Monday, July 07, 2014
5 Key Challenges Immigrants Face in the USA
by Sarah Brooks
The immigration firestorm is heating-up again as border states experience surges in the number of migrants coming into the United States. Children sent without supervision are specifically growing in numbers, as US officials grapple with the issue. At the same time, several thousand newly minted United States citizens earned their rights and privileges at customary Independence Day ceremonies. While the political divide and social elements of immigration are widely known and reported, there is a personal side to the issue, which often flies below the radar.
The fact is, immigrants face pressures and challenges whether or not they entered the United States legally, so their personal concerns are more immediate than prevailing US immigration policy. Finding their place within the fabric of U.S. society is difficult for international immigrants, who face some of the same issues whether they are from Europe, Central America or the Middle East. These and other hurdles stand in immigrants' way, slowing their progress on U.S. soil.
The promise of a prosperous economic future is one of the lures for immigrants relocating to the United States. And while conditions in the land of opportunity may eclipse the economic climate in their home countries, employment success isn't guaranteed on American soil either.
Even workers able to land employment in the U.S. find limited mobility and end up struggling in the same lower-level employment roles they fill upon arrival. Common barriers include language difficulties and lack of education for advancement. And education shortfalls are sometimes defined as lack of United States education, rather than a complete absence of credentials. Certifications and job experience obtained outside the U.S., for instance, don’t always translate into positive references for U.S employers. As a result, highly capable and experienced workers often resign themselves to jobs for which they are overqualified.
The American melting pot includes representation from a wide variety of diverse ethnic, religious and cultural traditions. Yet there really is no place like home, so immigrants detached from their lineage and cultural history sometimes feel isolated in the United States. Insensitivity and American cultural imperatives sometimes exacerbate the issue for immigrants committed to drastically different ideals than those held by their newfound neighbors.
Access to Housing
Immigrants face a number of housing issues. For starters, they lack references and credentials to assure landlords, so they are considered risky to rent to. And since cost is a significant concern for many immigrants getting started in the U.S., their options are limited to begin with. Public assistance helps some immigrants bridge the gap, but many do not qualify for available programs, resigning them to share living spaces with too many roommates. In extreme cases, immigrants face pressure from local authorities when occupancy levels exceed allowable standards, forcing them to seek housing they cannot afford. Like employment, housing difficulties reflect limited mobility for immigrants, who often remain stuck with unsustainable living conditions.
Prejudice and Discrimination
Stereotypes and other social pressures lead to undue discrimination for many immigrants, who are characterized negatively across society. Arab immigrants and others exhibiting physical characteristics tied to particular groups, for example, face bias due to the radical actions of militant Muslim groups. And immigrants targeted for discrimination don't enjoy the same legal protections as their United States counterparts, meeting with resistance from law enforcement and justice personnel.
Immigrant education starts with language, in most cases, requiring access to ESL classes and other educational resources. While programs exist, they are limited and access is difficult in some parts of the country. So though many immigrants are committed to mastering English, their progress is slowed by access to instruction. School aged immigrants also face obstacles in the traditional U.S. education system, experiencing discrimination and indifference from school mates and administrators. Cultural assimilation stymies immigrants' advancement too, as they struggle with American customs.
Regardless of their national origins, immigrants to the United States each experience some of the same difficulties integrating with American society. Employment, housing and education can be difficult to obtain, for example, limiting mobility for many immigrants. And language barriers commonly thwart immigrants' advancement, despite their commitments to learn the language.
This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from . She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.