causes of different economic development among different immigration groups in the United States will be documented on a description of the economic level of each community and some of its characteristics, as well as on the different policies that the U.S. government may have applied in their cases and on the social and human capital they have brought along.
The Cubans represent a case apart, mainly due to the legal stimuli that they received from the White House administration for their immigration. Indeed, as many sources were keen to mention, the Cuban immigrates were privileged, in the sense that, unlike many other populations, they were not required to prove their position as political immigrates, but their status was predefined as such, because of Fidel Castro's Communist regime in Cuba. This meant that they were automatically considered refugees and received the privileges that went with this position.
Additionally, starting from 1966, "the Attorney General has had discretionary power to guarantee permanent residency to any Cuban who has been in the United States for a year"
, even to persons that had outstayed their visa period. Both measures I have mentioned were obviously methods of encouraging a strong Cuban immigration, especially intellectuals, with the goal of weakening Fidel Castro's regime.
There are three waves of Cuban immigration to the United States
. The first wave brought the first immigrants after the Cuban Revolution, in 1959. These were generally intellectuals or wealthy middle class individuals. Immigration to the United States did not only mean an important human and social capital import, but also a serious financial capital. The fact that they were received by the Americans as victims of the Castro regime, that they brought along consistent financial assets that allowed them to start profitable businesses in the United States and that they were generally intellectuals and business men led to the creation of a powerful Cuban community, especially in Miami and other cities in Florida. Many of these characteristics remain nowadays in the Cuban community. Additionally, many frequented political circles that allowed them to practice a highly efficient lobby against the Castro government
The second wave of Cuban immigrants was somewhat different from the first. Indeed, less educated and less wealthy, this wave of immigrants included "criminals (political and otherwise), homosexuals, and mentally ill persons"
. This general perception does not seem to be backed up by statistical data, as only around 1% did actually belong to these categories and it is now generally considered that the level of education did not greatly differ from the previous arrivals.
Finally, the third wave of Cuban immigration comes after 1990, with the agreement between the two governments to increase the number of legal Cuban immigrants to 20,000 per year. I don't believe their structure is greatly modified from what I have previously mentioned.
As we can see from the information presented here above, there are several reasons for which the Cuban community is an economically prosperous one. First of all, its members were never poor, as many of them (at least in the first and third waves), came to the United States with strong financial assets. Second of all, the level of intellectual capital allowed them to start successful business in the U.S. Finally, immigration laws and statuses were quite lenient in their case.
The Asian group includes individuals from Chinese, Japanese and Korean backgrounds, but also from Vietnam or the Philippines. This separate nationalities share some of the same characteristics, in terms of economic life in the United States, the organization of their community and the attitude of other U.S. residents towards their communities.
For many of the members of the Asian communities, immigration to the U.S. came as a natural response to degrading level of income and overall living conditions in their own countries. All came to the United States to find a better life, however, most often, the level of education they had gained in their own country did not pay off in the U.S.: many became blue collar workers even if they had been white collars in their countries. As such, many members of the Asian community started their own businesses, a sign of a prosperous community by most standards.
The fact that many of the members find it difficult to learn English (I am referring to the non-American born Asians first of all) encouraged them to build strong local communities, where individuals help each other and are somewhat isolated from the rest of the population. It was only natural that economic conflicts occurred, especially with the Latino and African-American population, and many of these were quite violent, including devastation of several Asian stores. This was also because the Americans generally saw the Asian community as a direct competition on the workplace market. Indeed, hard-working and conscientious, they became direct competitors, especially for blue-collar jobs, where they competed with the African-American and Latino populations.
In terms of political influence, this is still debatable, but the general conclusion may be that, even if political representation is still at low levels, the Asian lobby is beginning to make its presence felt at significant levels.
A characteristic that is come for all cultures belonging to the Asian immigrant group is a high level of cultural cohesion. I have already listed some of the reasons for this. Many of the members are organized in strong communities, often with little ties to the outside and with difficulties in communicating with the other citizens. Hence, the community gives a sense of appurtenance through the cultural identity.
We have had so far two examples of wealthy and strong immigration groups. The Dominican group, present mostly in New York, is somewhat of a different story. Indeed, according to a study released by Teachers College and the Dominican Studies Institute at City College, the "Dominicans are city's fastest growing, poorest group"
. According to the same study, in 1990, 36% of the Dominican population living in the City lived below poverty line. Quoting Ramona Hernandez, author of the study, "the low and declining earnings of unskilled workers in New York constitute a formidable barrier for the Dominican population. And the decline of manufacturing as a sector of employment has had a devastating impact on Dominican workers, especially women"
However, the economic situation that the Dominican community is in has also other explanations. Education is one of them. In 1990, 61.5% of the Dominican population in New York that was 25 years of age or older had not completed high school. This dramatically low educational level meant that self-employment represented only 7% of the total Dominican labor force in New York. Further more, the proportion of Dominicans employed in managerial positions was only around 8-9%, according to the same source.
Although they share the same area, Miami and Florida, unlike the Cubans who were welcomed both by the U.S. government and the American population, the Haitians are pejoratively referred to as "the Boat People" and "faced the seemingly insurmountable barrier of a harsh racism ingrained in the history, culture and institutions of the U.S."
. The same source emphasizes the fact that lack of resources and constant racial pressures may lead the Haitian community to adopt "the appearances and styles of African-American"
community. This may lead us to believe that, differently from the strong sense of community that the Asian communities have, for example, survival methodologies for the Haitian community is equivalent to renouncing their cultural identity.
The Mexican community has somewhat of a special status, as there are also forms of temporal immigration, especially for labor. The Bush Administration has managed to draw a large support from the Mexican community by promising to regulate their immigration status and give more easily a working permit for temporary Mexican residents working in the U.S. The Mexican community is currently…