Immigrants’ Integration into the Mainstream America

Jamil Mogul

With all its past and present imperfectness in various aspects, America—the country of mainly immigrants—has been (and still is) a choiciest, if not the choicest, country to come or move to for many people from other countries for various reasons, such as a job or business opportunity, higher education, higher living standard, advanced medical care, scientific and technological achievement, or individual freedom (personal, political and religious), and/or to join a loved one or an immediate family member who is a U.S. citizen, or to live out the ‘American Dream’. The United States which has a long tradition of welcoming people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds is known as the Land of Opportunity.

A long lineage of religiously or politically persecuted men and women have taken refuge in America ever since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Religious/political dissidents who were barred from their homelands as enemies of the state have immigrated to America so that they will not be silenced and that they will have a safety and a better life for themselves and their families; and as such, they saw America as a promised land. While attracted by the free society, free/open market, and creative spirit, over four million refugees have since World War II come to America from all over the world and have flourished in its creative openness.

The word, America, has implied hope, opportunity, and freedom for millions of people over the last two and half centuries. The words on the Stature of Liberty in New York harbor have sounded true:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Based on an estimate, between 1840 and 1914, about 35 million people out of over 60 million people left tired, tyrannized, and troubled Europe and immigrated in order to find new homes, second chances, and better lives for themselves and their children, in the “New World.” that is the United States. These European immigrants resettled in America while never looking back, integrated into the mainstream American society while culturally melting and adding or assimilating to the evolving American culture, introduced their cuisines, arts, literature, languages, music, and skills while adopting the American cultural heritages and civic values, and called themselves Americans while gradually disassociating themselves from their native European lands (the “Old World”).

In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act of the United States overhauled the American immigration system by ending the national origin quotas which had been enacted in the 1920s and which favored some racial and ethnic groups over others. The Act replaced the quota system with a seven-category preference system emphasizing family reunification and skilled immigrants. Both family reunification and job skills became a driving force in U.S. immigration, giving preference to immigrating people whose immediate relatives were in the United States and whose occupations were found to be critical by the U.S. Department of Labor. However, after 1970, immigrants from places like Korea, China, India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, as well as countries in Africa became more common in America.

To become a naturalized citizen of America, an immigrant takes an oath of allegiance in a citizenship-oath ceremony by raising the right hand and is sworn in to renounce any allegiance to a foreign country (i.e., the country of origin) and to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies (the text of the U.S. citizenship oath is available online).

But there is an issue with certain naturalized citizens, which is their relentless refusal to integrate into the Mainstream society of their adopted country, culturally or socially.

A large majority (70% to 90%) of naturalized citizens originally from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Arab and Islamic countries seems to be culturally, mentally, and/or emotionally attached to their country of origin. They often socialize only with those people who are from their own country of origin while they misconstrue and denigrate the culture or society of the adopted country in a hostile manner, especially if the adopted country is a Western country (just like, they often used to say anti-West things in their country of origin). They usually watch TV programs of their own country of origin; and they get any news about the adopted country from the electronic/TV news media based in their own country of origin. They keep to themselves and they often do not know, nor do they interact with, their next-door neighbor who is Western. Simply speaking, they work in the adopted country, but they mentally live in their own country of origin. In other words, they have diligently sought and gotten the citizenship papers and insensitively taken the benefits of and/or availed themselves of the opportunities in the adopted country, but they have rejected the adopted country’s Mainstream society, which is not fair to the adopted country that has provided them with all the economic, academic, professional and/or business opportunities, and financial and other benefits and a better quality of life with advanced facilities.

Additionally, certain naturalized citizens still literally associate themselves with their country of origin. For an example, Over 90% of naturalized American citizens originally from Pakistan still call themselves Pakistanis or “Overseas Pakistanis”, not Americans (but occasionally, they call themselves Pakistani-Americans for a personal or political expediency); and they consider themselves as pure Pakistani nationals with a desire or demand to participate in voting during elections in Pakistan; and surprisingly, the “Overseas Pakistanis” were (and are) allowed (to break their oath of allegiance to their adopted countries) by the Election Commission of Pakistan to cast their votes online, just like the Pakistani nationals in Pakistan. This, I am sorry to say, seems so strange (and unsettling), from my American perspective.

As mentioned above, in America, except for the indigenous Indians (who are correctly called Native Americans), all the other peoples are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from countries all over the world. Just like Pakistani-Americans, there are generationally British-Americans, Scottish-Americans, Irish-Americans, German-Americans, Italian-Americans, French-Americans, Polish-Americans, Norwegian-Americans, Swedish-Americans, Danish-Americans, Dutch-Americans, Swiss-Americans, etc. But all of them gave up the hyphenation and integrated—culturally and socially melted together—to form a different culture (an American culture) and a diverse society (a Mainstream American society) with an American English containing American slangs, idioms, vernaculars and accents, and model civic values that are a beacon of individual liberty, freedom, and democracy for other countries to possibly follow the civic values. And as indicated above, they call themselves Americans.

So, like the other naturalized American citizens originally from UK and Europe, the Pakistani-Americans who call themselves Pakistanis or “Overseas Pakistanis” must learn from their fellow Americans and integrate culturally and socially into the Mainstream American society and give up the hyphenation and call themselves just Americans. In addition, they must be sincere and fair to America; and most importantly, they must honor the oath of the U.S, citizenship by being loyal to America and by having only one passport—the U.S. passport. No dual citizenship so as to stay true to the oath of allegiance.

Additionally, it is relevant to mention that a person with a dual nationality who has a U.S. passport and who later officially decides to be loyal, in every aspect, to the native country or to the country of origin must renounce the U.S. nationality and surrender the U.S. passport. Otherwise, this person would be in violation of the U.S. citizenship oath if the U.S. passport is still used for traveling to the United States or to other visa-free countries allowed by holding the U.S. passport.

Recently, in Pakistan, a dual citizenship concern or issue has become a hot-button topic of conversations or discussions in the electronic/TV or print news media and been covered in op-ed write-ups. There are those who defend dual citizenship as a personal preference for traveling more easily and hassle-free to a native country and/or as a needed means for taking an advantage of a political appointment opportunity in the native country’s government. But there are others who are ardently opposed to dual citizenship on moral, ethical, or legal grounds while pointing to an oath of allegiance taken by an immigrant to become a naturalized citizen of an adopted country.

In certain cases, in Pakistan, when they were sworn in or they pledged an allegiance to the Pakistan Constitution and laws, the Pakistani officials with a dual nationality broke the other country’s oath of allegiance that they had taken previously, or these officials were being evasive in Pakistan.

In other words, their swearing-in or pledge invalidated their prior allegiance to the constitution or laws of the other (adopted) country. So, these officials who still carry and use the passport of the adopted country are either disloyal to the adopted country or insincere to Pakistan; and as such, obviously, these officials are potentially traitors. Therefore, it is incorrect to say, “Dual nationals are not traitors.”

The author is based in California (U.S.A.) who tweets @jamilmogul.

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