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A Multicultural Perspective on Immigration


... the border, 60% of Mexican American children speak only ... Protest marchers waving the Mexican flag. Press one for English. Jobs that Americans won't do ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: A Multicultural Perspective on Immigration

A Multicultural Perspective on Immigration
  • Jill Kerper Mora, Ed.D.
  • San Diego State University
  • http//coe.sdsu.edu/people/jmora

Rank order these concerns about current levels of
immigration from 1 to 5
  • We need border security to prevent terrorism and
    other crimes.
  • Immigrants are taking jobs away from American
    citizens low-paid immigrant workers are pulling
    down wages overall for American workers
  • New immigrants are not assimilating into American
    culture as did previous generations of immigrants
  • Immigrants are clinging to the language and
    culture of their country of origin and not
    shifting their loyalty to the United States.
  • Immigrants are a burden to society due to their
    use of social services in disproportion to their
    contribution in taxes.

Our Greatest Fears
  • Concerns about cultural assimilation of new
    immigrants into the American mainstream outweigh
    economic concerns and fears about national
    security in the minds of most Americans. Many of
    these concerns are based on myths and
    misunderstandings about current patterns of
    assimilation. These cause us to pursue laws and
    policies that aggravate the situations and
    conditions we fear rather than improve our lives
    in a diverse society.

The Classic Melting Pot Model
  • The Melting Pot Model assumes that ethnic
    differences will disappear as immigrants
    assimilate and become indistinguishable from
    mainstream Americans, at least in terms of
    speaking English and adopting American values,
    customs and traditions. It is based on an
    idealized definition of what it means to be an

Cracks in the Melting Pot
  • Percentages and numbers of documented vs.
    undocumented immigrants among the population
  • Patterns of border crossings and legal/illegal
    entry into the USA
  • Geographic dispersal of immigrant populations and
    formation of ethnic enclaves
  • Economic impact of immigrant populations
  • Patterns of economic, cultural and linguistic
    integration and social mobility

Immigration Then Now
  • How is immigration today different from
    immigration at the beginning of the 20th century?
    Who were the immigrants then now? Were they
    young or old, families or single men/women? Where
    did they come from? Where did they arrive and
    settle in the United States? Did they maintain
    ties with their countries of origin? Did
    immigrants go back and forth between their native
    countries and the USA?

Historical Patterns of Assimilation
  • Assimilation with upward mobility across
    generations or downward assimilation into
    social economic underclass
  • Identification with American dominant societys
    cultural values, customs traditions
  • Transitional bilingualism
  • English monolingualism after second or third

Realities of Current Immigration
  • Percentages and numbers of documented and
    undocumented immigrants among the population
  • Geographic dispersal of immigrant populations and
    ethnic enclaves
  • Economic impact of immigrant populations
  • Patterns of cultural and linguistic integration
  • Patterns of border crossings and legal/illegal
    entry into the USA

Immigration Status as a Factor in Assimilation
  • The population of the USA is comprised of 20
    immigrants. 75 are legal residents.
  • Three types of undocumented or illegal
    immigrants Entry without inspection visa
    overstayers or violators of terms of a legal
    visa, such as a tourist who takes a job. Visa
    overstayers are 40 of illegal immigrants (OHS,
  • There are an estimated 12 million undocumented
    immigrants in the USA (Pew Hispanic Center,
  • Lack of legal status is a significant obstacle to
    social, economic and cultural integration.

Economic Impact of Immigration The Ambivalent
  • Globalization, trade, competition for workers,
    changing patterns of comsumption
  • Incorporation of immigrant laborers into U.S.
  • Overall costs benefits of immigration and
    undocumented workers
  • Uneven distribution of costs between federal
    state governments
  • Age demographics Social security retirements
    vs. demand for young workers

Impact on Workers Wages(Borgas, Harvard Univ.,
  • An increased labor supply between 1980-2000 due
    to immigration reduced wages for U.S. born men by
    approximately 4 and among non-high school
    graduates by 7.4 or 30 per week average wage.
  • Undocumented workers create demand that leads to
    new jobs and economic activity.
  • Some industries such as agriculture are heavily
    dependent on temporary migrant labor.
  • The economic impact of illegal immigration is far
    smaller than other trends in the economy, such as
    automation in manufacturing and the growth of
    global trade.

Benefit or Burden?
  • Between 55-65 of illegal immigrants have income
    tax and social security withheld from their
  • These deductions amounted to 7.3 billion in
    2005. Very little of this money is reclaimed in
    refunds and/or benefits. This amount kept the
    social security fund from running at a deficit
    (more money going out than coming in) for that
    fiscal year.
  • Economists generally believe that when averaged
    over the whole economy, the effect of illegal
    immigrations is a small net positive, estimated
    at a 1 increase in the average Americans

The New Diaspora
  • 7 major US cities are home to the majority of
    immigrants. More than a third of undocumented
    immigrants live in 3 cities New York, Los
    Angeles and Chicago.
  • Until the mid 1990s, most new immigrants joined
    immigrant communities with strong networks for
    assisting newcomers in adapting to the new
  • A number of factors caused the dispersal of
    immigrants throughout the USA to states that
    previously had not experienced large-scale

Factors Driving Geographic Dispersal
  • Saturation of large immigrant communities
  • New sources of employment for immigrants
  • Patterns of seasonal or temporary migration
  • Restrictions on border crossings preventing
    visits and returns of Mexican workers
  • Increased risks of illegal crossings
  • Transnationalism networking between sending and
    receiving communities

Impact of Emigration on Mexico The Push-Pull
  • Geopolitical realities We will forever be
  • De-population factors impact on present
    future work force
  • Mexicos economic growth development prospects
  • Mexicos social structure family desintegration
  • Impact on sending and receiving communities

Linguistic Assimilation
  • 90 of U.S born Mexican immigrants speak English
  • In border regions, 70 of households are
    Spanish/English bilingual, 30 are English
  • Further from the border, 60 of Mexican American
    children speak only English.
  • 75 of third generation immigrant families in
    non-border states speak only English.

