An Inside Look: Incorrect Perceptions of Immigrant Families

Families are the root of how we live. We gain our values, morals, and traditions from them. They are the usually the biggest influences in our lives. Families made up of immigrant parents give children a different upbringing compared to other American families. Immigrants and their American born children are now numbered to be about 81 million in population or about 26% of the United States’ population (Batalova and Zong, “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States”). This means that about a fourth of the population is made up of immigrants and their children. But, if the number is so high why are there still so many stereotypes associated with immigrants and their families? Both of my parents are from Guatemala, so I have had experience and have heard of experiences from other people engaging in confrontations about the stereotypes and perceptions associated with being Hispanic. These perceptions include things like having no education, relying on government programs, and not knowing how to speak English. Of course, there are always going to people who perfectly fit the mold of the stereotype bestowed upon them because where else would the stereotype have come from? But, the majority of the time the claims upon groups of people, for the most part, are extremely inaccurate and unseemly.

The notions implied about immigrant families need to be corrected in order for people to not judge a person upon their race or background. When a certain label has been placed upon something, whatever it is, it is hard to eliminate that stigma. These inaccurate brands put upon immigrants and their families or even people who are not typical “Americans” are extremely hurtful and sometimes even dangerous. People may gain a false sense of superiority because of these stereotypes which could lead them to act upon prejudices. In one incident a Puerto Rican family, the Santiagos, who are the only minority family on their street, realized after picking up a child from her bus stop that someone had scratched into their car “Go Home” ( Sgueglia and Yan, “‘Make America White Again’: Hate speech and crimes post-election”). It is clearly shown that having false images of a person or group of people is dangerous. In a broad sense, having a false perception on something, in this case immigrants and their families, can cause one to not truly understand a people and how they live their life. Therefore, in this essay I hope to give more understanding and insights to Hispanic families relating to their false labels. Also, as a disclaimer, every family is different, and I am not trying to say that my family is absolutely representative of every immigrant family.

My mom gets up to work at 5 AM every day, even on weekends, in able to support the family. There is a stereotype that immigrant families rely on social welfare or other government mandated programs and do not work for a living, when in reality, many immigrant parents work 12+ hours a day in order to be able to provide food on the table for their children.
The word immigrant is often associated with illegal causing it to have a negative connotation. There are people out there that assume all immigrants are illegal, which is not correct. In 2014, 47% of immigrants residing in the United States were naturalized citizens; the remaining were lawful permanent residents, people on visas, and illegal immigrants (Batalova and Zong, “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States”). This goes to show that most immigrants are here lawfully. Our nation was made up of immigrants, and it is troubling to see how people treat immigrants today. This photo shows my mother’s flag that she was given at her naturalization ceremony on October 21, 2015.
A common perception is that immigrants come to the United States to have many children so that they may gain the benefits of being born in America. This not always the case. In the instance of my family, I am the only biological child born in the United States while my biological brother is from Guatemala. Unlike the common perception, my parents did not have any more children; they ended up adopting an American born child, who is now known as my brother Zack, pictured at the top.
There are many Hispanic-serving grocery stores that sell primarily Hispanic based foods and items. With stores and other things like this, it may seem like immigrants refuse to assimilate and accept American culture and even food. But, what people do not realize is that having small things, like a Hispanic grocery store, helps immigrants keep their roots and even makes them feel as if they are back home with their common people.
A view from family residing in home countries is that after immigrant parents establish a living in the United States, they lose their culture and do not care about their heritage. A small example of this is that they may believe we only care to eat traditional American food, but my family stays to our roots and eats traditional Hispanic food, even for American holidays like Thanksgiving. This was part of my meal for the holiday.
A common stereotype is that Hispanics do not know or bother to learn English. Ingles Sin Barreras has made a business out of trying to help Hispanics learn English by providing a learning system through videos and books. My mom bought the set in order to try to learn English which ended being about $285. It is difficult for people who are already grown to learn a new language when moving to a completely different country, which is why many stay speaking their native tongue. In research done, it was found that neuroplasticity decreases as one becomes older and in effect, the brain is not as easily able to change itself to respond to new experiences (Costandi, “Am I too old to learn a new language?”). This makes it increasingly difficult to learn a new language.
Some may think that immigrants are not educated since many of them did not receive the same education that they were fortunate enough to receive in the United States. Obviously, this is not true because some have degrees from where they are from, which sadly is sometimes not enough to receive a job in America. Others have different forms of intelligence or were educated in different ways such as to be mechanics or carpenters. For example, my father and mother are very artistically inclined, so they do house designs. This particular design is in my home’s kitchen and my father did it with a feather he found outside and a sponge.
Every family loves and cares for each other. No matter what side of the planet they are on, everyone shares the same feelings and emotions. This is my family; we are typical, but at the same time we are not because what family is “normal?” As shown in this photo, the girls and gentleman in the back probably do not think we are normal, but this is okay. It just goes to show that every family is similar yet different no matter the race or color of skin.

Everyone is misunderstood, whether it be because of the way they dress, the way they act, or even where their family is from. For me, the biggest misunderstood part of my identity is being Hispanic. There are always stereotypes associated with the way a person is or chooses to be. The important thing is to always stay true to who you are even if people misperceive you. I know the way it truly is to be raised in an immigrant family, and no one can ever tell me different. It is the greatest blessing to be a part of two different and distinct cultures, Guatemalan and American, because they have made me who I am.

Works Cited

Batalova, Jeanne, and Jie Zong. “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States.” Migration Information Source. Migration Policy Institute. 14 Apr. 2016. Web. 4 Dec. 2016.

Costandi, Mo. “Am I too old to learn a new language?” Education. The Guardian. 13 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 Dec. 2016.

Sgueglia, Kristina and Yan, Holly. “‘Make America White Again’: Hate speech and crimes post-election.” Crime and Justice. CNN. 29 Nov. 2016. Web. 4 Dec. 2016.

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