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America: a country of immigrants?

April 14th, 2008 · 19 Comments

If America is a country of immigrants, how do you define what an immigrant is in America? Are there different types of immigrants and, if so, what are they? Are they treated differently? 

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19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Allyson Glazier // Apr 14, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    I understand that this is a strange concept for foreigners. How can a country be made up of immigrants. We (the students here) realize that you have lived in Italy your whole life, and most likely, your parents and their ancestors all lived in the same region, so your family name is common there. Here in America, although we may have been born in this country to parents that were also born in this country, for most of us at some point in our ancestral history, our relatives were born on another continent. For me, my father’s side of the family came from Germany and English during the 1600-1700s, but my mother’s grandfather came from Italy during the early 19th century. Technically, I am not a “native American.” At some point or another, my family emigrated to this country (before or after it was officially a country). I realize this is a long response, so I will address the other part of the question in another response.

  • 2 Allyson Glazier // Apr 14, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    As far as immigrants go, I would call an immigrant as someone who was not born in this country and that came here for work, because of family, or another reason and make this country their new home. In America we have a phenomenon called the “melting pot.” Our culture is a combination of culture that “melt” together to create a diverse culture. Immigrants come to America from all other continents. The western coast has primarily immigrants from Asia, but immigrants from all countries live in all areas of our country. In high school, I knew many students that were born in other countries, but their parents came here for work. In that case, they are not considered illegal (It is possible to be a legal resident, not a citizen). However, there are many many immigrants that are ILLEGAL and that is where a lot of the controversy comes in.

    Sorry for the long response, I hope that I have not confused you more!

  • 3 Anne // Apr 14, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    I think Allyson basically said it all!

  • 4 Eleonora Carta // Apr 16, 2008 at 7:57 am

    I agree with Allison when she says that basically everybody in America comes from somewhere else. So nobody can consider himself a “native American” (a part from Indians who had lived in America before the Europeans came).
    I also think that nowadays we can call an immigrant someone who was not born in the US and has other traditions and culture.

  • 5 Elena Costa // Apr 17, 2008 at 4:16 am

    I spoke about the issue of immigration with Artem last Wednesday. He explained me that, although he comes from Ukraina, he doesn’t feel an immigrant because he’s in America just to study (beside, as Allison said, in American universities a lot of students come from a different country, so if you have different origins you don’t run the risk of feeling a stranger).
    However, Artem said that in the USA – as well as in Italy – immigrants are treated differently according to the ethnic group they belong to: for example, people coming from Europe are by far better accepted than immigrants from Latin America or other poor countries. This is because poor immigrants generally accept to work for a lower salary and so they are more competitive than American workers who demand higher wages. Of course, this increase the problem of intolerance within the society.

  • 6 Kelsey Taylor // Apr 17, 2008 at 9:53 am

    America is a country of immigrants, but it is something that we pride ourselves on: a nickname for the U.S. is a “melting pot” because we have a ton of different cultures working together to create a country. Italy has been established for so long that you all have a definitive definition for what an “Italian” is. Since America is a relatively young country (Declaration of Independence signed n 1776 vs. Ancient Rome), we are still trying to define what it means to be absolutely “American.” I am not sure if we will reach that point with the large influx of immigrants, but that may not be a bad thing either.

  • 7 Elena Brandano // Apr 17, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Allyson covered the main point of how America is a country of immigrants. Except for the native Americans, everyone who lives in America is a descendent of an immigrant. Today there are very diverse cultures and customs but most people characterize themselves as an American. I would also agree with Allyson that an immigrant is someone who has come to America and intends to make it their new home. As Elena said immigrants are treated differently according to the ethnic group they belong to and by where they immigrate to. I live on the northeastern shore of America where there is a strong European history, therefore European immigrants are more accepted than others. In California I feel that Asian immigrants would be more accepted because there is a strong history of Asian immigration there. I also notice at home that immigrants who are from the Middle East are treated differently. People often fear them and call them terrorists because of their religions. Also Mexican/Spanish immigrants are treated differently. People often resent them and say that they should learn to speak English.

