Analysis Of Immigration In America Through The Sociological Lens

Immigration is defined as the process through which individuals become permanent residents or citizens of a new country (other than the one they were born). People who are immigrants come to a new country hoping to become citizens of that country and plan to live there for a long period of time. Immigration has been happening since the beginning of history and is the main reason why countries like the United States are so diverse, containing hundreds of different languages, cultures and races. Immigrants are the key reason why the United States are so culturally, economically, and socially diverse, yet immigrants are still treated as if they do not belong. Immigration, specifically immigration in the U.S has seemed to be a cause of multiculturalism, the sociological imagination, the functionalist theory and socialization.

Culture and immigration act jointly with one another. There are many reasons to believe that immigration actually enhances a culture, and overall make the culture function efficiently. Firstly, immigrants help expand culture by introducing new ideas, customs, cuisines and fine arts. Without even noticing it we are exposed to customs, food, and ideology on an everyday basis that did not originate from the U.S, rather they were taught to us by people who have in the past, immigrated to the United States. For example, what Americans think is “their” food, is a blend of numerous culinary traditions. Particular recipes, methods of preparation and presentation have been provided by the mixture by dozens of ethnic groups. Also, immigrants make the world more connected, as people move across borders and experience culture in places different from their own, progression is spread, and the world opens up. As more and more people immigrate to America each year, people share cultures and engage in global commerce which results in friendships with people from different backgrounds. What makes America so unique to many other countries is the wide variety of culture, or multiculturalism, which would not exist if it was not for immigrants.

Our textbook defines the sociological imagination as “the application of imaginative thought to the asking and answering of sociological questions”. A key concept of the sociological imagination is the correlation between biography (the individual’s circumstances) and history. An immigrant’s biography relates to factors such as where the immigrant is from, the color of their skin, their education level, their gender, and their class. Historically, the U.S. has pushed immigrants towards low skilled, low paying jobs. A second concept of the sociological imagination is the fact that many individual issues can be explained by a larger societal issue.

The fact that immigrants are pushed towards low skilled, low paying jobs is most likely the result of a large societal problem, not an individualistic problem. U.S. citizens may view the problem of immigrants getting low skilled, low paying jobs in a individualistic way. They may assume that the immigrant is uneducated which is an individualistic explanation. However, the problem can also be analyzed through a societal lense. For example, it could be the middle of an economic recession and the immigrant is not able to find work. Most of the time, immigrants are hired to do the jobs Americans aren’t willing to do, which are usually low waged, have horrible working conditions and can sometimes be life threatening.

The functionalist theory is defined as the theory that society is made up of shared values and rules of behavior, because without them social life would not be possible. This elaborates on the fact that the U.S. needs low skilled jobs/low paying jobs in order to properly function. For example, custodians are needed to keep the dormitories clean, and nannies are needed to watch children while parents are gone. These two jobs are prime examples of jobs that immigrants possess. Furthermore, these jobs prove that the U.S. has interdependent parts which accumulate to be greater than the summation of the individual parts; society is composed of numerous parts and people which function together.

Similarly socialization helps us navigate through society. Socialization is the social processes through which we develop an awareness of social norms and values and achieve a distinct sense of self. Immigration socialization is a very complex process, immigrants need to restore friendly relations between two different cultural environments, those being the original culture in which they were born and the new culture in which they find themselves. Upon their relocation immigrants have to adapt to a biculturally while also struggling with things like communicating because of the language barrier. Socialization is extremely hard for immigrant children in American schools. Because immigrant children are not familiar with the choice of words, slang and accents, immigrant students can be slower in processing and responding to information, which then compromises the experience of socializing. Generally, Americans or locals are not as interested in immigrants culture, whereas immigrants are very much interested in their culture, which is another reason why socialization is hard for immigrants.

Immigration in the United States has been a lead cause of multiculturalism and developing culture, the sociological imagination, functionalist theory, and socialism. All of these concepts have an explanation for how immigration impacts the United States. Immigration has greatly shaped culture in the United States and without immigrants the U.S would not be as culturally diverse as it is. In relation to the sociological imagination, how the U.S. perceives immigrants historically creates the stigma of immigrants being inferior in regards to their biographies due to the correlation between history and biography in society. The idea of functionalism or the functionalist theory is well connected to Immigrants because the United States needs immigrants to perform the low skilled, unpleasant and low waged jobs in order to function smoothly. Lastly, socialization is related to immigration because it is the act in which immigrants adjust to their new living and how they learn to socialize in a new environment. After exploring how these four sociological concepts connect to immigration I now have a stronger sense of sympathy for immigrants and can clearly connect this issue to my everyday life and environment.  

16 December 2021
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