Policy Brief on Immigration

A Nation of Immigrants: Immigration Reform in the US

POL 308

Alia Al-Assar, Lorenzo Pistoni and Daniela Betancourt

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The topic of illegal immigration has been part of a heated debate within the past few decades in the United States.  Recently, with the passing of the immigration law in Arizona, known as the Arizona SB 1070 (Johnson, 2010), the issue has become a hot topic, and questions of how to deal with not only the influx of immigrants, but also with immigrants already in the U.S. and their children, has become a topic of dispute.  While there are many arguments against the allowance of illegal immigrants into the U.S., through our research we have found the benefits far outweigh the costs, and for this reason border controls should be relaxed significantly, and immigrants that are currently in the U.S. should be granted citizenship. In our brief, we will address the main issues of dispute over illegal immigration, which include the perception of illegal immigrants as non-tax paying free-riders and, consequently, a drain on our economy, as well as stealing jobs that belong to Americans. However, through research we have discovered these allegations to be severely blown out of proportion, with the majority of illegal immigrants being tax-payers without receiving social security. Indeed, the contributions of both legal and illegal immigrants are one of the driving forces of our economy.  Therefore, we offer the U.S. Congress our recommendation to relax border regulations, especially with our immediate neighbors such as Mexico, and no longer approach illegal immigration as entirely problematic in our economy.  This is consistent with the idea of a free market economy, which the U.S. and world economic system claim to support. In order to have a true market economy, labor would be allowed to move freely, while calls for a relaxation in immigration policies for all countries, including the U.S.

STATEMENT OF ISSUE

How should the U.S. government address the issue of illegal immigration? Should the U.S. tighten borders and limit immigration, as well as persecute those currently living illegally in the country, or open borders and grant current illegals citizenship?

BACKGROUND

Through an examination of the United States’ history, one quickly realizes that the country was founded on mass immigration. In 1840 through 1850, Germans migrated to the Midwest seeking land and wealth. They were later followed by the Irish, Russians, and Italians; in fact from 1860 to 1920, 300 million foreigners had migrated to the United States. This gave the United States the identity of a “melting pot”, due to the foreigners having a common heritage, integration was easily assimilated. Since 1950 the number of foreigners has increased each year by one million; and through immigration, 11 million were added to the population, 13% being first generation and 11% being second generation.

Today, the concept of a melting pot has deteriorated. Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, the points of immigration have shifted; the majority of immigrants currently come from Africa, Asia, South and Central America. Accompanying the shift in cultural backgrounds, unfamiliar languages, religions, and political backgrounds have made their presence in the U.S. and, consequently, have caused difficulties in integration.

Immigrants come to the U.S. for various reasons.  Some flee their country due to civil wars, political persecution, and natural disasters; others are seeking to reunite with their families or gain economic stability. There are three paths for the newly-immigrated.  With approximately thirty-five million immigrants, the most popular pathway is becoming a legal permanent resident and obtaining the “green card”. This is acquired through marriage (with a U.S citizen), family ties, or being a political refugee.  The second way is to attain a temporary work or tourism visa, or a short-term visa for student and government exchange.  This route, however, is less common with only 3% of immigrants migrating this way. Lastly, but most importantly, with a high increase of five million in 1996 to 8.4 million in 2000, it is estimated that 11.9 million have migrated illegally, without seeking proper documentation.

The increase of immigrants, and their diversity, in the U.S., has generated ethnocentrism within U.S.-born citizens, manifesting itself in distaste for anything different from them, and creating a fear that their American culture is losing its identity. Furthermore, native-born citizens believe that immigrants are competing for their jobs and receiving unnecessary government benefits. This fear has caused the political system to propose immigration policies aimed mainly at the illegal immigrants in order to resolve the conflicts.

Immigration is a sensitive topic for most native-born residents. As the economy worsens, many believe their wages are being depressed by the existence of new cheap laborers, while others believe immigrants are draining public resources. While these complaints should be addressed, reducing the amount of immigrants is not the solution; it is imperative to tackle illegal immigration through policies beneficial for all.

IMPORTANCE OF ADDRESSING CURRENT IMMIGRATION POLICIES

The most common discourse on immigration concerns the cost vs. the benefits it brings to the country. As mentioned above, citizens believe immigrants are stealing their jobs and taking advantage of the public resources. The Costs and Benefits of Immigration written by Darrel M. West, counter-argues these believes. West starts of by noting that although “51 percent believe that immigrants take jobs away from native-born workers,. . .61 percent think immigrants create jobs and set up new business” (West 432). Furthermore, his research shows that since the recession, no differences were seen between the unemployment rate for both native-born and immigrants; the distinction was seen in the type of work. Unlike native-born, immigrants are pursuing poorly paid, entry-level, undesirable jobs. Nevertheless, a study showed that “immigrant–founded companies produced $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 workers in 2005”. In fact, immigrants are the reason for the rise of high–tech and biotech industries, claiming 25.3 percent of the technology and engineering business launched in the Unites States from 1995 to 2005 (West 437).

As for the belief they are draining public resources, it is accurate that immigrants with children who require to be educated, and immigrants that draw from pensions or healthcare are costly to the government. However, adult immigrants ages 25-44, which pay taxes and do not draw public pensions, make up 52.9 percent of the immigrant population. Moreover, both legal and illegal immigrants do not benefit from food stamps, TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), and Medicaid; and illegal immigrants do no receive welfare, public health care, or retirement benefits.  In fact, undocumented immigrants only constitute one percent out of the five percent of American households receiving cash assistance.  Further critiquing this argument, reports estimate that $162 billion in federal, state, and local taxes are paid by immigrants and that the average immigrant pays up to $1,800 more in taxes than they cost in benefit. Also, dispelling the myth that illegal immigrants do not pay taxes, it was estimated that from one-half to three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay federal and state taxes, but unlike native-born and documented immigrants, they are unentitled to collect social service benefits. Nevertheless, immigrants are the cause for the raise of $37 billions per year American GDP (West 433-435).

Secondly, education is an important subtopic within the main subject of immigration that should be addressed in order to benefit the immigrants and the United States. Although in “1982 the Supreme Court ruled that the children of illegal immigrants have a right to a free k-12 education”, the right was not extended to higher education (Horwedel and Asquith). The lack of information on higher learning has resulted in differently laws according to state.  Consequently some states deny college enrollment of any undocumented student while the other states accepts them as international students.  Regardless of the state, this has created a burden on the children and taken away their hope. As the undocumented students realize they will not be able to enroll in a college after graduation, they stop caring about their education. Enzo Ferreira, an undocumented immigrant, confessed that in the 10th grade school became unimportant and was expelled due to skipping school and disrespecting his teachers. In addition, The U.S Census Bureau and the U.S Department of Education reported that in comparison to the 7% of white and 12% of black under the age of 18 that did not attend school, Hispanics made up the substantial amount of 24% (Horwedel et al.).

