by Kimberly Blacutt
“Today, migration affects nearly every country in the world, either as a point of origin, transit, or destination and often, all three at once,” according to a 2014 United Nations Population Fund report. “In 2010, some 214 million people – 3 percent of the world’s population – lived outside their country of origin,” the report continues.
Currently, the fifth largest country in the world is Brazil, at around 200 million people, and as writer Pico Iyer, points out, that means that these 214 million people together are the world’s fifth largest nation. This means that our world is becoming increasingly diverse, and the phenomenon is especially visible in the United States, where, according to United States Census Bureau, “the foreign-born population nears 37 million, and more than one in five people in the U.S. are first or second generation.”
So how is this phenomenon changing our country? It’s affecting our country’s future because it’s affecting our children. According to a 2009 article by the Migration Policy Institute, 23.8 percent of children age 17 and under in the United States had at least one immigrant parent. The percentage of children with at least one immigrant parent has significantly increased in the past two decades.
In 2012, statistics show that in some states like California, slightly more than half of the children have at least one foreign-born parent.
I asked some young adults from immigrant families studying at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York about their opinions on immigration and growing up in a multicultural environment.
Her father is Indian from New Delhi, and her mother is Jewish from New York City. She has been living in the same apartment in the Bronx her whole life.
“I think the US benefits from immigration a lot, especially from a cultural standpoint, but also economically. The people who can be hurt by immigration are the people in the countries that the immigrants are from. Doctors and teachers leave those areas and come to the US. Immigration helps in the sense that unskilled workers, who could be working in their country, come here for opportunity and then send back remittances, which fuel their home country’s economies. About all of the Indian doctors coming over here: India needs doctors way more than America does right now! But overall I think immigration is a good, good thing! I think more Americans should go live abroad as well.”
Both of his parents are Bulgarian. He has been living in South Africa for the past ten years, and he was born in Los Angeles, California
“America prides itself in being a land of immigrants. If it wants to have a socially global culture, which it claims to be, the country should support immigration. You’ve cooked before, right? When you have a dish and add all these different flavors the dish in itself become different. It has a little different flavor.”
Both of his parents are Indian, but he has lived in Carbondale, Illinois and Ithaca, New York most of his life.
“Being Indian-American gives me a different perspective on things. I see things from two different cultures, whereas other people may see things only from one. For example, I think people take things too much for granted in the US. Like clean water, just having space, just how quiet it is here. If you live in India, none of those things are guaranteed. In other ways, I think it has definitely affected how people see me in the US. People have different expectations when they see me.”
Both of his parents are Colombian. He was born in Colombia but has been living in Miami, Florida for the past ten years.
“Immigrants are people, and people have their own ideas. The blocking of ideas is censorship, and it doesn’t promote growth. You need the free transfer of ideas and intermingling of cultures for a stronger human ecosystem of sorts, so I definitely think that free migration of cultures, ideas, and people is necessary for a stronger world. And I think that not just the United States, but also the entire world can benefit from this free transfer of information. Multiculturalism comes with difficulties, but it is something we must learn to embrace, because it’s on track, and it’s not stopping.”
Both of her parents are Mexican. She was born in California and has been living there her whole life.
“I love having parents that are migrants because, culturally, it’s beneficial. There are more experiences to be found. You feel a balance of both and you get the best of both worlds. My parents stressed the importance of not only being Mexican, but American and what that meant. Overall, being a migrant child gives you a different sense of push where you feel like you have to prove yourself for your parents, because most of the time they came here for you. You learn what hard work really is, because your parents weren’t handed anything, they had to work hard.”