Immigrant dream, American reality


Catherine Zhou and Sophie Au

For many immigrants who stream into the United States through New York, Lady Liberty is the first thing that greets them. It has since then become an symbol symbol of hope and opportunities for immigrants achieve their dreams.

Emily Pedroza and Apurva Krishnamurthy

Inscribed on the Statue of Liberty are the U.S.’s claims to provide refuge for “masses yearning to breathe free.” Many immigrants reap the country’s benefits by achieving their greatest desires. But, when the adjustment process presents obstacles for optimistic immigrants, does the American Dream become a mere pipe dream? 

While motivations for immigrating to the U.S. differ, one common drive is the yearning to start anew. Some relocate to flee from calamities while others for better education.

“My family came here to give me and my sister greater opportunities,” senior Leo Xu said. “My American Dream is about family but also myself. I want to be someone I can be proud of.”

The term “American Dream” originates from “Epic of America,” a book by James Truslow Adams, who defined it as an “opportunity for each according to ability.” It is a deeply integrated concept throughout Hollywood that attributes success to hard work without recognizing the influence of merit, and settles in the subconscious of many abroad with the increasing popularity of American media

“My dad said America is the land of dreams,” junior Gauri Jain said. “When I came here, it was like my dreams were coming true.” 

On U.S. soil, many immigrants face housing segregation stemming from discriminatory practices and lack of financial power. Many prejudiced landowners implement exclusionary zoning to keep their neighborhoods “safe”. As immigrants also don’t have a credit history with American lenders, their low credit scores lead to struggles when obtaining a mortgage. If approved for a mortgage, it is commonly at a higher interest or annual percentage rate, adding to financial burdens.

Higher education, a major driving factor for immigration, is viewed as a vehicle for social mobility. Yet a number of minority students struggle to complete school and pay their tuition. Undocumented students, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, don’t qualify for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Coupled with having to grasp a new language, immigrants seeking employment face a prolonged cycle of job disparities in the workplace. 

“The melting pot is a problematic analogy that has since been questioned,” said West Valley English and Social Justice Studies professor Leigh Burril. “It suggests that we’re all going to go in and melt and come out having the same equitable experiences on the other side.” 

Immigrant aid programs, like the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants, provides cash assistance to the aged, blind or disabled, who are ineligible to receive State Supplementary Payment due to their immigration status. The government has done little to keep the community afloat as there is a lack of community building resources for new immigrants.

The American Dream is a nice concept. It’s still a goal. It’s not a reality for a lot of Americans.” Burrill said. 

The immigrant experience with the American Dream often drifts from initial expectations, fostering less than ideal conditions for asylum seekers in modern society. Yet, the abundance of resources and opportunity, ranging from the workplace to livelihood, has been a driving force of immigration over the centuries.

“The land of dreams means a place where we are happy and together as a family, “ Jain said. “Where it feels like home.”