The United States is famous in the rest of the world for being a ‘melting pot’ of different cultures, ethnicities and regions of origin. But it would be hasty to conclude that this ethno-cultural collage took shape through a smooth process. Looking back at the two and half century old history of the country, one sees plenty of conflicts and injustices before a positive reputation for diversity was attained. It would also be hasty to conclude that the process of integrating various ethnic groups into mainstream of society has been completed. The best example of this deficiency is the problem of illegal immigration taking place across the southern border. In this case, thousands of Hispanics attempt to cross-over to the country in order to avail of meagre economic opportunities available here. Though their journey North is no less arduous than previous waves of immigrations arriving at the New York harbour, a large proportion of Hispanics in America still carry their illegal label. This is one of the biggest challenges facing the nation at this point, as an already recession-hit economy has pushed citizens to a state of desperation. In this atmosphere, citizens are likely to misplace their collective anger on illegal immigrants when the real culprits are sitting in Washington, D.C. Such an eventuality would dent America’s reputation for diversity and tolerance; but more importantly only aggravate the problem.
But if the nation’s legislators believed that there is opportunity in every adversity, then there is scope for an amicable resolution for the illegal immigration problem. Policy makers can learn a lot from the successful integration of Black Americans since their early diminished station as plantation slaves. That a member of this historically repressed community would rise to become the President was unimaginable at one point. Even during the 1950s, Black Americans were still referred as ‘Negroes’ and ‘Niggers’ and their children were condemned to exclusive schools. The turnaround in their socio-political fortunes can act as an inspiration for presently relegated and marginalized communities such as the illegal immigrants.
One should also be wary of a situation where the much praised diversity could actually undermine the nation’s interests. A case in point are immigrant Asian Americans (largely extracted from China and India), who are becoming prominent members of American business class and are out-competing native Americans in highly-skilled professional fields. Indeed, this is no small reason for the prevailing double-digit unemployment rates in the country. So policy-makers have to tread a fine line here. Too much protectionist policy would not only tarnish America’s reputation for diversity and openness, but also undermine its economic growth prospects. At the same time, opening up the borders without any restrictions is simply not a viable option. Will such challenges be overcome remains to be unclear at this point.
Hsu, Spencer S. (2 May 2010). “Immigration plan shows a shift to the right”. Washington, DC: Washington Post. pp. A3.
Sherman, Arloc, and Aviva Aron-Dine (2007-01-23). “New CBO Data Show Income Inequality Continues to Widen”. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=957. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY RACE – Universe: TOTAL POPULATION”. 2009 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. United States Census Bureau.