One of the most beautiful things about the United States is its welcoming nature to immigrants and refugees. The United States is home to more immigrants than anywhere else in the world, with over 40 million immigrants calling the United States home. (1) Although many claim the United States is a hostile nation for immigrants, immigrants in the United States lead fulfilling and successful lives across the 50 states. Although individuals may suffer instances of xenophobia, and the United States immigration process is long, tedious, and heavily bureaucratic, once immigrants arrive in the United States, they find themselves citizens of the world’s greatest ever democratic republic. However, as immigrants enter the United States, they must ask themselves one crucial question: “To what level should I assimilate?” The question—to what degree should immigrants assimilate—is one that plagues immigrants from western nations, as well as non-western nations. While I disagree with state-enforced assimilation, I do argue that it is in the best interest of migrants to assimilate when they come to the United States.
Immigration is a difficult process. Although I have not experienced it myself, both my parents are immigrants from the Middle East. The immigration process is long, stressful, and requires a great deal of luck—and that’s only half the battle. When immigrants come into the United States, they are welcomed into a culture like no other. Since its very conception, the United States was a nation of immigrants, although in the beginning it mainly catered to European migrants. However, in the modern age, the United States is an immigrant based society. Regardless of your country of origin, once individuals become United States citizens, they are afforded the exact same rights as a natural-born US citizen. United States citizens enjoy an extremely high standard of living, great public goods, and an abundance of individual freedoms, both social and economic. However, in order to enjoy the freedoms that the United States has to offer, immigrants should assimilate into the nation.
When I am discussing assimilation, I am merely discussing a moderate shift in societal expectations and standards that immigrants should adopt in order to better integrate with the society they left their homes to be a part of. If you leave your home country for a better land, you are explicitly suggesting that the United States presents itself as a better alternative. When assimilating, I suggest immigrants abide by several key standards.
First, immigrants should know basic conversational English. Although the United States does not have an official language, English is widely regarded as the official language of the United States. In order to be successful in the United States and become financial and economic stability, immigrants should read, speak, and understand basic American English. Some people would suggest that I am coming from a position of privilege given that I was born in the United States; however, conversational English is extremely important for immigrants to learn.
Immigrants should familiarize themselves with American traditions, norms, and customs. Some American customs immigrants should be familiar with include, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and the Fourth of July. Along with basic American history, immigrants to the United States should also research and be aware of notable political social leaders, both present and past. Notable political leaders would include the sitting president, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington, just to name a few. By understanding key political figures in the United States, immigrants can better understand the history of the United States, and how its key figures influenced current economic and social policies.
Lastly, Americans should understand the United States’ stance on international issues. While they do not have to agree with the stances, immigrants should understand key issues that the United States involves itself in. This can include United Nations treaties, international sanctions, and international conflicts that involve the United States.
As someone who spends a majority of his time with immigrants and children of immigrants, I have seen first hand the importance of assimilation and integration with American culture. Immigrants who assimilate become more accustomed to American culture and are more likely to find economic success by doing so. Immigrants should and must hold on to their own personal cultures; however, assimilation can be done simultaneously. Immigrants lead difficult lives, and while assimilation, in the short term, is difficult, it proves to pay dividends in the long run. Immigrants who assimilate are able to make long-lasting social connections in the United States, thereby increasing their opportunities to find better jobs and acquire a strong social support system. Immigrants who assimilate not only help themselves, but improve the overall strength and unity of the American people.