside in the “land of the free.” Our negative response to them, however, predates the current Mexico/ US border conflict. From Cuban refugees in Florida to Somali refugees today, Americans have always been hesitant about the effect newcomers can have on the country. This rejection encourages a divide between American culture and an immigrant’s separate national culture. Documentaries like “Welcome to Shelbyville” show the problems that towns, who have largely remained untouched by immigration, face when suddenly presented with an influx of people from different parts of the world. The reaction to this cultural clash between town folk and incoming refugees is essential in noting that the ascending country’s institution is responsible for the poor adjustment of newcomers, rather than the fault remaining in an individual’s decision to remain separate from American culture.
Though there are struggles that immigrants are facing, such as in language acquisition and disadvantages that arise with an illegal status, there is a general desire to assimilate. “Welcome to Shelbyville” has the potential to serve as a microcosm of cross cultural interaction throughout the United States, as there is a great deal of fears based on a...