Macaulay Honors College Seminar 2, IDC 3001H

Category: Week 6

The Controversial Question

On Monday Professor Rosenberg discussed certain controversial issues regarding how the immigrants were viewed by the natives in America, and one of these issues was the crime and drug brought over by them. I would like to say that while it may be true that the immigrants brought crime and drug with them to America upon their arrivals, the natives were also responsible for the spread of these iniquities. One example would be the Chinese immigrants’ arrival in the late 19th century. At the time the native-born Americans were blaming the Chinese for the increase in corruptions in the society, including the adoption of gambling and opium practices. However, the native-born Americans also indulged themselves in these corrupting activities. According to Rachel G. Shuen’s honor thesis “The Abomination of Mankind”: Anti-Chinese Sentiment and the Borders of Belonging in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Chinatown, the congregation of Chinese immigrants, was “painted as a place of vice: opium smoking and prostitutions; immorality; gambling and joss houses; and mystery”. Many native-born Americans, as it turned out, were “patrons of [these] operations of vice”. In short, it would be wrong to place the entire blame on the Chinese immigrants, as the native-born Americans were also “supporters” of these immoralities as well.

I think that the native-born Americans should not “judge a book by its cover”, and instead conduct a more profound analysis by looking at the surrounding social factors and conditions which played a role in the immigrants’ infamy. In this specific case, the native-born Americans, while criticizing the Chinese immigrants for the corruptions they had brought about, were also simultaneously endorsing these corruptions. Since these corruptions were brought over by the Chinese to their land, the native-born Americans would naturally frown upon the Chinese immigrants’ negative influence, and refuse to castigate the other native-born Americans for their indulgence in these corruptions. Thus, the prevailing “hypocrisy” played a larger role than the immoralities and corruptions in branding the immigrants as a negative influence in the American society.


Sources consulted: Shuen, Rachel G. “The Abomination of Mankind”: Anti-Chinese Sentiment and the Borders of Belonging in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Honors Thesis, Wellesley College, 2012. Web. 8 Mar. 2017


With President Trump’s recent pejorative comments against illegal immigrants and an executive order banning six countries (Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iran) that have a Muslim majority population from entering the United States, it becomes increasingly transparent of the xenophobic characteristics of policy makers in Washington and their supporters. Often not, these comments and orders are backed up with fallacious comments that the Trump Administration advances as the truth.

In class on Wednesday, we discussed the New York Times article “Here’s the Reality About Illegal Immigrants in the United States.” The article was an interesting read that shed light on the actual facts based on real statistics and data about the current situation with illegal immigrants in America, and not the one purported by the Trump administration.

For example, the article elucidates that only 2.7% of all illegal immigrants have been convicted of a felony. In comparison, based on a Princeton University study, “about 8.6% of the adult population has a felony conviction.” Trump uses phrases such as “rapists” and “murderers” to describe illegal immigrants, but this is clearly not the situation.  Furthermore, another interesting fact in the article explained the means of how most immigrants essentially became “illegal.” Rather than furtively crossing the Mexican-US border, most illegal immigrants are illegal due to just overstaying their visas.

The graph above shows that although crossing over the Mexican border may have been the largest cause of illegal immigration during the turn of the century, the most prevalent cause of illegal immigration today is overstaying one’s visa. I was personally most astonished by this fact because the Trump administration so vehemently asserts that a wall needs to be placed in the Mexico-US border to effectively stop illegal immigration. However, this graph shows that border security in the south has been improving and efforts should actually be placed in monitoring visa stays.

I think this article brings about many key points and it was great we got the chance to discuss its importance in class on Wednesday. Moving on, we should monitor more carefully what politicians and people with power say so that “alternative facts” are not accepted as the truth. I think social media sites such as Facebook allows for these “fake news” stories to be shared so frequently and then eventually be accepted as facts by the general population. Facebook has heard of these complaints and had created a new service which starts to flag fake news stories ( Although this feature is too late because I think these fake news stories played a vital part in swinging the election, it will ultimately be very beneficial and eventually stop false facts from permeating social media.

Americanization Is Just a Choice

In Monday’s class, we discussed how immigrants should assimilate into the American society and how immigrant children should learn English in school. I was able to relate to the topic with my own experiences. When I first began school as a sixth grader in America, I was somewhat directly thrown into the English learning environment. Although there was an ESL program in my middle school, I was able to pass the placement test and was not placed into the program. However, my English level was nowhere near that of the others in my classes. Before going to school, I had trouble understanding third grade English materials as I did not know most of the words in the passages. Therefore, although I passed the placement test, I still could not understand most of the things that the teacher was saying in class, and often need the help of a Chinese-English dictionary to know what to do for the assignments. And where there are other Chinese speakers in my class, I would choose to talk to them in Chinese instead of English because I couldn’t find the necessary words to express myself in the English language. Sometimes I was actually envious of the kids who were placed into the ESL program, as they seemed to form their own group, whereas I was neither in the group of ESL students nor had the English capabilities to speak with other students normally. But this experience of being thrown into the English environment actually helped me learn English faster than my peers in the ESL program, since I had to force myself to speak English and expand my vocabulary on a daily basis. In the meantime, my Chinese hadn’t deteriorated much because I also spoke Chinese daily with my friends in ESL program as well as in my family.

