Being an Immigrant American

This writing piece is about how first generation immigrants view living in America, versus second generation immigrants and some of the struggles they go through to really feel American. You will see these peoples experiences and perspectives of what being American means to them.

By Malia E. from Royal Oak High School in Michigan

If you ask a person if they know any immigrants, or if they know any second generation immigrants, who are a child of a immigrant, the answer is probably yes. America is filled with first and second generation immigrants, and the number of them is growing. Many first generation immigrants don't feel as American as their children who are born here do. This could be caused by a plethora of things, whether its a unwelcoming attitude to people not born in America or their dedication to the countries they were born in. These both can cause first generation immigrants to not feel as American as others. These diverse peoples, who are a large part of our country, show that they’re American in different ways although some struggle with grasping it.

Over the years of my life I have noticed a difference between how a first generation immigrant views living America verse a second generation. Personally, I have been able to experience that, being a second generation immigrant to my father, who was born and raised in Wales. My mother is also a second generation immigrant because both of her parents were born and raised in England, and traveled to America after their marriage. These are multiple perspectives of immigrants right in my own family. In an interview with my mother and Grandmother they explain their differences in their views of being truly American, being that one was born in America and the other not. According to my Grandmother she said that she would never be completely American even though she is a citizen and lives here. She says that, “there is always someone who treats them different and makes them feel like they don't belong in America.” However she does express how many people do make them feel like America is home and those are the people who really count. This shows how people born in America view being American different. It is like their birthright, while immigrants have to work to truly become American. Although these people still feel American and are American on paper they will always carry some of their heritage and culture. Immigrants have the hard job of fitting into a country where the citizens have a extreme love for their country, and don't have room for other countries to share the spotlight.

First generation immigrants also have a harder time succeeding in America compared to natural born Americans or they’re children. Overall, these people who may not act like or look like what an American is expected to, have a higher chance at being discriminated against. Every country and culture has different ways of doing things. The customs in America are going to be unique and different compared to India or Mexico. Many other countries also promote a strong sense of national pride, that wont change when coming to America. If you don't look like what many Americans do, which is of Caucasian heritage, you seem different and are sometimes not as welcomed. Being unable able to speak the native language is another issue because you're immediately seen as a less intelligent then a white, educated person would seem. Many other countries don't have a education system like America which leaves them at a disadvantage. Even if you are born in America, there is still some struggle to having heritage so strongly connected to another country and not being able to look or act like many "Americans". According to a article from the Odyssey written by Lilibeth Ariceaga, a second generation immigrant whose parents both came from Mexico, “They work harder than anyone I have ever met, they came from poverty and left everything they have ever known… to work for their American dream.” This shows how people that immigrated here do want to be American and do have a sense of pride for America. It is showing them striving for a better life that they do have to work for unlike others. Her parents sense of being American is working to get by and live the best life possible while hers is to succeed as much in education and less focused on survival. If you aren’t a citizen your opportunities are more limited which leads them to be more focused on necessities to live then choices to make life enjoyable. The level of education America offered was shocking to her and being able to have a education was something that she loves about America. While her parents will have a different sense of America, also valuing it but because it eventually brought them prosperity. Although America has brought them well being and struggle they may never feel so strongly about America as others do. Overall they always have a connection to home, whether it’s looks, language or opportunity that holds them back from being a complete American.

Everyone feels differently about America. Whether it has brought you success or created more hardships than you had before, there is a part of everyone that is American. Not being necessarily from here, or not having all American heritage, has a different place then being directly American. Immigrants of all types have a place in America and show it by making America their own. America is a home to everyone and is shown in many different ways but will always be made up of complex people and cultures that make America what it is. 

Royal Oak High School

AP Lang 2019

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