Similarly, undocumented students who are given the opportunity to enroll in a college are still facing a huge obstacle. Due to only being able to enroll as international students, they are also expected to pay the costly tuition that corresponds to international students. Unfortunately, illegal immigrants are ineligible for any financial aid or student loans, which creates an impediment to attend college for those who do not have means. The national coordinator for the National Capital Immigration Coalition, Juan Carlos, says “Universities are important because we’re spending all this money on grade and high school and then they can’t afford to go to college. So it impedes their growth as an individual and the growth of the economy and the country” (Horwedel et al.). Similar to Juan Carlos, referring to the situation of the ones who are privileged enough to attend college despite the tuition and are denied the chance to start a career, Darrel M. West states “our universities invest millions in training foreign students, but then send them home without any U.S job opportunities that would take advantage of their new skills. This robs our country of the ability to reap the benefits of our economic investment in higher education” (West 436-437).  The barriers to higher education are a disadvantage to the economy and could also lead to the increase of an uneducated population, and force these illegal student to work under the table.

Also, immigration, illegal immigration precisely, is placing an affliction on families. In his Article, Cain Oulahan, wrote that in the Unites States “family is the basic unity in human society, a very highly valued principle of law” which is a contradiction of the consequences the unlawful presence bars creates (Oulahan 1351). “This law prohibits immigrant visa applicants who have been unlawfully present in the United States for a certain period of time from obtaining an immigrant visa for up to ten years or more” (Oulahan 1351) causing the separation of the undocumented person and his/her spouse or immediate family. The requirement to return to the home country can cause the lost of a job and promote economic insecurities. At the same time, the possible ten years separation increases the quantity of single- parent households and economic complications such as foreclosures. Additionally, it could potentially increase the number of people needing food stamps and/or TANF. Nonetheless, it can produce fear of being separated within families and therefore discourage them from partaking in the legal immigration process (Oulahan 1355-1357).

PRE EXISTING POLICIES.

The United States is a nation created by immigrants, and until today, the amount of people migrating to the country persist. As a result, many laws regarding immigration have been passed to benefit the country. However, as laws continue to try to be passed today concerning the same subject, it is apparent that as good they each have their tribulations.

Going back to June 18, 1798, the Naturalization Act was passed by the Senate and House of representatives in order to control incoming migration and the acquiring of a citizenship. This act required the subject to

Declare his intention, to become a citizen of the United States, five years, at least, before his admission, and shall at the time of his application to be admitted declare and prove, to the satisfaction of the court having jurisdiction in the case, that he has resided within the Unites States fourteen years at least, and within the state or territory where, or f or which such court is at the time held, five years, at least (Naturalization Act 1798).

The subject was also required to file an abstract of his declaration, along with name, age, nation, residence and occupation.

Although the act was passed in the 18th century its purpose is still highly significant today. This act demonstrates the wiliness of the country to accept immigrants but at the same time reassuring they had wholesome and serious intentions to preserve the well-being of the nation. Moreover, it gave the government a chance to verify the applicant was ideal to become a “good citizen”. Nonetheless, the act also had its negatives. The extensive wait to be admitted into the country would not be tolerable today by many foreigners searching for the American dream. The wait would only encourage them to find a way to enter the country illegally.

Most commonly known prevention of illegal immigration done by the United States government is the Border Patrol. It originated in 1993 during Clinton’s administration. Four operations were implemented from 1993 through 1997, which made up the ‘concentrated border enforcement strategy’. The purpose was to increase apprehension in the four traditional segments used by 70-80% of the illegal immigrants and consequently preventing the high numbers of immigrants pursuing to cross the borders (Cornelius 777-783).

The expenditures towards the government’s efforts quintupled from 1993 to 2004; going from a modest $750 million to $3.8 billion, however the merits have not been seen. Their first step was putting a 10-foot steel fence that could be cut with a simple saw. This led to the discovery of  fourteen trans-border tunnels The U.S. also acquired the IDENT system as a database for photos, fingerprints, and identity information, in order to apprehend illegal immigrants. But the purpose was ineffective due to the apprehensions of only 4 percent due to cost of incarcerating the undocumented (Cornelius 777-783).

The fear tactic of apprehension backfired and instead of deterring the incoming illegal immigrants, the immigrants continued to migrate but decided to stay longer or permanently in the United States. This data was shown by the high increase of Mexicans living in the Unites States. Moreover, the tightening of border patrol forced the immigrants to depend on illegal smugglers with an increase of 26 percent. Lastly, the death of illegal immigrants, as a consequence of crossing the border, has increased and in 2004, Arizona’s Segment witnessed the high number of 175 deaths (Cornelius 777-783).

While these have been immigration policies of the past, the current immigration policies need to be analyzed in order to point out the problematic areas and offer a solution.

ARIZONA SB 1070

“If you live in Arizona, you live with SB1070. It colors people’s lives at home, in business, in government and in the church” (Hillman, 2011: 20). On April 23rd, 2010, the governor of Arizona Jan Brewer signed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, better known as simply Arizona SB 1070. The U.S. Federal Law requires that all the foreign citizens older than 14 years, who stay on the national soil for more than 30 consecutive days, have to carry their own documents any time. The Arizona Act, in addition, requires law enforcement officials to question the immigration status of individuals during every day police encounters. Police have to have ‘reasonable suspicion’” (Johnson, 2010: 2) when detaining. Furthermore, the SB 1070 is even harsher on people who harbor, hire, or transport illegal immigrants, following the attrition through enforcement doctrine. President Obama himself declared that this bill “undermines basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe” (Johnson, 2010: 2). Reactions stretched all over the country as soon as the bill was passed and signed. On April 30th Brewer signed a new bill that made changes on the controversial SB 1070. The governor declared that “These new amendments make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal and will not be tolerated in Arizona” (Silverleib, 2010: 1).

PROS

CONS

General feeling of more economic and personal security by Americans Unconsciously legitimize racial profiling
Enforcing rule of law May also target legal immigrants

DREAM ACT

The DREAM Act is an American legislative proposal introduced in the Senate in 2001. It is an acronym and its letters stand for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. The DREAM Act was re-introduced in the United States House of Representatives on March 26, 2009, but eventually it failed on December 18, 2010.This proposal would “permit States to determine State residency for higher education purposes and to authorize the cancellation of removal and adjustment of status of certain alien students who are long-term U.S. residents and who entered the U.S. as children” (DREAM Act Appendix, 2009: 80).

