Why don’t we talk about other immigrants?

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Huntington Local Library in San Marino, CA.

As my parents and I were driving down to L.A. to drop me off at Occidental College, we stopped by San Marino because I wanted to see where my Dad had grown up. All along the road in the center of town hung signs honouring families that had contributed to the centennial celebration for the town. My Dad even recognized some of the names from when he grew up there over 40 years ago, but there were new names: Sun, Koo and Shi that shocked us.

A generation ago, when my Dad grew up, whites made up roughly two-thirds of the population in San Marino, but Asians now make up over half the population there. In fact, many areas in California, mainly cities in the San Gabriel Valley, Orange County, and in the Silicon Valley, have had Asian immigrants become the dominant cultural force in areas that were once largely white or Hispanic. Even more surprising is that a study released by the Pew Research Center in 2012 stated that Asians have surpassed Hispanics in terms of immigration with 36 percent of all new immigrants- legal and illegal- being Asian and 31 percent being Hispanic in 2010. Due to the influx of new immigrants, one could see how they are transforming the parts of the country where Asian culture is most concentrated. For example, some of the malls in San Gabriel feature signs with Chinese characters, and in San Marino the local library offers story time in Mandarin.

Even though so many Asian immigrants are migrating to the U.S. and changing America, much of the debate about immigration in Congress is focused on Hispanic immigration. So I have the question of why is it that other immigrant groups like Asians aren’t as featured as Hispanics in federal debates? The question isn’t saying that I think we should stop Asian immigration (I am the child of an Asian immigrant), but what makes it so we debate constantly about Hispanics and not other groups?

Please leave your thoughts on the question in the comments below.

4 responses to “Why don’t we talk about other immigrants?

  1. I have been wondering this exact thing myself recently! I think this has to do with two things… 1) The mentality that immigrants are just an economic commodity, not real people or real families who matter. Americans want to hear about fixing the economy and unemployment which has more to do with the stereotype (in the media at least) that “Hispanics” are poor immigrants who come illegally, take our jobs, drain our resources, and are basically a burden to our economy. The model minority stereotype of the Asian immigrant is less threatening, and therefore not as interesting to the average American who is fixated on economic issues and convinced by these stereotypes.
    The second reason, I think, is that the Latino community has kind of made the immigrant movement and the Chicano movement appear to be one in the same. It makes does sense though, both because the Chicano struggle is greatly influenced by policy and attitudes towards immigration, and also because tying a social or political issue to one particular racial group makes it stronger and more noticeable… but by doing that, they have accidentally left out the Asian population and others.

    I strongly believe that Asian immigrants will make themselves known though; with such a powerful influence in this county’s shifting demographic, the time is ripe.

  2. I believe this is rooted in the economic and social success of Asian immigrants. Although the myth of the model minority ignores many of the struggles of Asian immigrants, the public generalizes them as intelligent, ambitious, and well-educated. As minority groups climb up the social ladder, people become more and more blind to their skin color.

  3. One reason why I believe immigration has focused primarily on Hispanics and not other racial groups such as Asians is due to the Model Minority Myth. The Model Minority Myth focuses on the success of a racial group and excludes the issues. For example, the Model Minority Myth does not recognize that a large proportion of Asian Americans commit suicide and drop out of school.

    The question I raise though is if the Model Minority Myth does continue who will be targeted next?

  4. A valid point! I wish your article would have discussed the attitudes towards Mexican immigrants compared to Asian immigrants a little bit more, because that is a very interesting subject. And, as mentioned above, the statistics you gave could have shown the immense amount of immigrants, then discussed the myth of the model minority to explain the more favorable attitudes towards Asian immigrants. This discussion also could have been focused specifically on California if you were to compare the two groups. Other than that, I found this highly entertaining and informative!

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