The USA was founded by people who came from other countries looking for better opportunities or escaping persecution in their native lands. The country has always looked attractive to those who sought ways to improve their living. Therefore, the US history is made of waves of immigration. This paper will undertake to conduct a research of the life of immigrants in the US in the past 20 years. In addition, it will show what they face in the workplace and deal with the way this situation is changing. Causes and reasons of this problem will be reviewed as well as actions performed to fix this social issue.
According to the statistics, there has been a significant growth in the foreign-born population. The immigrant population was 9.6 million in 1970, which is a quarter of what it was in 2010. In the last two decades, the growth in the size of the immigrant population has been very dramatic - 20.2 million people. With the number of 40 million immigrants in 2010, almost 14 million stated that they came to the U. S. in 2000 or later. This means 1.3 to 1.4 million of new arrivals per year during the last decade (Camarota).
The beginning of the twenty first century was marked by shifting of population diversity, which was greatly influenced by immigration. The Census Bureau predicts that by the year 2050, half of the U.S. population will be comprised of non-Hispanic whites and the other half will be represented by the people of color. Statistics projects that in the period of twenty years from 2000 to 2020, the U.S. population will grow from 282 million to 336 million people. Immigration will contribute to most of that growth with most people coming from South and East Asia and South and Central America (Williamson).
The immigrants of the first generation play a critical role in the American economy, making nearly one in eight workers and one in four low-wage workers. They take critical jobs and form the backbone of many important industries. Many immigrant workers confront enormous challenges despite their central role in the U.S. economy. They are confronted with immigration-status vulnerabilities, exploitative working conditions, language and cultural barriers, restrictions on access to public benefits and services. Education systems and workforce development do not respond to their needs. Immigrants are disproportionately concentrated in low-wage jobs, making up 20 percent of all families with low income, although they comprise nearly 11 percent of the total population (Moran).
Among the above listed problems encountered by new-comers in the past 20 years, there are some that are believed to be the most explicit. They are limited English proficiency, limited legal protection and non-transferable credentials. It is not a secret that English proficiency is the key to improved quality of life and economic advancement for immigrants. The 2000 Census statistics shows that almost eight percent of U.S. population have limited proficiency in English and almost 18 percent of those who are over the age of five speak a language other than English at home.
In many cases, U.S. employers fail to evaluate immigrants’ credentials and choose to discount them as an equivalent to education obtained in the U. S. Some highly skilled immigrants encounter barriers to good jobs in their field of expertise since their work credentials are not recognized in America. While English proficiency appears to increase the value of immigrants’ credentials in the U.S. job market, many immigrants who are highly skilled have to fill minimum-wage jobs with no benefits and often outside their field. It may take them years to get a career position in the U.S. that is equal to that in their home country.
Although U.S. employment and labor laws provide legal protection to workers regardless of their immigration status, they are not well enforced and have many miscounts. It results in widespread violations of labor rights for both immigrant and non-immigrant workers. While legal acts like the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ensure overtime payments and ban employment discrimination, in reality many employers ignore them. Some anti-terrorist acts also complicate the life of immigrants, especially of Muslim origin. (Moran, 14-17).
In order to alleviate the current condition of immigrants in the U.S. some activities and strategies have been developed. One of them is service provision which obtains a set of legal and social services necessary to find a safe and secure job. “Services” is a wide range of assistance provided to individual workers, including English classes, legal services, employment training, worker rights education and other types of public support. It is provided to immigrants either directly by organizations, or through partnerships.
Community organizing and leadership development is another way to assist immigrants and train them to take actions on their own behalf. They often face problems that are rooted in marginalization and isolation. Building them into a collective identity will provide them with a strong power base. Creation of enterprises is a radical method to combat poverty and develop the spirit of successful entrepreneurship. Enterprise promotion can be an exceptionally helpful activity for undocumented immigrants (Benner, 15-20).
As seen from the above, the U.S. has experienced drastic changes in ethnic diversification of the population due to immigration in the past 20 years. While immigration is beneficial for the labor market, immigrants often experience many problems. At the same time, attempts have been made to alleviate this situation through such activities and strategies as service provision, community organizing, leadership development and enterprise promotion.