Why Immigrant Integration Matters To Me

Clarissa Alvarez

National Intern, Spring 2016


I always felt comfortable in my hometown, knowing that the majority of us came from similar backgrounds. For 18 years I had been exposed to a very peculiar and interesting culture, and I’m starting to think I took it for granted. My hometown is not what you would call a diverse city. Its people are predominantly Hispanic, and many times I felt as if we were part of Mexico.

Although I wouldn’t classify my hometown as a diverse city, I do think that it is rich in culture. Its people struggle to integrate into to the American culture, while at the same time wanting to keep their Mexican practices. The people are exposed to the U.S. system but their Latin roots and norms is something that many are proud of and intend to keep. This town is Laredo, Texas.

Both of my parents were born in Mexico, but they eventually left for America in search of jobs and a better life. When my Mother was just 14, she and her sisters left their home in Mexico in order to look for a decent paying job in America. Working as a housekeeper and sending all her hard-earned money back home to support my grandparents became routine for many years after that.

When my Father was just 3, he along with his family, left their home in Mexico and immigrated to America. Although he was too young to understand then, to him it became evident that his parents wanted him and his siblings to have more opportunities to succeed in America. Ultimately, both met as adults and had my brother and me.

As for my parents, it took them years after immigrating to America to finally feel comfortable enough to settle in and continue their lives together in America. Every year, many immigrants try to settle in America, and they don’t just come from Latin America, but from every continent. The scope of people struggling to integrate into America is only becoming more complex and extensive every day. The integration into a new culture and country is something that is not easily achieved. It requires the process by which two, or even more cultures try to understand, conform to, and accommodate one another.

So how can we encourage and make it easier for immigrants to unify their roots to the American ones? How can we help them integrate without forcing them to assimilate? How do we let them know that we are here help them integrate into American culture without them feeling uncomfortable or even insulted by offering opportunities that require their adjustment to a new country?

I am proud to have been born in a city where the American system benefits me, and where I am still able to partly immerse myself with my Mexican origins. However, not everyone has their home country as a next door neighbor. I joined the Cisneros Center for New Americans to help find a way where it won’t take decades for immigrants to finally settle in comfortably in America; to find a way where immigrants would feel the need and desire to incorporate their culture with the American one without fearing that it will be subsumed.

This past August I moved to Washington D.C. to attend university at George Washington University. Although I knew that the environment would be completely different, and that I would be exposed to a variety of different cultures, I was still anxious about living in such a diverse setting. It is only now that I understand how difficult it can be to immigrate from a place you have been comfortable with for many years, and move to a place where you are exposed to anything but what are used to.

I joined because I want other people, young and old, to know that whether you are an immigrant yourself or the child of immigrants, cultural exchange is not something that should be feared or rejected but something that should be desired.

Cisneros Center for New Americans


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