Considering pros and cons of the three major pre-existing policies we have analyzed, it comes up that the DREAM Act, though it has several cons and it has not been passed yet, it also has many positive outcomes. To a certain extent, it is not unfair to say that by enforcing the DREAM Act, we would make part of the American citizenry people (youth) who already are part of the American social texture. We do believe that there are some unauthorized immigrants who gained an amnesty and therefore deserve a path to citizenship because they already proved to be part of this Nation by integrating themselves into the community.

PROS

CONS

Empowers immigrant children who had no choice about moving to the U.S. By allowing immigrant children brought into the US illegally to obtain citizenship, it would indirectly reward illegal actions
Immigrant children who spent several years in the U.S.,  may have developed a strong sense of belonging to the country, and therefore should not be forced out Children benefited will be able to sponsor their parents and relatives, including the ones who originally broke the laws
Provides more diversity in college campus and universities

 

 
Decreases the dropout rates of immigrant students  
More high school/college graduates results in higher tax revenues and less government expenses  

OBAMA’S ADMINISTRATION IMMIGRATION POLICIES

During his presidential campaign as well as in more recent times, very often Barack Obama has been accused by some of being an immigrant and therefore ineligible to be President of the United States. In such hostile environment is not hard to understand why reforming immigration law is so difficult. During his campaign speeches, Obama has vaguely touched the immigration issue. His concerns were focused on “securing the border, increasing legal migration to unify families and satisfy employers, and providing a path to citizenship for unauthorized migrants in otherwise good standing” (Nevins, 2010: 33).

Once elected, the first African-American U.S. president “has increased the threat of arresting immigrants living and working in communities” all across the country by enlarging the highly criticized “ICE program called 287(g)which establishes formal cooperation between federal authorities and state and local police” (Nevins, 2010: 35). This program allowed the local police to enforce federal immigration laws. Therefore, this move caused a deep sense of insecurity among the “targeted communities, since many are loathed to contact the police, lest the authorities get involved in immigration matters” (Nevins, 2010: 36). The action of confusing the law enforcement on criminal issues and civil issues (like immigration) pushes the unauthorized immigrants even more in the shadows. It would seem that Obama’s administration is stuck into a “law-and-order mentality” in which illegal immigrants “simply deserve nothing” regardless of what they have done for the US or their ties in our country (Nevins, 2010: 36).

Obama was clear on the facts that even the immigrants who could be eligible for some kind of regularization, will have to meet several requirements. Among those requirements are: “registering, paying a fine , passing a criminal background check, fully paying all taxes and learning English” (Nevins, 2010: 36).

CONCLUSION

Immigration is one of the most controversial topics in U.S. politics today. However, this has been the case throughout history. This began with the Chinese, followed by the Irish and the Italians and then the Mexicans. As the decades slipped by, Americans chose and changed their scapegoat. Today many participants of the debate consider the large number of unauthorized immigrants as a threat to the integrity of their society, as well as their safety and daily routine. But is the United States not a country of immigrants?  Whether they came with a boat from Cuba, a steamer from Ireland in 1900, or riding a mule from Mexico, the majority of immigrants have never led to the demise of the United States. Immigrants positively contributed in implementing its richness of values and strong work ethic, and will continue to do so.

Works Cited

Cornelius, Wayne. “Controlling ‘Unwanted’ Immigration: Lessons From The United States, 1993–2004.” Journal Of Ethnic & Migration Studies 31.4 (2005): 775-794. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.

Dream Act Appendix. 111TH CONGRESS, 1ST SESSION, S. 729. March 26th 2009. Pp 85-93.

Johnson, Stephon. Apartheid, Arizona. New York Amsterdam News; 4/29/2010, Vol. 101 Issue 18, p1-26, 2p

Hillman, Lorelei. Immigration. Network News. 2011 pp 20-23.

Horwedel, Dina M., and Christina Asquith. “For Illegal College Students, An Uncertain Future.” Diverse: Issues In Higher Education 23.6 (2006): 22-26. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Apr. 2012.

“Naturalization Act.” Naturalization Act (2009): 1. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Apr. 2012.

Nevins, Joseph. Security First: The Obama Administration and Immigration Reform. NACLA REPORT ON THE AMERICAS. Report: US Policy. January/February 2010. Pp 32-36

Oulahan, Cain W. “The American Dream Deferred: Family Separation And Immigrant Visa Adjudications At U.S. Consulates Abroad.” Marquette Law Review 94.4 (2011): 1351-1379. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Apr. 2012.

Rempell, Scott. “Credibility Assessments And The REAL ID Act’s Amendments To Immigration Law.” Texas International Law Journal 44.1/2 (2008): 185-232. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Apr. 2012.

Silverleib, Alan. Arizona Governor Signs Changes into Immigration Law.  May 1st, 2010. http://edition.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/04/30/arizona.immigration.

law.changes/

West, D.M. “The Costs And Benefits Of Immigration.” Political Science Quarterly 126.3 (2011): 427-443. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.

Visiting Farmworkers Association in Apopka

Today we visited the Farmworkers Association of Florida in Apopka. Although many of us seem to forget this, most immigrants work in unregulated farms and suffer from deadly pesticide infections, discrimination, subjection, etc. Farmworkers are the legacy of American slavery. This group lacks the right to form unions and there are no federal regulations that apply to their jobs. Due to the fact that the workers are mostly undocumented Latin and Philippine immigrants, they seem to fall under this exploitative system that is obviously rigged by corporate America and strong lobbyists that dismiss their inhumane working conditions. I think that by visiting this page we can understand the burden of being a farmworker, and become aware of this Association and the different means through which we can contribute to a great cause.

http://floridafarmworkers.org/index.php/2011-08-08-16-02-46/immigrants-rights

 

Policy Brief on Homosexual Rights

Immigration and Multiculturalism- Policy Brief on Homosexual Rights

 The Future of Homosexual Rights in America

Jamie Pizzi, Alexandra Sol, Robert Gentile, Diego Villasenor

1. Executive Summary

We, the researchers of this policy brief recommend to the government of the United States, a moderate policy of compromise in which the government integrates the homosexual community into the sociopolitical environment with equal rights as heterosexual couples in the form of domestic partnerships. We recommend this because the current situation, particularly in regards to civil unions and adoption of children, is unconstitutional towards homosexual couples. The positive benefits of this decision far out way the disadvantages and allow for all citizens to have equal rights without offending conservatives or religious institutions.

