Today, immigrants to the United States and their natural born children make up about one-quarter of the entire US population—but still, many of the problems they face every day go unnoticed. Awareness of these issues is important for all of us—foreign and natural born Americans alike—to better understand (and help improve) the world we live in. We’re discussing several of them today.
The language barrier
English is often considered one of the more difficult languages to learn—for adults instead of children, it’s even harder. Coming to the US without command of the English language can make it that much harder to acquire jobs, find health and career services, forge social connections and more. It can also lead to a unique role reversal between parent and child—while the parent may not speak English, it is common for their child to learn the language and work as a translator for their parent.
Access to work
Finding work in a new country can be especially challenging for immigrants to the country. A lack of English skills coupled with no US work experience can make well-paying jobs hard to find for immigrants, even those who had significant work experience in their home countries. Immigrants accustomed to a more affluent lifestyle in their home country may see a big change when their skills and experience don’t match up with the higher-paying jobs available here.
One of the biggest goals for parents immigrating to the US is creating a better life for their children. This includes finding access to good schools and devoting time and attention to academic pursuits. However, these parents may not always be able to provide their children with homework help or US-centric advice on things like tracks of study, college questions and more. Since both parent and child are in a constant process of learning, both may have to work extra hard for academic success.
Bridging two cultures
Transitioning from one’s home country to the US can result in a big culture shock, for adults and children alike. Immigrants may experience aspects of the new culture that clash with what’s the norm at home—when coming to the US, many observe a lack of traditional or conservative values that they’re familiar with at home. Parents or grandparents may watch young children adopt trends and behaviors that don’t match their own, causing a generational divide as well.
Healthcare and other services
One of the most important factors to consider upon arrival in the US is obtaining healthcare and other services for the family. However, new immigrants may be unsure of what resources are available to them, can have trouble communicating what they need, can be fearful of officials, and can be susceptible to scams or inadequate care.
Building social ties
Forging relationships with neighbors, coworkers, and providers in the US is essential, but the language barrier and unfamiliarity many immigrants face can make building social ties difficult.
These are issues Americans should be aware of—but, for those who face these issues, they are not insurmountable. The best thing we can all do is to be open and understanding with those who are new to the country, so they can feel safe, comfortable and at home sooner.