But in my cousins’ case, what I saw was completely different. Both of my cousins were born in America. When they were little, they learned how to speak Chinese first because that was the only language that was spoken at home. But as they grow up, they first began to learn English from watching television, and then they would communicate to each other with a mix of Chinese and English. When they started school, they began to communicate to each other exclusively in English, and they also began to communicate to their parents in English only. The only times that they would speak Chinese at home is when they are talking to the grandparents, who understand almost no English at all.

I think that although it is important to maintain someone’s native culture during the assimilation process, it is only a matter of time before the mark of a family’s native culture eventually disappears if they truly want to assimilate into the American society. If it does not happen in this generation, then it will happen in the next generation, or the one after that. In order to assimilate into a new culture, one is planting new roots in another land in the world, so it is inevitable that the person also have to eventually be disconnected from his/her original roots. It is not America that Americanize its immigrants who come to this land, it is the immigrants who want to Americanize themselves.

The Hidden Cost of Becoming Americanized

In class today, we discussed how immigrants are forced to assimilate into American society. One point that struck a chord with me, was that the English language is harshly imposed on immigrant children in school. I have experienced a similar situation since my parents are immigrants from Slovakia. When I was a child, they spoke both Slovak and English around the house. Thus, I sometimes spoke a mixture of the two languages when I was in school. One day, I told my kindergarten teacher, “Môj žalúdok bolí;” meaing that my stomach hurt. She understood what I was saying because I was rubbing my stomach while speaking. Despite this mutual understanding, she decided to hold a conference with my parents about my bilingual abilities. She recommended that they stop speaking Slovak around the house because it was harming my communication skills. They saw the practicality in this and complied with her request.

This decision came with an unintended cost. When I was in kindergarten, I had not only been the best English speaker in the class, but had also spoken fluent Slovak. Unfortunately, my fluency in the Slovak language depleted as the years went on due to a lack of practice. By the time that my younger sister was born, my parents had completely stopped speaking Slovak at home. Luckily, my early exposure to the language allowed me to comprehend it at family gatherings and church events. However, my sister was not able to say the same. To this day, she is unable to understand only a few Slovak phrases and has had a difficult time learning the language. This has hurt her ability to communicate with our grandparents who exclusively speak Slovak. Her ability to delve into her ethnicity has been shattered.

Language is an important part of one’s culture. The ability to comprehend something that not everybody can make sense of, connects people, joining them in a secret society of mutual respect and cultural appreciation. Thus, losing the ability to speak one’s native language can truly disconnect oneself from one’s roots. The fact that some immigrants in New York City are frowned upon for retaining fluency in their native languages, is rather hypocritical. If New York City is supposed to be a place that celebrates diversity, then why is there an incessant desire to Americanize all immigrants who reach its shores? Where should we draw the line when it comes to cultural assimilation? When is an immigrant truly considered to be integrated into American life in every way? Is it when he or she has been absolved of all remnants of his or her past life in another country? I admit that it is important for immigrants to embrace American culture when they come to the United States, especially by learning the English language, but it is also crucial that they maintain ties to their ancestral practices. One’s background makes one unique. With uniqueness comes strength. This is what cultural assimilation destroys.


BY: Annmarie Gajdos

The Language Barrier Among Children

Today’s class discussion regarding whether or not children should be taught in English or in their native language in school, sparked an interest in me as this relates to my own family. While I myself am not an immigrant, my parents both immigrated to the United States and had their first child (my older sister) shortly after. When raising her, they held on to certain aspects of the Russian culture and wanted her to grow up with the ability to speak Russian in order to communicate with her relatives on the other side of the globe. They spoke with her solely in Russian and until the age of 4, that was the only language she spoke. Upon entering preschool, this method of teaching my sister to embrace her Russian heritage seemed to backfire, as she came home from school crying that she couldn’t understand any of the other kids or the teachers. From that point forward, my sister slowly began to learn the English language with the help of her teachers and my parents. By the time I was born, she was speaking predominantly in English at home, while my parents still spoke to her in Russian to try to maintain her understanding of the language. Due to this diverse language exchange that dominated my home, I grew up having the ability to speak both languages but my Russian began to deteriorate as soon as I entered the school system.  By the time my brother was born, my sister and I were speaking in predominantly English around the house and even my parents had begun transitioning from speaking only in Russian with us to a mix of Russian and English. This left my brother with very little knowledge of the Russian language as a young child, and after beginning school, only a few Russian words remained in his vocabulary.

I believe assimilation is important for the life of any immigrant in the United States, especially children, but I also believe greater efforts should be made to incorporate diversity into schools. In the case of my family, my sister would have benefited from the ability to practice the Russian language in school, through an after-school program or a period of time dedicated to the study of various languages. Many schools do place an emphasis on learning another language at a young age, but often this language is Spanish or some other language that is widely accepted as “the language of the future.” If my sister had not been forced to completely abandon the Russian language for the English language in school, my siblings and I would likely still speak Russian at home and have a much easier time communicating with the rest of my family still in Russia. This is relevant for all children who face the difficulty of a language barrier when entering the school system in the United States. Steps should be taken to help these students assimilate by teaching in the English language, but this can be done with some acceptance of varying languages.