This research paper reviews the current state of immigration, various causes of immigration and challenges faced by immigrants as well as the settling process for immigrants. In addition, the paper explores how culture or the cultural background of an individual is likely to shape his or her experiences, understanding and perceptions about immigration. The information presented in this paper has been drawn from previous research studies and analyzed views from an interview with my parents about immigration.
Today, immigration is one of the most contentious and debatable issues in the world today. Millions of people migrate from one country to another due to various reasons every year. Immigration can be defined as the movement and settling of people from one place to another, usually across national borders. People who move and settle in new regions or countries where they are not native residents are called immigrants. Long defines immigration as the act of moving into a foreign country with an intention of living there permanently (19). Migration of people is usually fueled by the need and desire to change the surroundings of an individual. According to the International Organization for Immigration, the number of immigrants worldwide was estimated to be two hundred million people as at January 2007 (International Organization for Migration 142). The International Organization for Immigration further asserted that the largest numbers of immigrants were found in Europe (seventy million), America (forty-five million) and Asia (twenty five million) (146). Developed countries account for sixty percent of worldwide migrations whereas developing countries account for thirty percent (International Organization for Migration 149). A survey research conducted by the United Nations in 2006 also revealed that approximately one hundred and ninety million people worldwide are migrants (Long 71). This represented three percent of the world population.
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Most immigrants cite search for better living standards as the main reason for their movement and settlement in foreign countries. However, these immigrants are usually faced with numerous challenges, barriers and unpredictable circumstances that make their movement and settlement processes highly complicated and difficult. A variety of factors such as language barrier, social discrimination, non-integration of cultures, non-acceptance of immigrants by the local people and racism have been mentioned as the major challenges that people face when they move and settle in new regions or countries.
Push and Pull Theory of Migration
One of the most common theories that explain the factors behind immigration is the push and pull theory. The push and pull theory categorizes the main factors that cause migration into two major groups; namely the push factors and the pull factors.
Push factors refer to those issues that lead to the movement and settlement of people outside a country. Push factors are the primary factors that drive people out of their country. Push factors include issues like poor economic growth and development, political instabilities and civil wars between citizens and extreme poverty.
According to Fadiman, people often move from underdeveloped countries to developed countries due to poor economic conditions that do not offer favorable environment for economic activities like trade (65). For example, due to low economic growth and development or economic regression in underdeveloped countries, people usually migrate to developed countries in search for employment opportunities and better living standards (Fadiman 66). In my view, this movement of people from one region to another in search of jobs usually results from differentials in wage rates between nations. For example, most Africans migrate to western countries like the U.S. in anticipation for better jobs and wage rates. Moreover, employees of multinational companies, religious missions such as the Catholic Relief, international non-governmental organizations like the United Nations and the Red Cross and diplomats deployed by their respective governments often move and settle in foreign countries due to work-related issues.
Secondly, the occurrence of natural disasters and catastrophes such as hurricanes and earthquakes in some countries has led to the movement of people out of the affected countries. For example, the occurrence of an earthquake in Japan in 2007 led to the migration of more than ten thousand people out of Japan (Milne, Burton & Ogawa 103; Hyndman & David 160).
Thirdly, people usually migrate from their native countries due to increased levels of poverty. According to Fadiman, poverty usually pushes people to look for work in foreign countries so that they can be able to solve various socio-economic problems that they face in life, thus improving their social class and living standards (82).
Most people are also pushed out of their native countries due to political oppressions, poor governance and leadership such as dictatorships. For example, opposition leaders usually seek political asylum in foreign countries. Other push factors that lead to immigration of people include social seclusion and oppression as well as ethnic cleansing.
Pull factors refer to those issues or factors that tend to attract people into a particular region or country. Most pull factors are issues that provide positive or favorable living conditions. Pull factors include economic, social and political factors.
Firstly, economic factors such as high economic growth and development, availability of employment opportunities and conducive investment environments often attract people to countries with such opportunities. For example, most developed countries usually have well developed economies, hence attracting foreign investors and foreign labor. According to Orrenius, Pia and Madelline, approximately eight million people migrate to the United States very year because they anticipate getting better jobs in the United States (215).
Secondly, social amenities such as high-quality education and health care services also pull people to foreign countries. In my opinion, some people may also migrate to foreign countries due to personal reasons such as avoidance of arrests due to involvement in criminal activities, in order to unite with family members or due to transnational marriages.
Challenges and Dilemmas Faced by Immigrants
Some of the major challenges, barriers and dilemmas faced by immigrants include non-integration of cultures and traditions, language barriers, detachment from families, and discrimination.
Most immigrants usually find it difficult to adapt the new cultural and traditional values, beliefs and practices of the communities or societies in which they move into and settle. In addition, most migrants usually face opposition and discrimination from the native people. For example, Fadiman affirms that racism is the most common form of discrimination faced by many immigrants in their new residents (237). Migrants are also faced with the dilemma of liquidating personal assets such as land when they move out of their countries. Most migrants also face abuse and violation of their fundamental human rights. According to Fadiman, immigrants often experience culture shocks when they move into communities that practice highly divergent cultures and traditions (194).
In my view, the lack of cultural integration usually leads to reduced social interactions between the immigrants and the native people and lack of inter-communal or social support. It also leads to hostility against the migrants, social exclusions and minimal involvement of migrants in national issues such as governance and leadership of the country.
Duration of Settlement for Immigrants
Most immigrants often find it difficult to settle in foreign countries due to the numerous challenges and dilemmas that they face. Immigrants usually take approximately five to ten years before they fully adapt to the new environments. According to Hatton and Williamson, adult immigrants are the most affected because they cannot easily learn the cultural values, beliefs and practices of the native people (41). Adults also take longer time to settle as compared to children because they often find it difficult to sacrifice or forfeit their strongly-held cultures and traditional norms in replacement with new cultures. Immigrants also risk extreme loneliness due to reduced social interactions with the native people.
Settling Process for Immigrants
The settling process for immigrants usually entails adaption of the cultures and language of the native people. Immigrants become fully settled when they can freely interact with the native people, live independently as well as when they can meet their basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing. In my opinion, creation of social network within the native community or society is a crucial factor during the settling process for migrants.