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A Nation of Nations

At one point in every U.S citizen?s history, their ancestors were immigrants. There is even new scientific evidence to suggest that today?s Native Americans were not the first people in America; that they too migrated to North America. What they were in search of still remains a mystery. Maybe they migrated here for the same reasons that modern immigrants come to America for. Modern immigrants abandon their countries because of political repression, religious repression, and economic hardships. It is doubtful that these are the reasons of ice age immigrants, but certainly ring true for all immigrants since the Mayflower. While the causes of immigration to America, particularly California, are understood, perhaps a better question should be on the effect immigration has had for California society.

Many individuals believe immigration has been more problematic than beneficial to California?s society. They fear immigrants will rob them of their jobs, overcrowd their schools, cause them to pay taxes for programs to help immigrants, and over populate California as a whole. Former governor Pete Wilson blamed many of the state?s economic problems on the costs of providing state services for the immigrants. He argued that ?We can no longer allow compassion to overrule reason,?(). Total immigration surpassed one million a year during the late 1980s. These new immigrants were fleeing the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, Cuba, Haiti, and Mexico. This number only reflects legal immigration. About 300,000 immigrants arrive and stay illegally, mostly from Mexico (Massik 73 & ). ?Immigration contributes nearly 50 percent of U.S. population growth, considering immigrants? higher-than-average fertility rates,?(Massik 73). California is growing at an alarming rate, and many fear our economy cannot support such a large population, with many on welfare. ?The usage of welfare by elderly resident aliens, not including naturalized citizens, increased 400 percent from 1982 to 1992, In 1992 alone, more than 90,000 legal immigrants age fifty-five and over entered the United States,? (Massik 74). In addition to sheer numbers, there is the cultural aspect of the immigrants. Many believe ?That the United States should be a melting-pot society in which immigrants from around the world ought to blend into one unique people. They worried that greater emphasis on diversity and multiculturalism would create a fragmented society,?(). These are just some of the downfalls to immigration in California.

Although there are many downfalls, there is an unsurpassed amount of positive effects to immigration in California. The United States and California were built on immigration. It is hypocritical for people to oppose immigration, when, if it weren?t for immigration, they would be politically oppressed, or worse, in the country of their origin. It is estimated that over forty percent of all citizens can trace their ancestry to those who came through Ellis Island; and that is fairly recent migration (). ?Europeans who immigrated to America a century ago brought their own languages and cultures with them, but their racial similarities with those who were already here enabled them to blend relatively smoothly into what has become known as the American melting pot. But immigrants from Latin America and Asia face a different racial reality. Such immigrants often wish to preserve the language and culture they brought with them,? (Maasik 63). This language and culture should be embraced as it expands our diversity. Many people who oppose immigration are too closed minded to identify that there are more cultures than their own. It only fragments society if those who dislike immigration segregate themselves to avoid contact with different cultures. Economically, California could not support itself without the help of immigrant labor. ?California is a world economic power, sixth in the world if it were an independent nation. California?s vigorous economic development has consistently depended on an equally rapidly growing labor force made up in large part by immigrants,?(). The agriculture business, along with small and medium sized firms that specialize in manufacturing, construction and service, could not function without immigrants. Immigrants take the job unwanted by the U.S. work force. It would also be inaccurate to assume that Mexican immigrants, particularly agricultural workers, are the poorest of the poor, and using a good portion of our U.S tax dollars. ?Extensive research has ascertained that many migrants come from prosperous Mexican regions and communities where agricultural development and modernization programs have been most successful,?(). We should see the United States as a multicultural society where all people should respect each other?s unique identities. Mayor Sharpe James of Newark, New Jersey, said, ?Our diversity is our strength.? Certainly the benefits out weigh the downfalls to immigration. It is incredibly hypocritical for people to be against immigration.

Walt Whitman once said, ?We are not merely a nation, but a teeming nation of nations.? This truth cannot be contested, no matter one?s view on immigration. We need to realize that immigration is not going to stop, although it may be slowed by government efforts. I believe the answer to ?fixing? the problem is not to turn our backs on those looking for refuge, but to make serious efforts to understand and evaluate the degree of dependency that the State?s economy has with respect to the immigrant population. This should include studies of California firms, both agricultural and non-agricultural that rely heavily on immigrant labor (). We also need to make an effort improve the countries that these immigrants are coming from. This could mean sending teachers and professors to foreign countries to help educate the people, so they can become skilled. Another solution could be using force to change the way a country?s government treats its people, so that there is no need for immigrants to come here. In learning and embracing other cultures, we can step a little closer toward having a United California.

References:

California Dreams and Realities. Ed. Sonia Massik and Jack Solomon. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin?s, 1999.

