Academic journal article Adult Learning

Immigrants in America: Who Are They, and Why Do They Come?

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Immigrants in America: Who Are They, and Why Do They Come?

Article excerpt

The concept of diversity in education has received much attention in social science and adult education literature. Focusing primarialy on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation and how these contexts impact teaching and learning, little attention has been paid to cultural and linguistic differences as a result of migration and how they influence learning among foreign born students. Adult educators need to give more attention to the concept of immigration as a context for learning in adulthood.

During the colonial era, most of America's immigrants came from Great Britain and Ireland, with a few from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg (U.S. Bureau of the Census Report, 1993). The Chinese, faced with famine in their homeland, began to migrate to America between 1850 and 1882. Upon arrival, they found work in mining camps and expanding railroad construction. However, the American labor force protested the low wages the Chinese accepted and forced Congress to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese immigration until 1965. It is important to note that the Chinese migration was among the first voluntary immigration to the U.S. among today's minorities. It is no surprise, then, that this Act was among the first significant evidence of xenophobia directed against America's foreign born.

While immigration from China remained prohibited, European immigration continued in full force. For 20 years following the Civil War, Canadians arrived in large numbers. Italians began arriving in significant numbers in 1890, and from 1900 until the start of the World War I, about a quarter of all immigrants were Italians (U.S. Bureau of the Census Report, 1993). The Germans began arriving in large numbers after World War II, while the 1970s saw an increase in the number of immigrant people from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Who are Today's Immigrants?

According to Schmidley in March 2002 the estimated foreign-born population of the United States was 32.5 million, representing 11.4% of the population. This number is an increase of 13.5 million, or 47% over the 1990 census figures. This increase is primarily the result of immigration from Asia and Latin America (Camarota, 2002). In 2002, 52% of the immigrants originated from Latin America (including the Caribbean and South America) and 25% Asia (Schmidley, 2002). The Latin American countries with the highest representation of immigrants in the U.S. are Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador. Asian countries with the highest immigrant rates include China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, and Korea (Camarota, 2002). In contrast, only 14% of the foreign-born population come from Europe, a significant shift from the 62% recorded in 1970.

Overall, according to current population reports (Camarota, November 2002; Schmidleg 2002), the largest wave of immigrants arrived between 1985 and 1990.75% of Salvadorian immigrants, along with more than half of the immigrants from Korea, Vietnam, and China, and nearly half of the Mexican and Filipino immigrants arrived during that period. As a result, the racial and ethnic composition of the foreign-born population has shifted to more than 75% minority

Many immigrants speak a language other than English in the home including 95% of Asians, 80% of Italians, and 58% of Germans. This reflects a polarized pattern of demographics with the most educated and wealthiest as well as the least educated and poorest (Martin & Midgley, 1994). This polarization in the composition of the immigrant population suggests that planners of adult education programs face a challenging task as they attempt to meet the variety, of needs and expectations that immigrant Americans bring to the new country

Why Do Immigrants Come to America?

A variety of conditions compel migration from the homeland to a foreign country Most are pulled to the United States in search of a better standard of living. …

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