    I don’t know if that explanation was helpful.

  • 8 Giada // Apr 17, 2008 at 11:45 am

    It’s really hard to give a clear definition of “immigrant”, anyway I would define an immigrant in America, as well as in Italy, as someone who left his/her native country looking for a better life. In my opinion, too, immigrants are treated differently according to which part of the world they come from. As far as Italy is concerned, people wouldn’t ever consider an “extracomunitario” someone from the United States who came to live and work here. This word has a slightly negative connotation and it is basically applied to people coming from the African or Asian continent or the middle East. At this point I think that it’s quite clear that there are immigrants of first category and second category, or at least in Italy it works like that, but as far as I can see also in the US.

  • 9 Elena Vivian // Apr 17, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    I agree with Giada, who said that “there are immigrants of first category and second category” in Italy too. When asked to answer the question: “What is an immigrant?”, I think that the first people who come to our mind are Moroccans, Albanians, Tunisians, Romanians, or Slavs in general, but not Americans. I assume we, Italians, unconsciously tend to restrict immigration only to these people, i.e. to non-EU people or those coming from Eastern and Central Europe. It’s undeniable that people from the USA, Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany – though immigrants as well – are generally seen in a very different light and are therefore treated differently! It’s all about prejudice here again!

  • 10 Serena Santi // Apr 18, 2008 at 3:40 am

    I read something about peaceful protests in 2006 against a reform to the U.S. immigration policy which was supposed to raise penalties for illigal immigration. The whole thing created a wider immigration debate. I don’t know how it developed but I think that it was a good starting point to exchange opinions. American people are more aware of the fact that immigrants are a resource and not merely a problem, as we in Italy seem to think.

  • 11 Letizia // Apr 19, 2008 at 8:16 am

    I agree with Giada and Elena, but I have also appreciated a lot the answer of Allyson. Allyson you have been very clear about the problem of immigration in America.
    I think, too, an immigrant is somebody who move from a country to anothe for work, family, for a better life or for whatever problem.
    In Italy we have some prejudices against non-EU persons, immigrants who come above all from African and Asian, so we can talk about immigrants of first and of secondary category. As I knew, it ‘s the same thing in America, too.
    In Italy most of these immigrants are illegal and the Italian laws don’t do much to prevent illegal immigration; they don’t know our language very well and can’t integrate in our society.
    We don’t consider properly immigrants people wo come from America and european countries.

  • 12 Valentina, Laura // Apr 19, 2008 at 9:28 am

    The word “immigrant” in Italy is used with a negative connotation: an immigrant is commonly seen as a criminal, a dangerous and dirty person who came to our country in an illegal way.
    However how would Italian economy go on without them??!!
    We don’t know much about how American laws face immigration, but what we do know is that in the US there are loads of different cultures but the dominant culture is the American…whilst in Canada for example there’s the so called “salad bowl”: lots of different cultures, each one maintaining its own features. As far as we know this system is the best one as it respects cultural identities. Do you think it will be possible to have a “salad bowl” in Italy and America??!!

  • 13 Elisa Caramori // Apr 19, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    In my opinion the so called “salad bowl” would be the best solution for every country. However, if everyone mantains his/ her traditions, habits, laws, customs without making compromises, don’t you think that a war among the different communities will break out? Imagine a discussion, if you don’t reach a compromise you will probably fight with your interlocutor. In Italy immigrants are a resource, but we still continue to judge them on the basis of their illigal actions. I like America because people don’t apply a negative connotation to the word ‘immigrant’ . Immigration is a recent phenomenon in Italy and our country still got many things to learn about it. The issue is not how many rights they should have, but what kind of coexistance we should build with them.

