Immigrant Generations in America

Define the 1.5 and second generation. What are their basic characteristics (countries of origin, economic status and so on)? How are they different, if at all, from the descendants of previous waves of immigration?

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There are a lot of people who are foreign born, but living in the United States of America. Others are foreigners, but they have been born in the country. It was estimated that about 38 million people living in the country were foreign born by the year 2006. There were a further 30 million people who were U.S. born immigrants, or other children born by foreigners in the U.S.

This brought the total number of immigrants to over 70 million, a figure that represents 23 per cent of the total U.S. population (Rumbaut 2008). The many immigrants in the United States have led to a transformation in the ethnic composition, whereby there are many ethnic groups, as well as races in the country. In fact, the ethnic groups are now divided into two major categories; a minority ethnic group and a majority ethnic group. The United States of America is home to five generations of immigrants. The 1.5 and the 2nd generation will be defined and discussed in this section.

The 1.5 generation is a group of individuals who move to a new country when they are still teenagers. The reason why they are called the 1.5 generation is that they possess the characteristics of their home nation. They start and continue with assimilation, as well as socialization as they move into a new country. In the process, they possess some characteristics that are similar to those of the first generation and some that are similar to those of the 2nd generation.

Therefore, they are in between the 1st and the 2nd generations and the reason they are termed as the 1.5 generation. One of their major characteristics is that their culture is a combination of the old country’s culture and the new country’s way of life (Rumbaut 2008). In other words, they are referred to as bi-cultural. These are people who had already learned the culture and traditions of their country of origin before they migrated. Therefore, they carry these traditions into their new country. They settle in the new country and start learning the new culture and traditions in the host country. They, therefore, possess both cultures as they grow.

Individuals belonging to the 1.5 generation are also familiar with the traditions of their home countries to some extent. However, it is imperative to note that this identification is then affected by various factors, among them the experiences they encounter as they grow in the new country. In addition, the 1.5 generation is bilingual. Individuals in this generation are able to speak their native language, as well as the language of their new country (Rumbaut 2008). Finally, they are easily assimilated into the new country compared to the people who immigrate as adults because the 1.5 generation is able to learn the new culture and language faster. They are also able to socialize faster compared to the older people.

The 2nd generation, on the other hand, refers to a generation that has some kind of ambiguity in its definition. They can be individuals who are from an immigrant country, but they have been born in the foreign country. They can also be individuals of the second generation that has been born in the country. However, in the case of the United States, the 2nd generation is a group of individuals who have been born natively in the U.S. as the foreign country by an immigrant in the country. It is an oxymoron term, thus there has been criticisms that the 2nd generation people should not be referred as immigrants, as they have been born in that country. The second generation individuals may be different from the other family members, as they may fully adopt the culture of the new country (Jimenez & Horowitz 2013).

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The economic status of the 1.5 and the second generation is another issue of interest. The 1.5 generation is one that enters the new country in their early teen years. As they grow, they are able to integrate well in society and access the economic opportunities. Therefore, their success economically is dependent on the opportunities they get, rather than the issue of being migrants. The second generation, on the other hand, have been born in their country of residence and they are able to access the economic opportunities as they grow up. Generally, the 2nd generation has a better affiliation with the economic nature of the country. Either way, both generations will succeed economically based on the opportunities available to them.

What are the “contexts of reception” experienced by today’s immigrants and their children and how might this affect their integration into the American “mainstream”, however that may be defined?

Over the years, the issue of immigrants has been one that has affected the United States’ population in various ways. For instance, the minority group has been discriminated by the Native Americans. They have faced a bad reception and have been forced to only access the below par facilities and opportunities in the country. For instance, the immigrants, especially the black people, have been oppressed for a long time. They have been denied access to education.

In the event they get any education, they can only access low quality education. The labor market has also been limited to the immigrants. There has been a high level of inequality when it comes to the employment of the Native American people and the immigrants (Zhou & Lee 2007). In general, the reception that immigrants get has been negative and has affected the way they integrate into the American mainstream society in a big way. However, this has changed greatly lately and the context of reception has changed considerably.

The African immigrants represent one of the majority foreign ethnic groups in the country. It is also the group that has faced a lot of discrimination in the country in the past. This led to protests and demonstrations by activists, who advocated for the rights of African Americans. The other groups also faced similar discrimination, although their activists, if any, were not as vocal as the Africans. This advocacy led to changes in the American policies and the foreigners started being accepted. It is for this reason that the immigrants today are able to access almost any resource that the Native American can access (Portes, Fernendez-Kelly & Haller 2005).

They are able to get jobs, just like the Native Americans. However, it should be noted that they do not get equal opportunities as the Natives, despite the fact that the situation has improved greatly. The reception of immigrants is not only an issue of the citizens accepting immigrants, but it is also an issue that starts from the legality or the issuance of legal documents by the government authorities to the immigrants. The immigrants feel welcome when they are issued with the right documents with ease by the authorities. This becomes the first step towards their assimilation and integration into the mainstream.

There are people who feel that the new cultural norms that are brought in as a result of the newcomers might become, or are, a threat to the American way of life. On the other hand, there are those who are tolerable and open to diversity (Menjívar 2006). They welcome the new cultures and help the migrants integrate more easily. The groups that support migrants have increased significantly.

