No ‘American Dream’ for immigrants
Many people talk about illegal immigration and its effect on our country, but what we fail to address is the reason behind many foreigners’ desperate voyages to our "land of milk and honey." Although the United States ranks as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, I do not contend that these foreigners seek this wealth. People from all across the world come to the United States to pursue the American Dream: a dream of a life without struggle, hunger or despair. The only problem is that the American Dream is a lie.
Living in the United States is not easy, particularly for people with little or no formal training. These are primarily the types of people who flee their own country and risk everything to "make it" in the U.S. Even citizens find it difficult to acquire gainful employment without a high school diploma or some other paper attesting to their qualifications, but at least they are entitled, as legal citizens, to be compensated minimum wage and partake in social programs. Without a work permit, residency or higher education, many undocumented workers find it hard to sustain themselves and their families with inadequate wages received from factory jobs, agriculture labor and other menial employment. In fact, many employers intentionally take advantage of these often loyal and enthusiastic workers, knowing that they cannot afford to report the transgressions to the authorities due to their residency status.
Most jobs in the U.S., as in many cities globally, are focused in urban areas. As a result, the cost of living compounds the immigrants’ struggles to independently support themselves. In neighborhoods all across cities large and small, immigrants pack into small or substandard living quarters, often beyond the legal capacity, because they cannot afford more than that. Immigrants that I have encountered concede that the price of freedom and opportunity is very high in this country, and after years of misfortune question if it was worth it. Often times, the oldest able-bodied generation of the family must sacrifice their own dreams and aspirations in hopes that their offspring may enjoy all of the possibilities offered by this great nation.
For an impoverished immigrant with little education, it is as if they are first born when they step across our border; they must acclimate, find habitation and employment, enroll children in school, get a valid I.D., open a bank account and a variety of other things that we have taken for granted since the day we were born. By this reasoning, if a high school graduate immigrated to the U.S., he or she would be nearly 40 by the time she or he was established enough to go to college. Delays such as this one often discourage many immigrants who fail to anticipate the difficulties facing them upon their arrival to this land of opportunity.
I speculate that this disillusionment with the U.S. disintegrates loyalties to the country and pushes immigrants closer to their identities as foreigners. For that reason, at protest parades and other events, many people wave the flags of their birthplace or that of their family because they feel that their identity is more closely tied to those places than the U.S., which systematically alienates them.
What the generic American Dream, with its SUV, cookie-cutter single-family home and 2.5 children, fails to address is the disparity that exists in this country like every other. Not everyone is created equal, nor are they treated so. The American Dream does not depend on one’s abilities and hard work, but largely on class, wealth and ethnicity. The American Dream died long ago, but unfortunately, its effigy is dying a slow death.
Griffiths, an architecture senior, can be reached via [email protected]