Strengthening the Assimilation and Integration of Asian Americans
Low wage workers mostly immigrants and illegal immigrants have through the years posed a challenge to the assimilation and integration of Asian Americans into the United States. As a response, United States of America has intensified its campaign to further assimilate and integrate low wage workers of Asian American descents to the American way of life by providing laws and measures that sought to provide a solution to their low-wage problems and at the same time provide better opportunities and accept immigrants in the educational institutions as an integral part of the American society (Telzrow, 2006; Gans, 1999).
However, the efforts do not necessarily manifest itself in the integration and assimilation of Asian Americans in the society. This paper argues that despite the efforts provided by the US government to enhance the life of low-wage workers and immigrants in the American society, the immigration laws, the affirmative action order as noted in the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) and the revision of the Employment Law Guide has not addressed the problems of low wages and immigration both legal and illegal in the US.
To a considerable extent, Asian Americans are still suffering from low wages, language barriers and racial stereotyping in the society. Consequently, while Asian Americans has shown higher levels of education and holds managerial positions more than any other racial minorities, the level of compensation accorded to them are lower than that of Whites. Furthermore, most of uneducated Asian Americans continue to live within the poverty line because of low wages. Integration and Assimilation of Asian Americans
The United States, considered as a melting pot of culture and American society guided by its laws and regulations has shown its acceptance of the diversity of its cultural make-up whether it has come from immigrants among various nationalities. However, while laws has shown regulatory measures to enhance the position of Asian Americans, compared to Whites, Asian Americans continue to suffer from lower wages in similar positions and jobs with that of their White counterparts.
As shown in the table below, the US census showed that a large percentage of Asian Americans are suffering from low wages- most of them are earning below US$10,000 is under the bracket of below US$25,000 the poverty line of the US government. This show that immigration and low wages are the primary issues faced by Asian Americans. As shown, the prevalence of income disparities and social perception of inequality, Asian Americans cannot be considered to have the equal social status as that of Whites.
Table 1. Wages of Asian Americans in the United States Source: http://www. census. gov/ As a response, the US government has strengthened immigration and foreign worker laws that would further integrate and assimilate the Asian Americans in the society. To a large extent, these efforts have paid off- there is an increased level of association among Asian Americans in the society but the greater society particularly in the employment sector shows a diverging view.
First, due to the large portion of illegal immigrants in the United States of Asian Americans together with millions of illegal aliens from Mexico, Hispanics and other nationalities, they are usually relegated to informal sectors of the society where low wages are prevalent. For instance, according to Takaki (1998), Asian Americans have not reached the level of equality with Whites in terms of labor distribution and wage differentials: Asian Americans can usually be found in labor markets’ secondary sector where low wages are prevalent and promotional prospects are almost non-existent.
Consequently, the US Senate proposed and passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 or the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 as a response to the increasing number of illegal aliens has yet to take effect and Asian Americans continue to suffer from being employed in informal and secondary markets where they can only afford to live within the poverty level (Tate, 2007).
Instead of persecuting these illegal aliens as advocated by some groups, the US Senate sought to legalize the presence of the illegal immigrants through the provision of legal citizenship. This amnesty program considerably provides a channel for Asian American immigrants and their family members to further integrate themselves in the American society where they have sought to live. However, the inability to pass this bill in the Congress shows that in general, the American society cannot fully integrate and assimilate Asian Americans in the society.
For one, the successful passing of this bill could have altered the role of Asian Americans in the American society- from taking on white collar jobs; they can now use their education and explore other career possibilities because of the change in their status. Second, the affirmative action which sought to lessen the barrier between inequality in wages and acceptance of Asian Americans in the educational system has only moderate success.
Drawn from the long and arduous battle for affirmative action, the provision for the equality of employment and educational opportunities regardless of race and gender through the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) signaled an exception rather than the rule in the quest for equality. In the United States, discrimination against minorities including Asian Americans continues to haunt the public: compared to their male White counterparts, Korean American men earned only 82% of white men’s income, Chinese American men 68%, and Filipino men 62%. (Chin, et al. 1996).
This shows that Asian Americans do not only suffer from low wages but also- they suffer from lower wages performing the same job as Whites. Consequently, it is not only in the workplace that minorities are being discriminated upon, even in school admissions, there are evidences that considering the qualifications of whites and non-whites, schools prefer to admit and provide a place for whites than other races (Mason, 2000). Thus, the affirmative action and the MCRI while it has sought to eliminate racial inequality in terms of employment and education opportunities, inequality in real world opportunities are still prevalent.
Bobocel, et al (1998) argues that Americans have opposed equal opportunity laws base on race due to two main reason- principled opposition and racism. The principled opposition justification argues that solving inequality by the provision of laws that favours some segments of the population is essentially unfair- people should be treated equally and thus, laws should safeguard this belief. On the other hand, racism of whites compared to African Americans, Latinos, Asians and other races continues to be prevalent in the workplace and in school.
Consequently, the opposition of whites on the MCRI also takes into consideration the negative impact of this policy on their lives. Thus, negative social perception of Asian Americans also played an important factor in their relegation to low wage jobs and in informal sectors. The passing of the MCRI in 2006 could have signaled the ability of students and workers regardless of race to gain equal access to its schools and employment (The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, 2007). However, in reality, most states have not followed the MCRI model and continue to exploit the cheap labor that comes with Asian Americans.
Third, Asian Americans which have suffered from minimum and even below the minimum wage throughout the years continue to suffer from low wages despite changes in the Employment Law. With the passage of the revised Employment Law which increased the minimum wage from US$5. 85 for non-exempt employees, the provision for additional health benefits and the provision for overtime pay, in reality due to the large participation of Asian Americans in informal sectors, the Employment Law does not cover them (US Department of Labor, 2007).
According to Castles (2004), assimilation and integration failure can be said to occur when a policy does not achieve its stated objectives (p. 854). Failure of migration policies result from the interactions of different factors (factors arising from the social dynamics of the migratory process; factors linked to globalization, transnationalism and North-South relationships; and factors within political systems).
The basic goals of Asian immigration which unlike the US include a strong and continuing emphasis on nation-building – and in broad outline the flow of immigrants and refugees, remain unchanged. The immigration planning continues to give emphasis on the economic and social impact and contribution of immigrants. However, it is apparent that Asian American’ long history of struggle in finding their place in the American society through better job opportunities and decent and equal wages is not being realized.
Conclusion While the 21st century showed a more positive environment for the assimilation and integration of Asian Americans in the American society, the reality is that Asian Americans continue to suffer from low wages- not because they are uneducated but because of the guidelines preventing them to practice what they have studied and was licensed for in their home countries. Thus, Asian Americans content themselves with jobs that are menial as compared to their qualifications.
Consequently, while Asian American households are said to earn more than White households, this is only true because while 1 or 2 wage earners are found in White households, Asian American households usually has 3-5 employed family members. Thus, Asian Americans have lower personal income than Whites. The relegation of Asian Americans in informal sectors is not only a factor of the racial bias and the low wage sectors that they work on- but also because of their perceived lacking in communication skills in order for them to break into the formal sector of American society.
The relative lack fluency of the English language of skilled Asian Americans provides a strong disadvantage for their admission to the formal sectors of American society thus, forcing them to remain in the low-wage jobs in informal sectors that usually do not give them social and health benefits.
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