Social inequality influences various spheres of individuals’ lives and has numerous implications in the nation’s laws and regulations. One of the critical social issues is racism involved in multiple activities and views and affects different areas, including the country’s immigration policies. Although the US has experienced significant changes in the post-civil rights period, the country’s “notions of racism and white supremacy remain powerful elements” of its culture (Bobo, 2017, p. 85). In other words, the race aspect is still a widely discussed social phenomenon that can impact social positions, administrative procedures, rules, economy, and other spheres. Nevertheless, according to Cohn & Caumont (2016), America is more racially diverse than before, and it is estimated that, by 2055, there will be no single racial majority in the country. This paper aims to investigate the issue of racism and its effect on immigration in the US and provide practical recommendations for civic engagement to improve the situation.
First, it is critical to look at the history of the racism influence on the US immigration policies, and how it shaped the way the nation looked. The Immigration Act of 1924 set limitations on the nationalities allowed to enter the country, claiming that “America must be kept American,” which restricted immigrants from Asia (KCETOnline, 2018). Consequently, a minimal number of individuals were welcome in the US, representing the significance of race in the question and its implicated impact on the formulation of laws. Later, in 1965, the Immigration and Naturalization Act came into power, eliminating the quotas and adding new reasons for entry (KCETOnline, 2018). Although the new legislation extended the possibilities for foreigners to arrive in the country, the results still reflected racial discrimination. In the beginning, the US experienced a high flow of Europeans, which led to it being “primarily white,” but later, the representatives of African, Asian, and Latin American countries followed (KCETOnline, 2018). As a result, racial diversity in the country became visible.
At this point, it is curious to look at the statistical analysis of the US’s current immigration situation. As of 2018, there were about 46 million immigrants, which constituted more than 13.5% of the total population (Batalova et al., 2020). It is possible to state that the percentage of foreigners is significantly high compared to when the law of 1924 substantially limited immigration. Besides, the current state of things shows that approximately 57% of all immigrants in America are comprised of the representatives of such countries as Mexica, India, China, Philippines, Vietnam, and others (Batalova et al., 2020). Thus, one can notice the move from the primary flow of immigrants from Europe to the ones from Latin, Eastern, and South-Eastern nations. Though the ethnic composition of America’s immigration cluster has changed, the perception of race and the practices directed towards violations still reflect the presence of racism.
One can notice that a brief history and statistics discourse in the paragraphs above shows that the laws were limiting the opportunities for non-white races. Race is linked to the ability to immigrate to the US. Simultaneously, immigration enforcement has a connection to the way the perception of race is formed in the country. According to Valdez (2016), the regulations in this area shape the meaning of race, produce particular subjectivities about immigrants, and “constitute the lived experience of migrants as punitive” (p. 641). Therefore, specific biases appear, and there is a direct mutual relation between the two aspects, which creates a vicious circle.
It is crucial to mention that immigrants from Mexico are subjected to prejudiced treatment within the US. For instance, Donald Trump, the current president, calls Mexicans “drug dealers, criminals, and rapists” in several official speeches (BBC News, 2016). The administration is taking numerous attempts to eliminate the flow of Mexicans into America, creating a negative public opinion and accusing them of various crimes. The focus on the retributive practices of violations makes punishment a tool to racialize the representatives of such groups as Latin Americans (Valdez, 2016). Hence, the nation can legitimize the right to exclude particular groups, such as Latin Americans or Africans, from the individuals’ groups who deserve protection and fortification.
It is essential to observe racism and how it shapes public opinion, which, consequently, affects the perception of race and the formulation of immigration policies. According to Cramer (2019), racism is one of the factors that generate and move public opinion, and today’s political context makes it “inescapable that racism plays a role” (p. 154). Thus, racial issues can shape political behaviors, regulations, and the views that the public has towards particular questions or legislations. For example, professional footballers kneeling during the national anthem, or the white supremacist movement raise attention to racial injustice (Cramer, 2019). It leads to the formulation of certain groups, protests, and activists, which, in turn, can take efforts to impact the existing limitations and laws. It is also vital to mention the Black Lives Matter movement because it represents the increased awareness about the social issue and the call for equality, which can also be attributed to immigration tendencies.
The mentioned facts, statistics, and examples highlight the necessity to introduce the issue more broadly, deliver the message to the public, improve the situation, and bring equality and fairness to the immigration issue. One can state that it is vital to develop a set of actions and a clear strategy to find a practical solution to this question. Besides, it is significant to gain external support and have the courage to introduce the possibility of change.
