Making Sense of U.S. Immigration Policy and Multiculturalism

Article excerpt

Introduction

The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.

George Washington (1)

Some uniculturalists worry about the current wave of immigration, thinking that today's immigrants are too different from Americans. Uniculturalists fear that the immigrants will not adapt to American customs; as a consequence, the character of American society will be transformed in ways that are unfamiliar and incompatible to today's residents.

John Isbister (2)

The discourse over the U.S. immigration policy in recent times like other "wedge" issues such as unemployment, racism, and crime, evokes cultural, racial and socio-economic disquietudes. The immigration issue at the end of the twentieth century has gained a centripetal position in policy debates because the number of foreign-born, non-European persons has reached the highest apogee in the United States' history. Nonetheless the characterization of black and brown people from Latin America, Africa and Asia as depriving United States citizens of jobs, and tainting the American national ethos, culture, and norms is at best unfounded and at worst uniculturalists agenda against new sojourners and multiculturalists.

It is indubitable that newer immigrants are coming" to America in numbers which are rivaled only by that of the beginning of the century. It is also a truism that the immigrants that arrived in this country at the beginning of the century were white Europeans and now the majority of immigrants are non-white, black and brown persons from mostly Third World countries.

The new immigration wave is generating a backlash of antagonism for reasons that are racial, ethnic, cultural, political and partially economic. For all these reasons, indeed, there is an eminent need to reexamine the United States' immigration and naturalization policy. Nevertheless, the urgency to reevaluate this policy is submerged in an unclear debate between advocates of laissez entre (free entry) and those who support strict scrutiny in immigration policy.

In the balance of this paper, we will argue that the immigration problem has not reached epidemic proportions yet, and the economic deprivation thesis is a facade developed by uniculturalists to reinvent the failed and unworkable "melting pot" idea in order to derail the efforts of multiculturalists in giving value, meaning and respect to American diversity.

Also, we will present the argument that even though most of the recent immigrants possess low skills and are far less educated than native-born Americans, neo-sojourners are assets to the underground economy and continue to take jobs in areas that native- born refuse to accept.

Neo-sojourners, for the purpose of this chapter, are immigrants who arrived in the United States from 1990 onward. This part of the immigration argument is even more confusing because it transcends the limit of the liberal/conservative debate, where liberals are pro-multicultural and open door policy advocates, and conservatives, uniculturalists who want severe restriction on immigration. In this aspect, there are liberal trade unionists who believe that immigrants are used as instruments for lowering wage levels. Interestingly, conservative free-marketers and corporatists remain some of the strongest supporters of increased immigration because they benefit from cheap labor the most. The immigration issue therefore is a mixed bag of labor economics, racism, ethnicity, nationality, multiculturalism, uniculturalism, facts/policy dichotomy, and the future of America's national ethos. One cannot limit it to economic questions alone. All the other variables must be examined in order to fully comprehend the United States' immigration policy and why some analysts claim it is a failed policy. …