Immigration has been an ongoing and important source of growth and development for the United States. Attitudes toward these new arrivals, both legal and illegal, have varied with time and circumstances. One constant concern has been the assimilation of immigrants, who are often required to seek acceptance by means of Anglo-conformity.
The United States is a relatively young nation. In contrast to the makeup of older nations, its population has been, and continues to be, drawn from all over the world. The country’s colonial era saw a struggle for cultural dominance among English, French, Spanish, and Dutch settlers. Eventually, the English became both the majority and dominant group in what became the United States. For this reason, English language, English laws, and English customs became central to the national culture. Those who shared, or were willing and able to share, this culture were most easily assimilated. Within the United States, Anglo-conformity is said to form the basis of a single unifying culture that is important for any heterogeneous nation.
During the early formative years of the independent American nation, most new immigrants came from western Europe. Some nationalities were considered questionable in regards to how well they would be able to assimilate into American culture. For example,
Individual immigrants fit into various types or categories that can influence society’s reaction to them. The immigrants may be
•legal or illegal
•voluntary or involuntary (such as slaves)
•refugees who have well-founded fears of persecution because of their race, religion, ethnicity, or political affiliation
•migrants who are seeking work
•safe-haven seekers who want temporary safety from disasters
•sojourners who come for a specific short-term reasons, such as tourism or study.
Immigrants who are interested in remaining in the United States are expected to conform to Anglo culture. The most basic requirements are conformity to language and laws. A certain degree of Anglo-conformity is required, not only for general social acceptance but also for
Anglo-conformity has been expected of immigrants and is encouraged, but it has generally been regarded as voluntary. However, that has not always been the case. For example, although
The second wave occurred during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and brought many southern and eastern European immigrants as well as non-Europeans. These groups were usually considered less acceptable and less able to be assimilated than earlier immigrants.
The third wave began in the second half of the twentieth century and was the most religiously, ethnically, and racially diverse of them all. The most numerous immigrants during this wave were Hispanic, with the greatest number coming from Mexico. The second most numerous were Asians, the majority of whom came from the Philippines.
Prior to the passage of the
Immigration legislation passed after 1965, when the national-origins emphasis on quotas was eliminated, has been less concerned with religion, race, and ethnicity and more concerned with family unity and economic assets, including education and occupations. The result seems to be a trend away from Anglo-conformity and a move toward
Deveaux, Monique. Cultural Pluralism and Dilemmas of Justice. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2000. Thoughtful exploration of the ethical and legal problems arising in a pluralistic society such as that of the United States. Gabaccia, Donna R. Immigration and American Diversity: A Social and Cultural History. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2002. Survey of American immigration history, with attention to ethnic conflicts, nativism, and racialist theories. Kramer, Eric Mark, ed. The Emerging Monoculture: Assimilation and the “Model Minority.” Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003. Collection of essays on a wide variety of topics relating to cultural assimilation and the notion of “model minorities,” with particular attention to immigrant communities in Japan and the United States. Myers, John. Dominant-Minority Relations in America: Convergence in the New World. 2d ed. New York: Allyn & Bacon, 2006. Textbook that examines intergroup relations through both conflict and assimilationist perspectives and encourages readers to see them as part of the process of dominant-minority interaction. The second edition of this work has added a chapter on Arab Americans. Singh, Jaswinder, and Kalyani Gopal. Americanization of New Immigrants: People Who Come to America and What They Need to Know. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2002. Survey of the cultural adjustments through which new immigrants to the United States must go. Wiley, Terrence G. Literacy and Language Diversity in the United States. 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: Center for Applied Linguistics, 2005. Comprehensive study of language and literacy in American education.
English as a second language
English-only and official English movements