Children of Immigration Essay - Critical Essays

Children of Immigration

Carola and Marcelo Suarez-Orozco are the co-directors of the largest ongoing longitudinal study of immigrant children, and they bring the results of their research to bear on the controversial issues of today: bilingual education, ethnic identity, and immigrants' rights to social services. This is a well thought-out, carefully argued book that provides historical background on the current immigration movement and contrasts it with previous waves of immigration. The authors argue that because earlier immigrants to the United States were primarily from Europe (90% as late as 1950), today's immigrants and their children face a different set of problems and opportunities. At the end of the twentieth century nearly 80% of immigrants were people of color, and the authors wonder whether what it means to be an American will be transformed—and transformed for the better—by this fact.

While the authors are accomplished social scientists, they do not fall into the trap of writing overly dry, “unflavored” prose endemic to their discipline. They include a large number of personal accounts to support their arguments, and they quote freely from some of the more famous writers of literary nonfiction and fiction who are themselves children of immigrants, including Julia Alvarez, Richard Rodriguez, Luis Rodriguez, and even Albert Camus (whose family immigrated to Algeria)

Children of Immigration is an important book not simply because the children of immigrants now make up one-fifth of America' s young people, but also because the history of America is, as the authors argue, fundamentally the history of immigration. Without understanding the challenges faced by the children of immigrants, the United States will fail them as individuals and fail as a nation to develop our full potential.