Heterogeneity and a vibrant multiethnic ambiance characterize urban life in America. For the past several hundred years, the population of the United States has been bolstered by people migrating from abroad: from Europe at first, and later, from countries from the far corners of the world. According to Nancy Kleniewski in her article "Immigrants and the City," at least 22 million current residents of the United States are immigrants (p. 152). In addition to augmenting the cultural fabric of the United States, immigrants are also "having a profound impact on the economics, politics, and culture of the United States," (Kleniewski p. 152). Kleniewski assesses the contemporary conditions of immigrant populations in the United States, noting especially why immigrants tend to settle predominantly in urban areas. For instance, Kleniewski notes that 93% of all immigrants in the United States live in urban centers. Choosing urban centers is not necessarily based on a personal preference for metropolitan life. In fact, many immigrants came from rural regions in their countries of origin. Job availability is the main reason immigrants in the United States choose to move to urban centers. However, Kleniewski also mentions the importance of community enclaves in the decision to move to cities rather than rural regions. In addition to the greater number of jobs available in cities, urban areas offer pre-established communities in which new immigrants can thrive and prosper in spite of language or cultural barriers. Similarly, many new immigrants arrive in the United States in the footsteps of their family members who encourage them to seek employment, a phenomenon Kleniewski calls "chain migration," (p. 147). Due to shifting cultural values and political climates, the experiences of immigrants vary considerably from generation to generation.
The contemporary conditions of immigrants and immigrant communities in the United States follow certain patterns. Kleniewski notes that many immigrant workers do not always intend to reside permanently in the United States but rather envision their immigrant status as being temporary. Such "sojourner" immigrants tend to retain strong political and cultural ties to their countries of origin. As a result, sojourner immigrants resist the pressure to assimilate into an American "melting pot." Sojourner immigration is common in the United States when employers seek temporary or seasonal workers or when laws permit a temporary influx of immigrants on either economic or refugee status. Sojourner immigrants are often young married men who intend to work for short periods of time and return to their sending country with a substantial savings. However, Kleniewski states that "Although they had not intended to become permanent residents of North American cities, events helped shape their futures differently than they had expected," (p. 148). Thus, many sojourner immigrants unwittingly become settlers, permanent residents of the United States. In some cases, the immigrants encourage family members in their country of origin to join them in America. Occasionally, sojourner immigrants overstay the terms of their visa and become illegal immigrants; Kleniewski takes care to dispel the myth that most illegal immigrants sneak across the U.S.-Mexican border in the middle of the night. Rather, most simply overstay their legal visa.
When immigrants form enclave communities, they create conditions that favor economic growth and political empowerment. Enclaves allow entrepreneurs to establish businesses that cater to specific niche markets, as through importing goods from their home countries or offering services that are meaningful to the enclave community. On the other hand, enclave immigrant businesses also contribute to the non-immigrant local economy by offering goods and services to the entire region. In addition to providing vital and viable means by which to establish independent businesses, enclave economies permit chain migration to flourish. Kleniewski notes how enclave economies provide jobs for immigrants who would otherwise be unable to find work due to language barriers or other restrictions.
People leave their countries of origin for various microcosmic and macrocosmic reasons. Looking for work ranks number one, but many immigrants also move to escape political persecution or to join expatriated family members. American history has borne witness to three main waves of immigration. The first wave peaked between 1860 and 1890. Immigrants during this time period were mostly from northern European nations including Ireland, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. The religious, linguistic, and cultural…