Essay # 5
14th June, 2019
“The history of immigration to the United States is made of attempts to control legal and illegal immigration. At a time when Europeans are trying to agree on the establishment of laws concerning the control of legal immigration or the right of asylum, and the fight against illegal immigration, it is useful to look into the measures taken in this respect by the United States. Over the last decade, the United States has recorded the largest wave of immigration in American history: the latest figures from the 2000 census show that out of a total population of 281.4 million Americans, 31.1 million were born abroad or have foreign-born parents, up 11.3 million from 1990 - an increase of 57%”. So, the United States has often used immigration as a financial and societal tool to enhance output or support the national integration (Bra et al, 1999).
While racial and ethnic conflicts are continually dominating the news, the United States is enjoying the relative calm. Few people would have a bet, not long ago, on this relative tranquility. Indeed, barely a quarter of a century ago the United States was facing a wave of unprecedented urban riots and extremely determined civil rights movements. The report of the Kerner Commission, set up following these riots and charged with studying the causes, had predicted at the time the imminence of a generalized confrontation even more violent if significant efforts were not made. However, recent studies indicate that the relative calm that characterizes inter-racial relations in the United States is therefore not attributable to the degradation of the "living conditions" of black communities, but perhaps to the difficult construction of an identity of their own.
At the time, in its analysis of the causes of race riots, the Commission isolated two broad categories of factors. The first group links the causes of these riots to economic misery, while the other group links with the change in the attitude of the black community towards socio-economic injustice. In the first group, the Commission incorporates the following three conditions, the result of a long situation of white prejudice against blacks: Generalization of discrimination and segregation: in the field of employment, education, the housing, resulting from the continued exclusion of a large number of blacks from the benefits of economic progress (Hollifield et al., 2014).
The relative tranquility of inter-racial relations in the United States stands in stark contrast to many countries in the world. Even Canada, known for its peaceful social climate, faces the bleak prospect of an explosion. The former Soviet Union, despite its so-called 70-year equality policy, is realizing how difficult ethnic, cultural, and religious issues can be. Least developed countries, such as Sri Lanka, after decades of political tranquility and racial harmony, are in turn caught in the vicious circle of ethnic violence. Britain is not ready to solve the Irish problem (Foner and Alba, 2008).
If we look at the world today, examples of ethnic violence are still too common. Some of these conflicts are of relatively recent origin (Sikhs in India, Tibetans in China) but those who are part of a long and tormented history are even more numerous (the IRA in Northern Ireland, the Basques in France and Spain, Armenians in the former Soviet Union, Iran and Turkey, Arabs in Israel, Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, etc.). Be that as it may, contrasting with the tumultuous days of the sixties, inter-racial relations in the United States appeared before the riots in Los Angeles to have reached a state of "equilibrium" control. This is certainly not the only example of success and appeasement in history.
“At the end of the twentieth century, America, taking the leading position throughout the world, became a symbol of freedom and democracy based on such basic principles of its constitution as justice, racial and ethnic tolerance, and equality of opportunity for each person.”
Brah, A., Hickman, M. J., & Mac an Ghaill, M. (1999). Thinking identities: ethnicity, racism and culture. In Thinking Identities(pp. 1-21). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
Hollifield, J., Martin, P. L., & Orrenius, P. (Eds.). (2014). Controlling immigration: A global perspective. Stanford University Press.
Foner, N., & Alba, R. (2008). Immigrant religion in the US and Western Europe: Bridge or barrier to inclusion?. International migration review, 42(2), 360-392.
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