2. Statement

We propose an amendment to the current marriage law stating that, “There is to be equal treatment of homosexual couples in the form of marriage and adoption rights.

3. Background

U.S. history supports the claim that homosexuals have experienced discrimination within American society. The relentless controversial debate amongst political leaders and social activist groups, combined with an unfulfilled quest for a modern panacea (resolution) to this social division led to the irruption of a social movement many Americans consider to be one of the largest movements of the twenty-first century. Homosexuals, male and female, continuously fight a daily battle against the U.S.’s “law of the land”, something all too easily interpreted by the heterosexual community. Non-the less, the defense for this widely disputed issue grows more vibrant everyday.

Gary Gates, a Los Angeles demographer in residence at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy in California explains, the rights of homosexual people in the United States is an issue that dates back to the commencement of the civil rights movement (Nguyen, 1999).  But, some scholars argue the issue began earlier than 1951; nearly two centuries earlier, when president Thomas Jefferson purposed a law in 1779 mandating castration for homosexual men and the punishment of nose cartilage mutilation for women intended to make them less appealing. This case of civil rights abuse is unconstitutional to any citizen of a liberal democracy, especially one as powerful and legitimate as America. With the twenty-first century’s strong stand and allegiance towards equal rights and civil liberties, the United States Supreme Court recently terminated all laws criminalizing same sex intercourse (2003) in a case formally known to the American public as Lawrence v. Texas (Katz, 2008). It’s evident throughout the short history of our country that homosexual rights have always been a sensitive topic of discussion.

A number of New England states recently begun to display a more liberal approach by legalizing same sex marriages all preceding the case of Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, when two men Lawrence and Garner were found by police engaging in sexual intercourse in the privacy of their Texas home. This is one case among many that have fueled the fire for today’s modern debate on the rights of homosexuals in America. The case has contributed largely to the decisions of some New England states that have recently legalized same sex marriages. The Supreme Court ruled the case unconstitutional saying “sodomy laws in the United States are unconstitutional” gave certain states and their political leaders a chance to act upon what they believe is right according to the constitution. The U.S. Constitution is vague and phrased in such a way that it warrants analysis in some parts. In some cases the context can yield all out violence, this is where the problem lies. Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Anthony Kennedy, made his support for the equal rights of homosexuals known when he wrote in a letter to the supreme court that “liberty presumes and autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct”(Hoch, 2007).

The individual rights and liberties of homosexual citizens living in a culturally divided country like America can easily become blurred. It is imperative that homosexuals, regardless of sexual preference, be treated as equal citizens of our democracy. “Liberty and Justice for all” is the foundation of our country’s character. The Bill of Rights, according to the Constitution, “serves to protect the natural rights of a persons liberty and property” (Fetner, 2008). The first ten amendments guarantee multiple personal freedoms and reserve certain powers for the State and the Public. A human being’s preference as to what gender he or she finds most sexually attractive is a personal decision falling under the category of a citizen’s natural rights to their personal liberty. 

4. Why does this issue need to be addressed?

First and foremost, not allowing homosexual couples to obtain equal marital rights is in direct violation of the First Amendment declaration that states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment or religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Since the banning of homosexual marriage stems from religious beliefs and the separation of church and state is clearly demonstrated in the First amendment, having laws both in support of a religious belief and against the practicing of personal belief is in sharp contradiction with the amendment. Second, the homosexual community has been advocating and pushing for rights for generations. In a democratic society, we cannot simply ignore them.

5. Pre-existing Policies

The American movement towards homosexual rights began in the early twentieth century when the Society for Human Rights in Chicago was formed and began to advocate for homosexual emancipation. However, it was dissolved a few months later because some of the society’s members were arrested. Prior to this, a series of pro-homosexual organizations were founded with the purpose of educating society about the prevalence of homosexual discrimination. Forty years after the Society for Human Rights was formed, in 1962, Illinois decriminalized homosexual acts in private. In 1973, the APA acknowledged that being homosexual was not a mental disorder. At the same time, Harvey Milk, the city supervisor of San Francisco, advocated against governmental intervention in sexuality. He was highly involved in homosexual right movements opposed John Briggs, of the Brigg initiative that stated that any school employee that publicly supported homosexual rights was to be removed from the job. Presidents Carter and Reagan as well as the population did not pass Brigg’s proposal.

In 1993, President Clinton passed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Bill” in which he allowed homosexual men and women to participate in the military, but to refrain from any same-sex activity. In 2010, President Obama voted for the dissolution of this bill. The twenty-first century has been more promising for homosexual rights because the government has been more receptive to their egalitarian rights. In some states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, DC, New York same-sex marriage is now legal. To further expand the positive trend of homosexual rights, President Obama supported a legislation called Respect for Marriage Act that advocates for equal rights between homosexual and heterosexual couples. Despite the fact that there is still no full health coverage for homosexuals, Obama also addressed a Memorandum in which he stated that homosexual couples and families should be entitled to adequate care in hospitals.

6. Policy Options

Upon reflection and analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the policies provided, recommend the second option of a compromise between giving full rights and completely refusing the homosexual community any at all.

This policy is best suggested primarily for the reluctance and issues that would arise from forcing a private institution (the church) to accept something that is against their beliefs. We acknowledge the freedom of religion, and seek to integrate the homosexual community in the best way without infringing on others rights. Further, we chose this policy for the recognition that the homosexual community is indeed a minority, and by definition, a group of humans who are being oppressed. We seek to correct this for the ethical and moral principles of equality and compassion that our country is founded on; such is the reasoning for not simply ignoring the problem. Thus the policy is a middle ground between accepting the independence of a private institution, and the ethical imperative of equality for all.

The second policy option will allow homosexual couples to enter into a civil partnership, being given all the same legal rights, opportunities, and benefits afforded to a heterosexual couple. This will be done through the state but protected under federal law. As such any civil union ship recognized in one state shall be recognized and valid in all states. As is the case with current marriages, no state will be unable to outlaw homosexual union ships. This decision was chosen for the reasoning that each state has separate and different marriage laws and requirements, but fundamentally they are all ensured across the country by the federal government. We the writers intend to extend this practice to homosexual civil union ships.

Further, the states shall decide homosexual adoption policies. The reasoning behind the states being allowed to do this is the recognition that adoption practices and policy differs from state to state. An adoption agency has a right, in accordance with state regulation, to deny a child to any couple they feel will be detrimental for their upbringing. This shall in no way prevent a homosexual couples from adopting at all, but rather will apply the same standards and regulations of parent evaluation that heterosexual couples go through to homosexual couples. Thus it will be left to the agencies to determine, without regard to sexuality, if the couple would be good parents, and thus able to adopt a child, as is done with any other couple.

