Struggles of Immigrants for "American Dream"

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Imagine living your life feeling like an imposter. Feeling as if nothing you will do is going to be enough to prove your worth. Envision walking into a job interview that you have been preparing for since you heard about the opening. You wake up that morning ready to go and you are confident. You get there and they turn you away immediately because of the color of your skin. This is something immigrants use to face every time they applied for a job. No matter what they did, everyone saw them with no respect. Although many struggled with gaining respect, times have changed, and with that so have people. Present day immigration, with all the resources available, and more accepting attitudes make many of the same obstacles that were there in the past easier to overcome.

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In the present day, many immigrants have the option of forging papers and legal documents. This makes the transition for them a lot easier. With papers they have an easier time finding jobs and settling down. In Jose Antonio Vargas article, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant,” he explains how he used his forged Social Security Card to land jobs to start his life and long time career. With those forged documents, Vargas was able to start an internship that led him to his career. In the earlier years, forging documents was not an option for an immigrant. They had to start off their life from the bottom and hopefully one day be granted citizenship. Even though an immigrant comes here to restart their life, they now come with an advantage that makes it less difficult than before. Being seen as legal because of certain documents gives them a better chance of succeeding and not being sent back to a less fortunate country.

Marrying an American for citizenship has also become a resource that many immigrants are now using as well. Although people now are open to being around someone of a different race, it was not always like this. In Nadia Mustafa and Jeff Chu’s “Between Two Worlds” they explain how most Asian-immigrant parents would encourage their children to only marry someone of their same race. This is something you do not hear as much now. Many people have broken those barriers and now marry immigrants and are making the population a lot more diverse. Unlike most Asian-immigrant, Vargas’ grandfather always hoped that Vargas would marry an American to obtain legal documents. This resource was available to Vargas because of how much immigration has changed for the better. People are even more open to being around people of a different race so it opens the window to friendship and a possible marriage. With this, it has opened another way an immigrant can become a legal citizen.

Plenty of immigrants now also have the option of getting an education with the help of government funds that are also available. Now all young immigrants begin their education by attending their local schools. When it comes to college many are worried about the cost of tuition, but they soon find out their are resources available to help them with this as well. For example, when Vargas told his high school teachers about his situation, they quickly found a solution to his issues. They referred him to a new scholarship fund for students who were the first in their family to attend college. This works for many immigrant children because mostly all of their parents did not receive an education. This funds are also very helpful because they are not concerned about the students legal status. Resources like these education or college funds have helped many immigrants unlike before.

With having these resources available, immigrants have been able to become a lot more successful in the present time unlike in the past. Being able to have papers gave many the option to look for jobs. Whether they were forged or obtained through marriage, the documents would make an immigrants life much easier. With these documents they are able to get jobs and succeed in their life goals. Now that immigrants also have the chance to get an education, and have the ability to get college degrees as well. For example, Vargas was able to win a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his Post Team’s paper coverage of the Virginia Tech Shooting that had happened the year earlier.

This would be something that no one ever thought an immigrant would accomplish. George Gladney who was mentioned in Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” is an example of someone who did not have access to resources that are available in the present day. Compared to Gladney, who wasn’t able to even find a steady job, Vargas was able to accomplish so much more with his career. Without resources like papers or an education, immigrants wouldn’t be able to find higher paying jobs and a better life. Being successful was never before an option for an immigrant, but with all the changes in society and resources available we are seeing more and more successful immigrants everyday.

As time has evolved people have become a lot more accepting of immigrants. With more acceptance, the negativity and stigma is slowly going away. in Firoozeh Dumas’s “The “F Word”,” she explains that when she first came here she did just about everything to try to fit in because of people’s attitudes towards her. For example, she changed her name so that people didn’t look at her as a foreigner. Once she changed her name, she gained friends and the jobs offers started flowing in. As time passed so did people and she eventually got to change her name back. Although there are still people stuck in the old ways, many have learned to accept immigrants. They are more accepting to learn new names, or even try new culture foods. Dumas used the expression “It’s like adding a few new spices to the kitchen pantry,” to compare how the acceptance of immigrants would add culture to America (258). With acceptance like this, it was easier for an immigrant to fit into society.

Many colleges have also embraced different cultures and offer many different culture clubs and a more diverse environment. Students get to be apart of clubs of their own culture or explore something different. In “Between Two Worlds,” Mustafa and Chu also tell the story of Grayce Liu, an Asian-American who changed her name to the American version “Grace” so she would fit in with the kids at her high school. Once she started college at the University of California she took Mandarin and Chinese history courses and felt like a “born again asian”.

Mustafa and Chu also explain the story of Akira Heshiki, who spent her high school experience like most other Asian-Americans, “downplaying differences…” until college came and they would start “highlighting them”. When Heshiki started at Oregon’s Reed College, she got to embrace her culture and where she started the Asian Student Union ( 272). Unlike before, immigrants did not have the opportunity to be proud of their culture because of all the hatred. Now that society is more accepting of immigration, students get to take part in all different clubs and go about their education and life not feeling marginalized.

Now that the views about immigrants have changed, they are offered more jobs and have more opportunities in the job world. We see how employers have become more accepting of different cultures and people of different color. In the past many employers would put signs on their doors that read “INNA,” which stood for “No Irish need apply”. Many employers put this up to let the Irish people know that they did not need to even bother applying because they would never be offered a job there. We also read about George and Ida Mae Gladney in “The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” who were two people that had a very hard time finding a job because they were people of color. Now that employers have changed their views it has opened the door to many immigrants and has made it easier to find jobs. For example, Vargas had several jobs for news companies where he got to write and fulfill his goals. Even though his appearance was different, he did not get turned away and this is a big step up from the past.

As times change, we have seen so many immigrants get to find their “American Dream.” Unfortunately for many immigrants in the past, it was not so easy but that was what set the backbone for immigration. After all the struggles they may have gone through, people have learned to now be more accepting and change views on immigration. We saw the changes from George Gladney to Jose Antonio Vargas. Now with more accepting attitudes and the resources available, immigration has become easier and hopefully will stay in that direction.

Works Cited:

  1. Chu, Jeff and Mustafa, Nadia. “Between Two Worlds; Born in the USA to Asian Parents, aGeneration of Immigrants’ Kids Forges a New Identity.” Intersections: A ThematicReader for Writers, edited by Emily Isaacs and Catherine Keohane, Bedford/ St. Martin’s,2017, pp. 269-274.
  2. Dumas, Firoozeh. “The “F Word”.” Intersections: A Thematic Reader for Writers, edited byEmily Isaacs and Catherine Keohane, Bedford/ St. Martin’s,2017, pp. 257-261.
  3. Vargas, Jose Antonio. “My Life a an Undocumented Immigrant.” Intersections: A ThematicReader for Writers, edited by Emily Isaacs and Catherine Keohane, Bedford/ St. Martin’s,2017, pp. 262-267.
  4. Wilkerson, Isabel. “The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” Intersections: A ThematicReader for Writers, edited by Emily Isaacs and Catherine Keohane, Bedford/ St. Martin’s,2017, pp.251-255.

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