Then Why the Rise in Anti-immigrant Sentiments?
  • Fear of social and cultural change.
  • Fear of differences and divisions.
  • Fear of loss of control over social institutions
    and processes.
  • Increased visibility of the issue because of
    political legislative actions to reform
    immigration laws.
  • Lack of understanding of international
    inter-relationships and globalization with the
    increased need for cooperation across national
    boundaries in dealing with increased migration
    and expatriate communities.

Obstacles to Cultural Integration
  • Lack of economic opportunities from low levels of
    education, job skills, language skills,
    job-seeking skills and networks
  • Limitations on civic participation and ability to
    benefit from the fruits of ones labor
  • Exploitation in the workplace
  • Ethnic enclaves and social isolation
  • Racism, prejudice linguistic discrimination

The Immigration Policy Debate Rhetorical Symbols
  • Discuss with a classmate the ideas emotions
    associated with these symbols or phrases
  • Protest marchers waving the Mexican flag
  • Press one for English
  • Jobs that Americans wont do
  • Rewarding lawbreakers
  • Cutting off the jobs magnet
  • Bilingual education

Ideologies of Cultural Integration
  • Nativism Us versus Them
  • Restrictionism The Chosen
  • Assimilation The Melting Pot
  • Acculturation The Mosaic

  • Rights of membership and citizenship in the
    nation-state based on birth within its
    territorial boundries. (Fourteen Ammendment to
    the U.S. Constitution)
  • Proposals by some factions to limit rights of
    citizenship by birth to children of legal
    residents and citizens, which would require a
    constitutional ammendment
  • Solution to immigration problem is
    criminalization of undocumented status and

  • Objective is to control who becomes a legal
    resident or citizen.
  • Full admission to civic society of a restricted
    number of immigrants who qualify, except for the
    right to vote.
  • Under some federal and state laws, limits placed
    on social benefits for legal immigrants.
  • Does not address the traditional and current
    push-pull factors in migration across the
    US-Mexico and the vested interests of business
    and industry in both legal and illegal

  • Based on the belief that cultural homogeneity or
    a common culture are desirable, even
    indispensible, for a functional nation-state.
  • Looks to past experiences of immigrant groups in
    assimilating into American society.
  • Emphasizes importance of common language, values,
    traditions for societal cohesion and national
  • Recognizes the realities of upward social
    mobility of immigrants in the process of becoming
    part of the American mainstream.
  • Sociologists consider assimilation to be a
    positive but not an inevitable end-product of
    cultural integration.

Forced Assimilation The Brutal Bargain
  • Demands are placed on immigrants to abandon the
    language cultural practices of their country of
  • Fails to recognize possibilities benefits of
    transnational, multicultural identities
  • Results in reaction formation among immigrants
    to reassert their national and cultural identity
  • Results in polarization of society on issues of
    language, culture and belonging to a nation-state

  • Based on the belief that multiculturalism and
    binational bicultural identities are positive
    assets to the nation-state and to individuals
  • Recognizes transnational lives of todays
    immigrant communities and individuals
  • Accepts and promotes bilingualism as a valuable
    individual, group societal resource
  • Builds on social cultural resources immigrants
    bring to the USA, including strong identification
    with older generations cultural values and

Cultural Integration Across Generations The
Social Capital Model
  • Acceptance by society of cultural and linguistic
  • Full civil legal status with the accompanying
    rights responsibilities
  • Human capital strong immigrant community
    support networks
  • Educational, professional entrepreneurial
    opportunities, which sustain achievement drive
  • Positive interactions with native English
    speakers and proficient bilinguals

Our Policy OptionsWhich Ones Address the Core
  • Criminalization of illegal immigration status
  • Large-scale deportations
  • A border fence
  • Increased border security
  • Increased numbers and types of legal visas
    including temporary work visas
  • Legalization and paths to citizenship

Toward a Multicultural Society
  • Critical examination of brutal bargain policies
    that produce negative reactions, isolation and
    discrimination against immigrants
  • Support for immigrant communities and
    acculturation networks to build social capital
  • Avoidance of unintended consequences of misguided
    or ineffective laws and policies.
  • Enacting laws and policies that enhance
    assimilation and full integration of immigrants
    as contributing members of society.

Implications for Education
  • Bilingual education as a positive model of
  • Critical examination of equity issues involved
    standards accountability movement
  • Promoting educational aspirations and
    opportunities among and for Latino students
  • Fostering positive bicultural multicultural
    identities among immigrant students
  • Outreach to immigrant parents and communities to
    build connections between home and school

Further Reading
  • Alba, R. Nee, V. (2003). Remaking the American
    mainstream Assimilation contemporary
    immigration. Cambridge, MA Harvard University
  • Chomsky, A. (2007). They take our jobs! and 20
    other myths about immigration. Boston, MA Beacon
  • Jacoby, T. (Ed.) (2004). Reinventing the Melting
    Pot The New Immigrants and what it means to be
    American. New York, NY Perseus Book Group.
  • Portes, A., Rumbaut, R.G. (2001). Legacies The
    story of the immigrant second generation.
    Berkeley, CA University of California Press.
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