This policy should fully address the concerns and grievances presented by the homosexual community. This shall afford them equal rights under the law as a couple that married couples do, and shall place them in the same realm of adoption as any other couple.

7.     Advantages and Disadvantages of Alternative Policy Options

–       Policy A

Not recognizing homosexual couples as equal at all, thus granting them zero recognition in the form of marriage, domestic partnership, or adoption rights. As well as terminating any current domestic partnerships and halting the adoption process for homosexual couples indefinitely.

Advantages Disadvantages
Keeps American definition of the “sanctity of marriage” in traditional standing of being solemnly between a man and a woman, thus perpetuating this predominantly revered family structure within American culture. Violates 1st amendment right of freedom of religion and beliefs.
No further work within congress on the issue, many Americans would agree that there are more pertinent issues that need to be taken care of by the government. It is a form of minority discrimination because homosexuals commit no crimes or wrongful acts to be discriminated against by the law, yet still are.
It will not cause straight married citizens to feel that their rights are being undermined (Chauncy 3) by having such a drastic shift in the definition of marriage adhere to by the government. It will cause great unrest from homosexuals and their supporters who have been diligently supporting this cause.

 

 

 

 

  Many deserving homosexual couples will not be able to adopt children, thus causing them to miss out on a fundamental human desire and leaving thousands of children un-adopted leading to further social and economic problems down the line.
  It will cause faith to be lost in democratic system considering 60% of voter’s nation wide supported either civil unions (35%) or marriage (25%) in 2004 (Chauncy, preface xii) and this number continues to rise.

–       Policy B

Creating a compromise in the form of federally recognized domestic partnerships, and allowing states to decide whether or not homosexual couples can have the right to adopt children.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Gives homosexual couples the same rights and benefits as married straight couples. Still neglects to recognize these relationships as completely equal to straight ones, thus perpetuating discrimination
Does not impose on church’s definition of “marriage”, therefore more likely to settle well with the opposition. There would be increased administration and communication for all companies involved, in order to prevent fraud because domestic partnership status could be abused by any two people who wish to receive the benefits of it.
Promotes diversity by acknowledging the need for acceptance of homosexuals in America to be treated equally. No official divorce can mean both a flurry of issues when dividing up assets etc and create less stable long-term relationships because of how comparatively easy it is to end a domestic partnership as apposed to a legal common wealth marriage.

–       Policy C

Granting homosexual couples the full right to marry and adopt children.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Grants equality to all citizens regardless of sexual preference or beliefs, which is properly in line with the First Amendment. It could confuse children about gender roles and expectations of society by introducing this complicated matter to them at a young age, which would be inevitable if homosexual marriage become legal and more prevalent.
It completely acknowledges these relationships as equal to straight ones. It would enrage religious institutions and go against their historic definition of marriage as only between a man and woman.
It Promotes diversity by acknowledging this at a governmental level. Some claim that it would cause a slippery slope within the legality of marriage as whole, thus eventually making way for polygamy and other taboo practices to become legally recognized as well.
It promotes a stable family structure and less sexual promiscuity amongst homosexuals because they now have the option to settle down and start a family. Many religions deem homosexuality as a sin all together, this may create more discrimination against homosexuals because of the anger felt by those who do not approve of this being the law of the land.
This will cause the number of adoptions to increase, which will not only relieve the government of financial burden but also grant an orphan the immeasurable gift of having a family.

8.     Recommended Course of Action

Upon reflection and analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the policies provided, recommend the second option of a compromise between giving full rights and completely refusing the homosexual community any at all.

This policy is best suggested primarily for the reluctance and issues that would arise from forcing a private institution (the church) to accept something that is against their beliefs. We acknowledge the freedom of religion, and seek to integrate the homosexual community in the best way without infringing on others rights. Further, we chose this policy for the recognition that the homosexual community is indeed a minority, a group of other humans who are being oppressed. We seek to correct this, and cannot deny all their concerns.

The second policy option will allow homosexual couples to enter into a civil partnership, being given all the same legal rights, opportunities, and benefits afforded to a heterosexual couple. This can be done through the state, and a civil union ship in one state shall be recognizing and valid in all states. Further, the states shall decide homosexual adoption policies. The reasoning behind the states being allowed to do this, rather than the federal, is the recognition that adoption practices and policy differs from state to state. An adoption agency has a right, in accordance with state regulation, to deny a child to any couple they feel will be detrimental for their upbringing. This is no way prevents homosexual couples from adopting at all, but rather will leave it to the state and agencies to decide if they are capable of being a good parent, as is done with any other couple.

This policy should fully address the concerns and grievances presented by the homosexual community. This shall afford them equal rights under the law as a couple that married couples do, and shall place them in the same realm of adoption as any other couple.

 Bibliography

Christine Vestal, “Homosexual Marriage is Legal in Six States, Stateline: State Policy and Politics, http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=347390 (accessed on Feb. 27, 2012).

“Consent to Adoption.” Adoption Laws. Adoption Agency United. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <http://laws.adoption.com/statutes/consent-to-adoption.html>.

David R. Segal, “Diversity in the American Military,” Sociological Forum, (Sep. 1999): 532-39.

Fetner, Tina. “How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Homosexual Activism.” Http://www.amazon.com/reader/B0043D28UU/ref=rdr_sb_li_hist_1&state=01112. University of Minnesota Press. Web.

Gates, Gary. “Study Sees Homosexuals as 1.7 Percent of Population.” The Washington Times [San Francisco] 10 Apr. 2012. Print.

George Chauncey, Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today’s Debate Over Homosexual Equality, (Cambridge: Cambridge Center, 2004).

Jonathan Ned Katz. Copyright (c) 2008 by Jonathan Ned Katz. All rights reserved. Reedited by Katz from Homosexual American History (1976).

“The American Homosexual Rights Movement: A Timeline,” Infoplease: All the Knowledge You Need. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0761909.html (accessed on Feb. 27, 2012).

The White House: President Barack Obama, Civil Rights, http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/civil-rights (accessed on Apr. 10, 2012).