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This trend has generally increased multicultural populations and the acceptance of the same in the U.S. Among the people who support migrants are those who gain some benefits from them. These are individuals like the business people, who may benefit from cheap labor and new markets for their products and services. In addition, as the migrants become of age, some of them join the political arena and start fighting for the rights of foreigners living in America.

What does contemporary empirical research say about the integration trajectories of immigrants and their children in terms of schooling, language, and ethnic ties?

There has been a lot of research and literature that have been written about the migrants and their children in the United States. Research points to the role that is played by parents in the socioeconomic status of their children, especially the second generation. As mentioned earlier, the second generation refers to the children natively born in the country where they live presently, but they have an origin of another country or their parents are migrants.

The migrants had effects on their social status, as well as their educational attainment. Some children of migrants could afford quality education, while others could not attain such educational standards (Shell-Weiss & Davis 2005). This was dependent on the mobility of the migrants and their ability to change jobs and get better job outcomes. When an immigrant is not able to move up in their job or they do not have an upward mobility, their children are not in a position to access good and quality education too. In addition, they do not have a social, cultural status that is as great as the rest of the children.

Regarding schooling ties, findings show that the children of immigrants have challenges in school, as they are discriminated by other children. There have been cases of bullying, among other negative factors that influence a child’s education. Their language is a mixture of their native and the new language. Depending on the generation in which they are, children of immigrants may find it easy or challenging to learn the new language (Stepick & Stepick 2002).

For instance, if the kids are 1.5 generation, then they have already learned their native language before they move to the new country. Therefore, they learn the new language as their second language. On the other hand, the second generation children may just learn the language of their country of birth as the first language. As such, the second generation children find it easier to learn the language and create better and stronger ties with the natives, although the ethnic disjointedness is still there.

The 1.5 generation children, on the other hand, do not learn the language easily, but they are able to learn faster compared to the adults. The ethnic ties, according to research, are not as tight (Alberts 2005). There is always a gap between the whites and the migrants. It is only in rare cases that this gap is not existent. However, with the changes in policies, norms, and the perception of ethnicity, the gaps have been decreasing over the years (Alberts 2005).

The assimilation framework can be used to explain these trajectories. However, the best theory that can explain the trajectories is the racism theory, which is also referred to as racialization. It is the process through which a group that is not originally from a certain race or ethnic group is ascribed into the original ethnic group in order to create ethnic identities to the group. The same thing can apply in a relationship, as well as social practice. Therefore, ascribing the migrants into the American race could be referred to as racialization.

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Finally, based on what you have read and your answers to the above questions, what do you think will happen to the second generation and future descendants of today’s immigration? Will they make it economically? Will they integrate on other non-economic dimensions?

From the literature that is available about the migrants and the second generation, to be precise, it is clear that their economic success is dependent on the opportunities they get. In the past, it was difficult for the migrants to achieve economic success, but with the change of policies, they are now able to access opportunities and succeed economically.

However, there are a few barriers to their economic success, but these have not stopped from them from being successful. In fact, some migrants have a higher level of income compared to the natives. For instance, it is already evident that the Asians have higher annual incomes than the whites (Rumbaut 2008). The remaining barriers make the migrants have a hard time economically and socially. However, as the debates still continue and the policies continue being adjusted and amended, the future of the descendants of the second generation seems better, as they are likely to find it easier to attain economic success.

Descendants of the second generation are able integrate more easily in economic dimensions, as well as non-economic dimensions. The integration in the non-economic dimensions will be better, as most people will have accepted multi-cultural societies and the policies will give and present equal opportunities for this generation. The migrants will find it easier to assimilate and integrate, as the environment will be friendlier. Therefore, it is accurate to conclude that there is a need for optimism for the second generation, as well as the future descendants of today’s immigrants.

Reference List

Alberts, HC 2005, ‘Changes in ethnic solidarity in Cuban Miami’, The Geographical Review, vol. 95, no. 2, pp. 231-248.

Jimenez, TR & Horowitz, AL 2013, ‘When white is just alright: how immigrants redefine achievement and reconfigure the ethnoracial hierarchy’, American Sociological Review, vol. 78, no. 5, pp. 849-871.

Menjívar, C 2006, ‘Liminal legality: Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants’ lives in the United States’, American Journal of Sociology, vol. 111, no. 4, pp. 999-1038.

Portes, A, Fernendez-Kelly, P & Haller, W 2005, ‘Segmented assimilation on the ground: The new second generation in early adulthood’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 1000-1040.

Rumbaut, RG 2008, ‘The coming of the second generation: immigration and ethnic mobility in Southern California’, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 620, pp. 196-236.

Shell-Weiss, M & Davis, JE 2005, ‘Coming North to the South: Migration, labor and city-building in twentieth-century Miami’, Florida Historical Quarterly, vol. 84, no. 1, pp. 79-100.

Stepick, A & Stepick, CD 2002, ‘Becoming American, constructing ethnicity: Immigrant youth and civic engagement’, Applied Developmental Science, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 246-257.

Zhou, M & Lee, J 2007, ‘Becoming ethnic or becoming American?’, Du Bois Review, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 189-205.

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