July 1 2011

Immigrant Workers
Ken Barger
Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
Indiana University Indianapolis (IUPUI)


Throughout American history,
each new wave of immigrants has experienced racism and discrimination.
Immigrants and their advocates have challenged Americans to live up to our own core ideals.

In recent years, we have seen a visible increase in new immigrants in the U.S. There have traditionally been immigrant neighborhoods in most large cities across America, including Irish, Germans, Italians, and also African Americans and Appalachians who have moved to new areas in the country. After World War II, suburbs began developing around the country, and many ethnic neighborhoods melted away. Until recently, immigration ceased to be a visible issue. In the 1990s, however, a new wave of immigrants became visible, as economic globalization, new social conflicts, and other forces after the end of the Cold War increased the rates of migration all over the world. Hispanics are the largest and most visible of these new immigrants in the U.S., but people have come from every region in the world seeking to support their families and to realize new opportunities.

Popular reactions to these new immigrants have also been emerging in recent years. Some responses have been positive, as new neighbors have been welcomed into jobs and communities. But there have also been negative reactions, particularly after the attacks of September 11 2001. After the Civil Rights Movement, it was no longer acceptable in America to openly express hate and racism... but now it seems OK to be hateful and racist against immigrants. Myths and misinformation are clouding understandings, the voices of prejudice and discrimination are becoming louder, and anti-immigrants are forming vigilante groups and pushing policies that are punitive and oppressive

What is the Real Immigration Issue?

The American society is facing a major challenge: What kind of society we are making for ourselves? Social conflicts reflect larger imbalances and stresses in a society. In these cases, people need a meaningful explanation of the disorder they are feeling in their lives. Mass reactions take the society in new directions... but narrow perspectives can take societies down a path of self-destruction, as in Nazi Germany, or in a progressive direction to a more adaptive balance, as with the American Revolution. In facing the immigration issue, will we become a hateful and oppressive society? Or will we become the best that we can be as a people?

Unfortunately, proposals to make felons of undocumented immigrants and to deport them all set the lowest standards for the public debate. In considering the "compromise" process that continually lowers the standards, we call on the American people to consider the consequences on what kind of society we are making for ourselves:

Advocates of comprehensive immigration reform call for core changes in our public policies:

These points set the positive standards for addressing immigration, and we need to give our active support in building a better society for us all.

The following online sources provide further insights into the immigration debate. (All links open in a new page.)

Also see College Guide for Undocumented Students

One great strength we have as Americans is that we are a nation of immigrants. We can draw on the collective innovative thinking and practical experience of people from all over the human domain to gain insights into our challenges and into effective solutions that benefit us all. Americans have done this throughout our history, and we can continue to do this now!

Thank you for helping build a better society that lives up to our positive potentials as human beings!

* No personal information is collected on this or related pages. You may use these materials in your own personal learning and research, though I'd appreciate your giving me credit.

© Ken Barger 2014