 

Rob Gentile

Rob Gentile

My name is Rob Gentile, a twenty two year old white male from Old Lyme Connecticut and a senior here at Rollins College. I am the product of a fairly simple ethnic background. I am fifty percent Irish and fifty percent Italian. However, I have come to learn in this class that it’s not quite that simple. If someone had asked me my ethnicity or race prior to this class I probably would have responded with; “I’m white, or Caucasian to be culturally correct”, but I have quickly learned that I am much more than just a color, as is everyone living among us in the world today. People are not black or white or yellow, yes that’s what our superficial society deems us to be, but behind the skin is a much more complex cultural framework, one that political figures and government leaders stutter to define. In the text to follow I will offer a clear cultural explanation of what I feel is accurate when describing myself. Though some may disagree with terms and definitions, we are all a work in progress, we each have our own views of who we are and it’s important to offer our unique interpretations.

I believe my racial and ethnic identity according to what we have learned in class is one in the same. The readings so far have gone above and beyond to stress the point that the distinction between ethnic groups can result from a multitude of factors, primarily the language we speak, the historical experience of our genetic composition, and the heaviest and most controversial of all, race. I am confident in saying that my ethnic group I associate with is due to many components. I am an English speaking American citizen who follows the Catholic religion. I would also add I am of Irish and Italian heritage, to offer some historical experience. Because ethnic identity tells us that our ethnicity requires us to be part of an ethnic group that share certain values and norms because of a common background, in my eyes, the above facts about myself define my ethnicity. However, I believe my race is Caucasian, or white Irish/Italian American. Race seems hard for me to define because its also considered a factor of a persons ethnic group or ethnicity which frankly confuses me and seems only to make the picture a bit more blurry. I don’t self Identify with this label at all. The only reason I am putting a label on myself is because these terms and definitions call for it, as well as society. Society has labeled me because of my skin, that is our country’s biggest flaw. We are too quick to judge and place labels on people because of what we see with our eyes. I first realized my ethnicity and race the first time I set foot into society. People automatically label me a white English-speaking male right off the bat. Also, people seem to think because I wear a gold chain around my neck, have a reddish skin tone, and an Italian last name that I am one hundred percent Italian. I can’t begin to explain how offensive this is to my Irish mother who is basically factored out of the equation when people call me Ginny or comment only about my Italian heritage. It just isn’t fair to here and it can be upsetting to see her feeling hurt, as if she didn’t have a part in making me. It’s all about what people see when they open their eyes, and then they judge, without ever asking you your history, that is a major problem in our society. When I set foot out into our society I am treated different then people who appear to be darker than I am or speak a different language because of racial classification. Living in Florida for the past four years I have experienced first hand on multiple occasions, instances where I get priority over another because I am white, or I go to Rollins (so obviously I’m rich right?), or I speak English so the clerk helps me first. It’s honestly disturbing to me, hence why this course interests me so much.

I have experienced discrimination because of my white skin and my cultural heritage. I’ve been called many offensive names referring to my Italian heritage as I explained, yet it does not bother me because I believe some people are born ignorant, or have developed uneducated beliefs over time because of their ignorant parents or a less educated racist social group. I understand not everyone can be as fortunate as those in college today and racial classification, assigning people to discrete categories because of common ancestry is a very common occurrence, so I understand yet feel bad for those who judge off a persons skin tone or country of origin. My mom has always done her very best job to educate me on the fact that all people are different yet we are all so similar as well. Since day one she has instilled in me that I should treat others as I wish to be treated and “never judge a book by its cover”. Honestly, this has helped me the most in society. That belief system or values she has drilled into my brain is the correct way to think, at least I believe so.

I am from a small town in Connecticut that is home to no more than seven thousand people. There is one African American family who lives in our town and yet they are not even African American. Their kids are called black at school because they look black; people see their skin tone and label them the black family. If you look closely however their parents are mixed races. The mother is black and Brazilian and the father is white. I would know because I dated their daughter for 2 years, and everyone always would say, “yeah you know Rob, who dates the black girl” and it just shocked me how uneducated they sounded. Again, another example of how superficial our society is. Since coming to Rollins I have really begun to adapt a whole new view on society. I now notice these racial inequalities every single time I see them out around campus, especially in Florida because it is such a more diverse environment than I am used to. Coming from Old Lyme Connecticut to central Florida honestly changed me for the better because I am blessed to experience another part of the country where not everyone is “white”.  There is such a diverse group of students and faculty that work and study here at Rollins and I really feel lucky to be party of the community where everyone is so unique, yet we are being educated on why were are all so different and how we can learn to classify people correctly not just by the color of their skin.

This class has allowed me to really see past the color of skin and explore the true identity of people. It is such a fascinating thing to learn about people, their cultural heritage, they’re past history, where their parents came from, their religions practiced, if any. I truly believe there is no better of a place to study diversity than this college. It really brings out the best components in everyone and allows Rollins to thrive and continue to develop into a well-educated divers community.

Alexandra Sol

Alexandra Sol

El Salvador is racially homogeneous. In contrast with the United States, which is a melting pot of different races, most Salvadorians tend to be a mix of Mayan-Indian ancestors and Spanish conquistadores. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, El Salvador prohibited the entrance of Arabs, Asians, and Africans into the country. Unlike neighboring countries like Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama, we do not have access to the Atlantic Ocean and thus, could control racial migration more easily. The homogeneity in my country has shaped the racial background of Salvadorians and my lack of prejudice towards people who have a different phenotype than mine. However, other influences such as my European decent, social class and education have shaped my ethnicity, which is a narrower subgroup within this homogeneous race.

This paper is divided into three parts. Primarily I discuss the historical background of my ancestors and how this has influenced my ethnicity. Furthermore, this leads into the influence of education, particularly by studying in the United States. Finally, I conclude by analyzing how much I’ve changed, how I consider myself a multicultural person with a particular affiliation to my ethnicity, and discuss the importance of my core values and how these continue to permeate despite inevitable effects of acculturation that have developed from living in the US.

Historical Background- Why am I Who I am?

My great-grandmother met my great-grandfather on a cruise coming from France to Puerto Rico. He was a coffee oligarch of Spanish decent living in El Salvador, and she was the daughter of a lawyer who served as consul in the Philippines. They got married, had two children, and because of her we are all American citizens. In 1979, during the Civil War in El Salvador, and the expropriation that devastated the Sol estate, my grandparents decided to move to Miami and stayed there until the Peace Accords were signed in 1992.

My parents lived in Miami for approximately ten years. I was there until I turned two, but have returned to the US numerous times. My grandparents stayed in Miami for a longer period of time and made sure we had all the American movies, the Gameboy, Mickey, and the Barbies. As a consequence of our close ties to the US, I attended the American school of San Salvador where I met all my best friends that lived a similar life as mine. In addition to the influence of American soft power, there has been a predominant Italian authority that has formed my ethnicity as well.

