When we think of the jobs immigrants take when they first arrive in our country, we think of the 3 D’s: dirty, dangerous, and demeaning. Construction workers, fast food servers, housekeepers– these are the stereotypes we apply. But it doesn’t stop there. We proceed to project the status of immigrant’s jobs on their personal intelligence and history. Suddenly, we assume that these immigrants are working at the intellectual level to which they are capable of. We think to ourselves, “Well, they must not have experience in higher education or more specialized fields if they are working such low skilled jobs. That’s okay! Everyone can find their place in America.” On the other hand, we may be wondering, “Why do these immigrants all seem to fall into similarly ranked jobs?”
Regardless, the reality is that in their home countries, many immigrants hold a very different position in the workforce. According to Danielle Dellorto, “in Southern California alone, there are an estimated 3,000 medically trained Latino immigrant doctors who aren’t practicing medicine” (CNN.com). So what are they doing then? It turns out, the majority of them are taking those menial, sometimes dangerous jobs.
The reason for this, it turns out, is the difficulty associated with immigrating to America and establishing a new life. Once they arrive in the U.S., many Latino immigrants realize that their savings can disappear very quickly. Suddenly, they are forced to take entry-level service and manual labor jobs in order to make ends meet. With too much time and energy being devoted to this work, immigrants lose the opportunity to study for their medical license in the United States.
The irony is that the U.S. actually lacks trained physicians, and yet we have an untapped resource within our nation’s immigrant population. This simply goes to show that the United States is not concerned with the potential of immigrants in the workforce, but only the success they bring to the economy on a basic level. It is almost as though we would prefer that the immigrants of this country continue to fulfill the low expectations we have set for them rather than aspire to reach the American Dream of social mobility.
Luckily, some organizations do care about the situation. UCLA’s International Medical Graduate Program is one such group. They help “fast-track Latino immigrant doctors into the U.S. health care system” through “test prep classes and clinical observations with UCLA doctors.” Programs like this one are the key to bridging the gap between our shortage of doctors and our population of qualified immigrants. The steps right now are small, but they are projected to make a significant impact in the future.
So next time you see a Latino at work, be considerate. Remember that they are more than the job they may have been forced to take. That construction worker, that housekeeper, that fast food server may hold a higher place in their homeland’s society than you do in ours.
- Do you want fries with that M.D.? (cnn.com)