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What Effect Does Immigration Have on Culture?

Whenever you see a sustained influx of immigrants anywhere in the world, you can be assured that cultural change will take place at some point. This is one aspect of immigration that advocates and opponents are quick to agree on, but both sides will invariably argue about whether this is positive or negative.

Opposing Views of Immigration’s Cultural Impact

The anti-immigration discourse usually pushes the idea of foreigners eroding national culture and identity. In the United States, the administration of former President Donald Trump articulated this idea through White House advisor Stephen Miller, whose maternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Belarus. In the United Kingdom, controversial politician Nigel Farage used this viewpoint to argue in favor of the Brexit referendum, and he was one of the first foreigners to meet with Trump after the 2016 U.S. election.

Immigration advocates, such as immigration lawyers in San Diego, CA, will argue that acculturation of foreigners inevitably happens, usually beginning with the second generation, and that this will eventually result in positive cultural diversity. The erosion of traditional cultural values and practices in the host country may or may not take place, but change will certainly happen, and it often extends to the country of origin.

Historical Perspective

The cultures practiced, observed, and revered in major regions of the world have always been shaped by immigration. Anthropologists who adhere to the modern version of the “Out of Africa” hypothesis believe the established factors of replacement, continuity, and assimilation explain more than just the origin of prehistoric societies. They also illustrate how culture is shaped by sociological evolution. This change happens across generations, and it rarely unfolds in a linear fashion, but it always happens.

Measuring Cultural Change

There are two main ways in which changes to the culture of host societies can be measured and observed: neutral and cost-cooperative values. Language, art, customs, fashion, cuisine, and even worldviews are neutral values. Paying taxes, obeying the law, and working toward the improvement of communities are examples of cost-cooperative values.

Professor Alex Mesoudi, a cultural evolution specialist at the University of Exeter, has observed a 50 percent rate of acculturation among various migrant groups in the United Kingdom. Both neutral values and cost-cooperative values tend to be adopted starting with the second generation.

Acculturation in the U.S.

Acculturation happens even faster in the U.S. If we look at organized groups such as the “dreamers” impacted by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, they’re first-generation individuals whose acculturation made them Americans from an early age because that’s how they felt while they were growing up. These dreamers have lost more than 50 percent of their birth cultures, and more than 50 percent of their cultural identities have been shaped by American society.

The process of acculturation can go both ways, but the society of the host country decides how much to abandon or absorb. There’s no way to predict how this happens, but it’s almost always through an organic process starting in the third generation. This is how proto-languages such as Spanglish form, and it serves as the inspiration for designating certain districts, such as the numerous “Little China” and “Little Italy” neighborhoods across the U.S.

In this time of political turmoil surrounding immigration policies, it’s easy to forget how immigration increases cultural diversity that benefits both immigrants and their new home countries. If you have questions about any aspect of immigration, contact trusted attorneys who have vast experience with immigration services. In San Diego, CA, KS Visa Law is the firm to turn to when you need advice about immigration law and how it affects you and your family. Call us today at 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.


April 2024