Ling-Ling, Yeh. ?The Welcome Mat is Threadbare.? Massik 73-75

?The Issue of Immigration: Federal and State Legislation. 10/6/00. Stanford. 10/6/00

?The Ellis Island Experience. 10/6/00. Stanford. 10/6/00

?Causes and Consequences of California?s Latin American Origin Immigration.? 10/8/00. UCLA. 10/8/00

A Nation of Nations

At one point in every U.S citizen?s history, their ancestors were immigrants. There is even new scientific evidence to suggest that today?s Native Americans were not the first people in America; that they too migrated to North America. What they were in search of still remains a mystery. Maybe they migrated here for the same reasons that modern immigrants come to America for. Modern immigrants abandon their countries because of political repression, religious repression, and economic hardships. It is doubtful that these are the reasons of ice age immigrants, but certainly ring true for all immigrants since the Mayflower. While the causes of immigration to America, particularly California, are understood, perhaps a better question should be on the effect immigration has had for California society.

Many individuals believe immigration has been more problematic than beneficial to California?s society. They fear immigrants will rob them of their jobs, overcrowd their schools, cause them to pay taxes for programs to help immigrants, and over populate California as a whole. Former governor Pete Wilson blamed many of the state?s economic problems on the costs of providing state services for the immigrants. He argued that ?We can no longer allow compassion to overrule reason,?(). Total immigration surpassed one million a year during the late 1980s. These new immigrants were fleeing the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, Cuba, Haiti, and Mexico. This number only reflects legal immigration. About 300,000 immigrants arrive and stay illegally, mostly from Mexico (Massik 73 & ). ?Immigration contributes nearly 50 percent of U.S. population growth, considering immigrants? higher-than-average fertility rates,?(Massik 73). California is growing at an alarming rate, and many fear our economy cannot support such a large population, with many on welfare. ?The usage of welfare by elderly resident aliens, not including naturalized citizens, increased 400 percent from 1982 to 1992, In 1992 alone, more than 90,000 legal immigrants age fifty-five and over entered the United States,? (Massik 74). In addition to sheer numbers, there is the cultural aspect of the immigrants. Many believe ?That the United States should be a melting-pot society in which immigrants from around the world ought to blend into one unique people. They worried that greater emphasis on diversity and multiculturalism would create a fragmented society,?(). These are just some of the downfalls to immigration in California.

Although there are many downfalls, there is an unsurpassed amount of positive effects to immigration in California. The United States and California were built on immigration. It is hypocritical for people to oppose immigration, when, if it weren?t for immigration, they would be politically oppressed, or worse, in the country of their origin. It is estimated that over forty percent of all citizens can trace their ancestry to those who came through Ellis Island; and that is fairly recent migration (). ?Europeans who immigrated to America a century ago brought their own languages and cultures with them, but their racial similarities with those who were already here enabled them to blend relatively smoothly into what has become known as the American melting pot. But immigrants from Latin America and Asia face a different racial reality. Such immigrants often wish to preserve the language and culture they brought with them,? (Maasik 63). This language and culture should be embraced as it expands our diversity. Many people who oppose immigration are too closed minded to identify that there are more cultures than their own. It only fragments society if those who dislike immigration segregate themselves to avoid contact with different cultures. Economically, California could not support itself without the help of immigrant labor. ?California is a world economic power, sixth in the world if it were an independent nation. California?s vigorous economic development has consistently depended on an equally rapidly growing labor force made up in large part by immigrants,?(). The agriculture business, along with small and medium sized firms that specialize in manufacturing, construction and service, could not function without immigrants. Immigrants take the job unwanted by the U.S. work force. It would also be inaccurate to assume that Mexican immigrants, particularly agricultural workers, are the poorest of the poor, and using a good portion of our U.S tax dollars. ?Extensive research has ascertained that many migrants come from prosperous Mexican regions and communities where agricultural development and modernization programs have been most successful,?(). We should see the United States as a multicultural society where all people should respect each other?s unique identities. Mayor Sharpe James of Newark, New Jersey, said, ?Our diversity is our strength.? Certainly the benefits out weigh the downfalls to immigration. It is incredibly hypocritical for people to be against immigration.

Walt Whitman once said, ?We are not merely a nation, but a teeming nation of nations.? This truth cannot be contested, no matter one?s view on immigration. We need to realize that immigration is not going to stop, although it may be slowed by government efforts. I believe the answer to ?fixing? the problem is not to turn our backs on those looking for refuge, but to make serious efforts to understand and evaluate the degree of dependency that the State?s economy has with respect to the immigrant population. This should include studies of California firms, both agricultural and non-agricultural that rely heavily on immigrant labor (). We also need to make an effort improve the countries that these immigrants are coming from. This could mean sending teachers and professors to foreign countries to help educate the people, so they can become skilled. Another solution could be using force to change the way a country?s government treats its people, so that there is no need for immigrants to come here. In learning and embracing other cultures, we can step a little closer toward having a United California.

References:

California Dreams and Realities. Ed. Sonia Massik and Jack Solomon. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin?s, 1999.

Ling-Ling, Yeh. ?The Welcome Mat is Threadbare.? Massik 73-75

?The Issue of Immigration: Federal and State Legislation. 10/6/00. Stanford. 10/6/00

?The Ellis Island Experience. 10/6/00. Stanford. 10/6/00

?Causes and Consequences of California?s Latin American Origin Immigration.? 10/8/00. UCLA. 10/8/00

32e


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