What are some of the conflicting ideologies regarding immigration and immigrants in the US?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are a number of different ideologies that come into conflict with regard to immigrants and immigration to the US.  Let us examine a few.

First, there is some degree of conflict over the issue of how many immigrants (and what kinds of immigrants) should be allowed into the country.  One ideology can be seen as a nativist or ethnocentric ideology.  In this view, America should limit immigrations strictly so as not to dilute our American culture with other cultures.  If we do have to let immigrants in, they should largely be from European countries because Europeans (and their descendants from places like Canada or Australia) have a cultural background that is similar to that of mainstream Americans.  By contrast, another ideology holds that we should welcome as many people as possible, regardless of their ethnicity.  In this view, what makes America great is the fact that it accepts diverse groups of people.

Second, there is some conflict over issues of illegal immigration.  One ideology with regard to this issue can be called the law and order ideology.  In this view, illegal immigrants are criminals.  They have wilfully broken American law by entering the country without documents.  Therefore, they should be caught and deported.  A second ideology is more of an economic opportunity ideology.  This ideology holds that illegal immigrants are simply people who are trying to make better lives for themselves and their families.  Therefore, we should be compassionate and give them a path to citizenship.

Finally, there is a conflict of ideologies about how immigrants should behave and/or be treated.  One ideology here can be called the assimilationist ideology.  In this view, immigrants who are in the US should leave behind their old cultures and should become completely American.  They should not speak their native languages or maintain much in the way of their native cultures.  If they want to be in the US, they should change and become “regular Americans.”  A conflicting ideology can be called the ideology of diversity.  In this view, America needs to accommodate people with diverse cultures and diverse points of view.  We should not push people to abandon their old ways but should, instead, accept and even celebrate our differences.  This makes (they say) the country stronger.

These conflicting ideologies influence our debates over immigration and over how we should expect immigrants to behave.

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