On my mother’s side of the family things were different. None of them had ties to the US and had only been affected by their imperialistic intervention in our country. Therefore, more in tune with those that were not American citizens or that didn’t benefit in any way from the American government, they kept closer ties with Italy and Spain. Most Latin Americans in the early twentieth century were very connected to their European ancestry. Peter H. Smith terms this behavior as hispanidad, or “a veneration for… conservative values that placed dignity, status, and manners above talent and tangible accomplishment, religious faith above mundane achievement, dogma above curiosity, the traditional over the novel, the graceful and artistic over the functional and practical.”[i] In other words, we valued culture and religious affiliations with Europe because we were the “backyard,” of the US and needed help from Europe (See Figure 3).

The influence of both the US and Europe have been inextricable in the formation of my ethnicity. It is undeniable that my ethnicity is a social construction based on political and historical events, but it is undeniable that studying abroad has further strengthened the link to my Salvadorian heritage.

Education

I will never forget the first time I noticed someone was racially different than I was. We had just arrived to the US and when we walked into the car rental I was astonished that the man that attended us was black. It’s interesting that I had seen black people in movies before, but for some reason, that day I was shocked. My dad gave me the talk and he said: “You cannot make fun of people that are black and you cannot call them ‘negro’ because it’s rude.” However, I also remember noticing that white people were whiter than everyone back home. In a sense both blacks and whites shocked me because they were so different than the whole population in El Salvador. I have to admit, I did feel different than both of these people, and as much as I wish this didn’t happen, I still do sometimes (not on an individual level, but in general I have a prejudice that we have different cultures and thus, are different).

Studying abroad in the American melting pot has been an incredible experience that has diminished my prejudice towards race even more. This has been possible because I constantly interact with different races and ethnicities that are extremely distinct from each other. The fact that school forces me to dialogue and come to terms with people that have different backgrounds than myself heightens the similarities between each other.

I currently work at the Agricultural History Journal at Rollins and this has contributed to my understanding of American History and the deep prejudice and segregation not only towards blacks, but also towards Hispanic and Asians that has been so engrained in American culture. This further denotes the impact of social construction and allows me to understand that even if racial differences are not as evident in El Salvador, they are a crucial aspect of American history and thus how they view me.

Studying abroad has revealed the devastating societal differences present in my country as well. We are currently one of the most polarized nations in Latin America. There is a very small middle class and social prejudice between the lower and upper classes is evident. This is a negative aspect of my ethnicity that I have been able to notice it because of my removal from it. In order to exemplify this I can describe evident distinction with, for example, housekeepers in El Salvador.

Most housekeepers in El Salvador are women from rural areas of the country that live in your house or come during the day to cook and clean.[ii] Although this is entirely acceptable and they are actually paid higher than minimum wage and have plenty of benefits, they don’t work under a social contract. Therefore they don’t pay any income taxes, but at the same time there is no accountability to their jobs and are rarely protected by a governmental authority in case there is a problem. My housekeeper has been with me for twenty years, she’s like my grandmother, but after living in the US, I realized that there are many social differences between us. The movie, The Help (2011) is similar to the condition of housekeepers in El Salvador.

Although I have never been exposed to overt discrimination in the US or any other country I’ve ever visited, I have noticed other people act in a discriminate manner towards people of the same racial and ethnic background as myself. Certain white people immediately categorize someone with a thick accent as “less capable” than himself. A clear example of prejudice and discrimination against Hispanics at Rollins College is exemplified in the article written for the Sandspur last year. This article, and the drawing that was part of it, characterized Hispanics as “aliens,” as entities that were invading a white’s private life and were not deserving of the same constitutional rights. It is abhorrent to think that these discriminations are still done in the twenty-first century.

Current Situation

Before coming to the US, I could not have known whether I was racist or not because I had only been exposed to a single race, Salvadorian. Now, after having lived in the US and coexisted with people of different phenotypes I can say that I value education and demeanor more than skin color or economic status. I understand that before making any assumption I need to have empathy and understand who he or she is and where he or she comes from. No one chooses where they’re born, and that is why we need to be open and understanding of people’s circumstances and environment, including ourselves.

Four years living outside El Salvador have helped me understand my heritage and how my ethnicity came to existence. Moreover, I’ve become intrigued by the reason behind the fact that there is no racial differentiation in El Salvador, yet there continues to be discrimination between social classes. I’ve learned that the Salvadorian political system needs to be more representative of the minority groups and that we need to educate our citizens in order for them to understand their rights as part of a democracy. Nevertheless, I want to preserve my ethnicity, and I encourage international students to study abroad and have the opportunity to broaden their horizons and understand different situations that could never be understood unless we leave our society.


[i] Peter H. Smith, Talons of the Eagle: Latin America, the United States, and the World, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 89.

Jamie Pizzi

Jamie Pizzi

Shaping My Life

After what seemed like an eternity to most, War World II ravaged Germany was finally being evacuated by the thousands of American soldiers who had occupied both the homes and lives of so many civilian families. While this day had been a long awaited blessing to most, it was nothing more than a curse to my Grandmother.  At only 17, she had found love amidst the terrors of war with a young American soldier who was about to be shipped back home to Braintree, Massachusetts. He held her entire future in his hands. With one signature and cash deposit she would be on her way to the golden shores of the now triumphant world super power, The United States of America. Despite great apprehension from his family, he signed on the dotted line and paid four hundred dollars for her trip there, proper immigration papers, and fair for the trip back to Germany if things did not work out within two months. My grandmother left her home in the beautiful Bavarian Alps in return for love in strange and clandestine land. It would not be an easy journey.

Her presence in my life has shaped my ethnic background immensely and given me a strong sense of pride in where my ”roots” come from.  Secondly, her struggles and perseverance have shaped my perception of immigration and ethnicity and have bestowed an increased interest in the various cultures of the world within me. Thirdly, I have felt minor prejudices from the ignorance that comes from automatically associating Germany with Hitler and fought many life-altering battles over the integrity of Germans as a whole. Lastly, relocating from a primarily homogeneous area of Massachusetts to the more diverse state of Florida increased my knowledge of what segregation in the 21st century really looks like and altered my perception for both the good and the bad.  The strong feelings I have about immigration have been shaped by both my family history amongst and other personal influences and have resulted in a slight bias that I do not feel is unjustified, or ignorant in the slightest.

