The Impact of Immigration on the United States Economy
American identity has historically centered on the ethnocentric proclivities of its ruling classes, which are generally constituted of white descendents of European settlers. The result is a nation in which socioeconomic, political and experiential realities are shaped significantly by ethnic background. Thus, even as immigrant groups arrive in the U.S. In numbers that are altering the general demographic makeup of this nation, the American identity continues to revolve on the myth of the white Christian man. A reality which emerges in our research is that America is in one regard moving ever closer to its rhetorical claims of a pluralistic society. But with the steady arrival of peoples from all parts of the developing world -- more frequently than not of non-white racial makeup -- there is a relative disconnect between demographic realities and the core expectations of the American identity. As the discussion in this chapter will demonstrate, largely through a consideration of the Hispanic experience in the United States, this disconnect is the edifice to a system that is unequal in myriad and problematic ways.
This remains so even as a shift in the ethnic makeup of those arriving in the United States -- initiating in the early 1980s and continuing to present day -- has a significant bearing on the racial proportion of the American population. As Takaki remarks "this emerging demographic diversity has raised fundamental questions bout America's identity and culture. In 1990, Time published a cover story on 'America's Changing Colors.' 'Someday soon,' the magazine announced, 'white Americans will become a minority group.' How soon? By 2056, most Americans will trace their descent to 'Africa, Asia, the Hispanic world, the Pacific Islands, Arabia -- almost anywhere but white Europe.'" (Takaki, 2)
This helps to quantify a condition in which the perception of that which it means to be 'American' must increasingly be adjusted. One of the major reasons for the transition in immigration patterns is the process of globalization which in recent decades has attempted to draw those nations of the 'developing' world into a single global economy. As a result, nations in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East are increasingly playing a major role in the global economic scheme and in the demographic distribution of those in search of opportunity. This is opening the door to the United States for those arriving in search of specific market opportunities such as for the countless Indian immigrants arriving with specialized technology training; for those arriving as part of the formulation of a growing labor class such as those leaving Mexico in search of better wages in the U.S.; and for those escaping political strife in embattled regions of the world such as the Middle Easterners and Africans making their homes in America.
As noted in the first chapter of our discussion though, this is not a trend which has been received with enthusiasm by all sectors of the U.S. population. As the United States has experienced a well-publicized and hotly debated inundation of new citizens, its public leadership has remained statistically slanted to the advocacy of those in the hegemonic class. Here we turn to the example which will dominate our research in proportion to the way that it dominates the domestic conversation on immigration. The continuing wave of Hispanic demographics to the U.S., incited by the proliferation of free trade and the promise of a more vibrant economy in the United States, has inclined a continually intensifying arrival of Spanish-speaking citizens to the most robust employment market on the North American continent. This has been met with both resistance, mostly founded on American labor class presumptions of increased job competition, and with excitement, generally held by those who recognize the overarching economic opportunities present in such swelling immigration patterns. The immigration policies in the United States have been elevated to amongst the premier social and political issues of the day.
At the heart of the issue's importance are the economic realities driving so many individuals to seek opportunity in a United States which is only fitfully receptive to the absorption of so many foreign born peoples. The fastest growing of such groups is America's Hispanic population, which is increasingly establishing a pertinent demographic identity in the U.S. As a result of its sheer size. So denotes Cisneros (2009), who refutes the idea that it is even feasible to stem this tide of arriving immigrants given many of the broader patterns of globalization and economic ambition that have led to the influx from parts South of the U.S. The Cisneros article reports that "according to the most recent Census Bureau projections, about 60% of total U.S. growth will come from the Latino population -- that's almost 100 million additional people. One in four Americans will be Latino. This holds true even if the border fence that Congress and the Bush administration authorized proves impenetrable -- which is highly unlikely." (Cisneros, 1)
And as the population of Hispanics continues to rise, so too does their presence in locations where previously, ethnic diversity had not been a defining characteristic. This means that at present, immigration is helping to redefine the cultural and social makeup of many parts of the country, especially those where agricultural and production-oriented labor are central to the economy. To this end, as it redefines ethnic or racial realities in the United States, immigration also levels a determinable impact on the economic systems in place. By considering its interaction with legal, educational and labor-oriented opportunities, this part of the discussion will point to broader questions concerning the relationship between current immigration trends and the likely outlook for the future of the American economy. Although some research suggests that the increasing number of immigrants hurts the natives and local economy by increasing unemployment and decreasing the minimum wage, there are many more points of evidence that show that immigrants do not affect the native and local economic condition; rather, they bring diversity and vitality to local communities.
Hispanics are one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States. Patterns of immigration, especially from Mexico, have led to a dramatic upsurge in the population of Hispanic-Americans. In urban industrial centers and rural regions alike, immigration draws many Hispanic groups to enter the United States in search of employment or greater opportunity. As a result, Hispanic immigration presents a trend which directly contrasts that in white and European-descended demographics, such as noted by Cisneros (2009). Cisneros points out that "if demographics is destiny, consider this: there are roughly eight Latino births for every death, whereas white births and deaths are nearly even. While more-homogenous developed countries like Japan, Italy, France and Germany are aging rapidly, this Latino baby boom could be a major engine of growth for the United States." (Cisneros, 1)
In one sense, this is because the close proximity of Latin America to the United States and the increasingly lax lines of separation promoted by globalization between neighboring countries is increasing the demographic presence of Hispanics in the U.S. Indeed, in a self-proclaimed plurality such as the United States, Hispanic culture has come to occupy a significant and salient part of our collective public life, linguistic heritage and cultural makeup. In many ways pertinent to both our past and present, Hispanic culture is a definitively important strand of American identity. Thus, it is ironic to say the least that this proliferating group remains so poorly represented in our political culture, as will be explored later in this account.
And naturally, in a nation with the troubling racial history of the United States, it is unsurprising to say the least that many Hispanics feel either disenfranchised from the democratic process or they feel themselves isolated from the broader culture of the U.S. As a whole. This is a condition, however, which is more than likely to change in the face of current population patterns that suggest Hispanics are arriving to this nation in numbers to great to ignore. To this point, a report issued by the U.S. Census Bureau denotes that "the nation's Hispanic population increased 1.4 million to reach 45.5 million on July 1, 2007, or 15.1% of the estimated total U.S. population of 301.6." (Bernstein, 1) This makes the collective group identified as being Hispanic the single largest 'minority' population in the United States, outnumbering African-Americans by roughly 5 million people and serving as the largest minority group in 20 states, as opposed to the 24 where this is true of the black population. (Bernstein, 1) These conditions help to demonstrate a clear, visible and growing population that in specific areas is even large enough to constitute a cultural hegemony in communities and regions where that presence is dominant. This includes parts of California, Texas, Florida and New Mexico, the last of which sees Hispanics as occupying 44% of the population. (Bernstein, 1)
When represented in numbers such as this, the label of minority begins to appear as inappropriate. And quite…