One of the first stages that can serve as the foundation for introducing the present influence of racism on immigration policy is education. The US educational system teaches that it is a country of immigrants, although “the philosophy behind that claim is now buried under an avalanche of restrictions” (Chacón & Davis, 2017, p. 173). Hence, contemporary education does not reveal the realities of the world to children, and it can form false perspectives in their minds. It is essential to shape the perception and views during adolescence. Social attitudes, mental health, and civic engagement are developed during childhood and adolescence stages, and political fluctuations can affect them (Wray-Lake et al., 2018). As a result, it is essential to address the problem, starting with its roots and providing actual knowledge that reflects the existence of social disparities and how they can affect society.
Designing influential campaigns that will make statements about the education system and requirements to talk about racism and how it impacts immigration is vital. It will also be critical to be able to measure the results of the action for change. Analyzing the programs distributed to children that address social concepts and immigration policies is one of the steps critical for the change integration evaluation. Collecting data on how the questions are delivered to the youth and distributing the survey about the gained knowledge is also significant.
Another practical solution can be organizing peaceful activist groups that aim to provide equal rights opportunities for immigrants from different countries. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (n. d.) introduced the Fairness for All program to protect vulnerable and oppressed groups of immigrants, whose fundamental legal rights are denied. This project presents the issues of detention, discrimination, and police abuse, which the authorities utilize to downplay the presence of those who come from selected countries. Fairness for All strives to provide equal protection in the immigration process for everyone and the possibility of feeling safe and becoming a member of society (ACLU, n. d.). Consequently, creating similar projects and groups of volunteers willing to make a difference and achieve fairness and impartiality is essential for the nation.
It is possible to state that it can be challenging to evaluate the performance of such programs. Nevertheless, the activities of organizations and petitions can be assessed by collecting information about the number of participants and through the initiatives to change specific regulations. Writing letters to the immigration authorities, making statements that demand fair possibilities, rights, and protection, and analyzing how many people are on the side of the change is crucial. It is also beneficial to spread the word throughout various social media platforms that represent a powerful tool to raise awareness. Designing dedicated groups that collectively demand the change, like the Black Lives Matter movement that started online, is a practical solution to bring change. It is possible to attract supporters, those who will invest in the programs, and make the voices of those whose immigration rights are oppressed, heard. Creating groups and blogs that call for action and assessing individuals’ reviews and opinions can be visible to measure the effectiveness of the projects.
One more recommendation is designing a safe line for the immigrant to report crimes or instances of abuse. Discrimination of immigrants based on race worsens the conditions for them and undermines everyone’s safety because those who are oppressed are afraid to inform about crimes (ACLU, n. d.). When a person of another skin color becomes a victim or a witness of criminal activity, they are frightened to report it because they might become the ones to blame. The phrases Donald Trump mentioned earlier about the fact that Mexicans bring drugs, crime, and violence, make a substantial impact on the immigrants’ perception, which leads to underreporting due to fear. Therefore, organizing exclusive phone lines where people can share information about abuse or something related is necessary. Looking at the statistical data on crime reporting will help to measure the effectiveness of the solution.
In conclusion, despite the active propaganda that America is a country for everyone, the issue of racism still influences numerous spheres of life, attitudes towards particular society layers, and creates biases. The problem of racial discrimination is observed in different areas, and multiple movements and projects emerge to combat the disparity and make a difference. Prejudiced judgments about people who have another skin color fill the communities, and the immigrants face unfair regulations. The features of immigration from many countries are violations of rights, increased demands, and cruelty. Various possibilities, like education activities, social media awareness, activists’ group creation, and others, can contribute to the issue and make a fair country that does not judge people by their skin color.
American Civil Liberties Union. (n. d.). Fairness for all – the work of the immigrant’s rights project. Web.
Batalova, J., Blizzard, B., & Bolter, J. (2020). Frequently requested statistics on immigrants and immigration in the United States. Migration Policy Institute. Web.
BBC News. (2016). ‘Drug dealers, criminals, rapists’: What Trump thinks of Mexicans. Web.
Bobo, L. D. (2017). Racism in Trump’s America: Reflections on culture, sociology, and the 2016 US presidential election. The British Journal of Sociology, 68(1), 85-104. Web.
Chacón, J. A., & Davis, M. (2018). No one is illegal (updated edition): Fighting racism and state violence on the US-Mexico border. Haymarket Books.
Cohn, D., & Caumont, A. (2016). 10 demographic trends that are shaping the US and the world. Pew Research Center. Web.
Cramer, K. (2020). Understanding the role of racism in contemporary US public opinion. Annual Review of Political Science, 23, 153-169. Web.
KCETOnline. (2018). Immigration 101: History of immigration [Video]. YouTube. Web.
Valdez, I. (2016). Punishment, race, and the organization of US immigration exclusion. Political Research Quarterly, 69(4), 640-654. Web.
Wray-Lake, L., Wells, R., Alvis, L., Delgado, S., Syvertsen, A. K., & Metzger, A. (2018). Being a Latinx adolescent under a Trump presidency: Analysis of Latinx youth’s reactions to immigration politics. Children and Youth Services Review, 87, 192-204. Web.