I cannot remember a time where I did not know I was German. I spent one day a week at my grandmother’s for the first four years of my life, and saw her more than regularly in my adolescent years after.  To this day, I call her at least once a week. Out of all my technical ethnic backgrounds, ethnicity meaning “identification with, and feeling apart of a certain ethnic group” (Kottak, 69) my grandmother was the only one of strong ethnic background being in that she was not born in America. That, and the fact that I have always had a natural affinity towards her are probably the primary reasons I have associated myself with being German above all other ethnicities I was technically born into. Frequent visits from her brother and his wife from Munich also helped enhance my view of all things German (aided by many gifts in the form of German toys and candy, of course) I do not have the signature stereotypical German phenotype or “evident traits”, (Kottak, 112) of blonde hair and blue eyes. Therefore society never labeled me as German, because if anything my brown hair, olive skin tone, and last name cause me to appear more Italian than anything else. I would say that I blended with the majority of students in my elementary school, but was always one of the only students I knew of with a strong German background since most kids in my classes were primarily Irish and Italian. I remember liking that this set me apart from the other kids and was always trying to fit in that my Grandmother was from Germany whenever I could in class discussions.

“The American Dream” synopsis has always had a resounding impact on my life. Since youth, I have had the utmost respect for those who traveled great distances to come to America and create a better life for themselves and their children. My grandmother told me anecdotes of how her husband (my late grandfather’s) family was not entirely welcoming of Germans because of post World War II tensions and stereotypes or “fixed, unfavorable ideas about what all members of a group are like,” (Kottak, 80) labeling all Germans as cruel Nazis.  One of the many conditions imposed by the government for her immigration was to have an already established job in America upon her arrival. At first, it was difficult to find someone who would hire her because of the Nazi stigma felt by many Americans at the time. She did not have the luxury of being able to choose her own job and it was now her husband’s responsibility as her sponsor to make sure she attended that job under penalty of law. It was also imperative that she check-in with immigration twice year and report as an alien until she obtained proper legal citizenship. She had no time or extra money to attend classes where she could be taught English, but still managed to learn it within a year. These, amongst the other titanic hurdles she overcame had a massive impact on my own perception of immigration, namely immigration of the illegal sort. Since the first time I knew what the difference between legal and illegal immigration was, I felt an automatic lack of respect for those who come to this country under non-legal pretences. It has absolutely nothing to do with racial or class discrimination, I do not approve or feel sympathy for anyone who breaks the law.  My grandmother came to America during a time where tales of the Nazi’s were as fresh in her neighbor’s minds, as 911 is now and still managed to complete the necessary steps for American citizenship. She was not wealthy or privileged by any means, and worked from the ground up to get where she is today completely legally and by the books. As passionate as I am on this issue, I am even more passionate about learning everything I possibly can about various cultures which is why I chose anthropology as my minor and try to take as many culture-based political science classes as I can.

Much like the prejudice experienced by my grandmother decades ago, I myself, have felt pangs of discrimination for being of German heritage. Although I am fortunate in only having a few isolated experiences, they were traumatizing enough to stick with me forever. During an American history class at my local community college, a student made a comment about all Germans being “blissfully ignorant” of concentration camps, thus making that entire generation of World War II Germans practically evil. I promptly corrected him and then found myself bickering with three other students defending the honor of what seemed like all Germans. This was a direct example of prejudice as stated in On Being Different as “the devaluing of a group because of its assumed behaviors, values, capabilities or attributes.” (Kottak, 80)

I grew up in the racially homogenous town of Pembroke Massachusetts where I attended an elementary school where most students were Caucasian. This was in tune with Kottack’s statistics of whites making up 65.8% of the population in 2008 and making a 54% higher salary than African Americans in 2007 (Kottak, 70) since Pembroke was a comparatively more expensive place to live than it’s surrounding areas. I was never really exposed to any minority groups, which Kottack describes as “having inferior power and less secure access to resources than majority groups,” (Kottak, 70) until I moved to Florida at age 12. While the town I moved to would be considered exceedingly similar to Pembroke in terms of demographics, I became aware of Florida’s ethnic diversity when traveling to neighboring towns for Pop Warner football games with my cheerleading squad. Our coaches would tell us when we visited certain towns that we could not even go to the restroom without having one of our fathers wait outside for us. Being alone was considered a “safety issue.” This concern was justified when boys from another town’s team assaulted a football player from my town’s team and sent to the hospital almost in a coma. They had fought him for his money and shoes. This is where my initial preconceived notion of minorities developed.

The high school I attended was not in my town, and was therefore much more diverse than my middle school. The first thing I noticed was how incredibly varied, yet segregated its population was. It was the definition of resegregation, “which is the physical separation of racial or ethnic groups reappearing after a period of relative integration.” (Schaefer, 29) Students just stayed in their groups; whites with whites, blacks with blacks, and Hispanics with Hispanics. There was even a noticeable separation of English speaking and non-English speaking Hispanics. I eventually realized this most likely had a lot do with the fact that these assorted ethnicities had both grown up and attended school in the same areas and remained in similar level classes

During my sophomore year, I began volunteering at the Head Start program in neighboring Indian Town, a place known for its’ primarily Hispanic and African American population. I unfortunately had prejudiced, preconceived notions about what these children and their parents would be like. I ended up being pleasantly surprised, however. By the culmination of the experience, I had created relationships with the kids that I hope to never forget. This was (as corny as it sounds) a life altering experience that caused me to go from being rather ethnocentric “by using one’s own cultural standards and values in judging the behaviors and beliefs of people from different cultures,” to seeing the world through culturally relative eyes by “viewing that behavior in one culture should not be judges by the standards of another.” (Kottak ,19)

I now can say with utmost honesty that I do not judge people by their outward appearance or ethnicity and I certainly do not place people into racial stereotypes or groups. Being born with a physical handicap that I cannot change and did not choose causes me to sympathize with people who are prosecuted for things such as ethnicity or skin color which they cannot change, and obviously did not choose. I have made the best of my own situation, as did my grandmother and so many other immigrants in this country. Therefore, I will never make judgments based on ethnicity alone but cannot help but judge someone who willingly breaks the law, whether it be in the form of bank robbery or entering the country illegally because in the end it is not fair to those who spend their entire lives living within the laws of land, despite the various costs and hardships that can accompany that.

My feelings about ethnicity and everything that goes with it have been shaped by both my upbringing and personal experiences. I have been lucky enough to have a grandmother who has instilled a rich German heritage into my life and has served as a role model for many of the personal choices and opinions I have taken with me into adulthood.  I would be lying if I said I was not biased on certain immigration issues, but it is because of the pride I feel deep in my heart for what my grandmother accomplished to become a thriving American citizen.

 Works Cited

Kottak, C. P. (2012). On being different. (4 ed.). New York, NY: The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.

Schaefer, R. T. (2011). Race and ethnicity in the united states. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.