  • 14 Alessiaf. // Apr 20, 2008 at 2:28 am

    Friends,
    I do believe that the term “immigration” often corresponds to “hope”: in most cases, as you all said, immigrants leave their countries basically because they’re looking for another chance, especially people coming from the poorest areas of the world. Italy is more a country of emigrants and immigration is a phenomenon relatively recent; that’s probably the main reason why the majority of us tends to look down on immigrants and to have some prejudices against non-EU persons. As Letizia pointed, out the biggest problem related to immigration is the law: here in Italy our laws, so our governments, didn’t do so much to prevent illegal immigration. Moreover, I must say that I don’t think it’s possible to have a “salad bowl”, as Valentina and Laura maintained, since our traditions are deep-rooted. Kristen and Allyson do you think that US is a real “melting pot”? I mean, cultures really melt together or just share the same physical space? Don’t you think “melting pot” is a stereotype too (probably a positive stereotype but it’s still something not completely true)? And what about racism in the US?

  • 15 Elena Boscaro // Apr 20, 2008 at 3:41 am

    Dear friends,
    I have never been in America so I can just imagine how the situation is over there and what the so-called melting-pot actually is. Coming from Italy, melting pot and a nation made by immigrants are far away concepts because we, as Italians, are very proud if our origins and our traditions are very deep-rooted. I mean, there are immigrants in Italy but they are not completely integrated in our society. They create their own communities and they only share the same physical place with Italian citizens. There are exceptions, of course, but for the majority of immigrants it is like that. In addition, we have to take into account, the difference between immigrants of first class and second class, as Giada said, which is quite clear in our country. In my opinion, the American melting pot -if it really exists- is just a dream in Italy now because immigrants are often associate with criminality, underground economy and illegality. First, we have to consider an immigrants as one of us with the same rights we have and then, maybe, melting-pot may become a reality in Italy as well…

  • 16 Stefania // Apr 20, 2008 at 7:48 am

    Well, I think that the melting pot was the objective of American policies. But I don’t agree with this concept because it means that a person has to modify his/her culture in order to integrate. I prefer the word ‘multiculturalism’. What do you think?

  • 17 Camilla // Apr 20, 2008 at 9:55 am

    I definitely agree with those who said that immigrants are treated differently according to the ethinic group the belong: for instance, as well as in the US a European would not be treated as an “immigrant”, in Europe we have a high consideration of Americans, so that we do not consider them “immigrants”. This is may be due to the fact that there are no American immigrants coming here to find a job or living in difficult situations, so that we perceive them differently. Moreover, this is obviously due to the economic situation of the country an immigrant comes from: most of times, while speaking of immigrants, we focus just on those who come here to live a better life, even if they’re not the only kind of immigrants.

  • 18 Camilla // Apr 20, 2008 at 10:03 am

    I definitely agree with those who said that immigrants are treated differently according to the ethinic group they belong: for instance, as well as in the US a European would not be treated as an “immigrant”, in Europe we have a high consideration of Americans, so that we do not consider them “immigrants”. This may be due to the fact that there are no American immigrants coming here and living in difficult situations, so that we perceive them differently. Moreover, this is obviously due to the economic situation of the country an immigrant comes from: most of times, while speaking of immigrants, we focus just on those who come here to look for a better life, even if they’re not the only kind of immigrants.
    While speaking with Michelle, my group’s American peer, I realized that the Latinos in the US are perceived very badly, whereas here in Europe they’re accepted and not considered badly at all. This is a difference which for me is very interesting and relevant, and I would like to learn more about this situation, as well as maybe our American peers will be interested in knowing more about the phenomenon of East European immigrants which we’re facing in Western Europe.

  • 19 Silvia Lovato // Apr 20, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for the general overview of the issue you gave me! I think that immigration is a very complex issue. To begin with, each country has its own history so that it deals with immigration in a different way. On the one hand the US is mainly inhabited by the descendants of immigrants; on the other hand, immigration in Italy is quite a new phenomenon.

    Italy is far from reaching the “melting pot” which Allyson describes in her post. In a melting pot, all cultures are melted and there’s no distinction between native people and immigrants.That’s why the concept of “immigrant” in the US is more difficult to explain. As Eleonora said, an immigrant in America is a person who wasn’t born in the US and has a different culture. But we must consider that almost all the people have ancestors who emigrated from their mother country to the US.

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