Migration patterns and immigration policies have affected families, both U.S. and foreign-born, in a number of ways. The very act of immigrating influences family life and generally leads to at least some acculturation. Once individuals move to the United States, they and their children are likely to adopt many aspects of the culture and language as a means of fitting in. This acculturation is demonstrated in numerous ways, including dating, marriage and childbearing trends. For example, second generation or U.S. born Latinas show similar childbearing rates to the dominant U.S. culture. However, first-generation immigrant Latinas in the U.S. continue to demonstrate childbearing rates more similar to those abroad. In essence, the process of immigration often leads to the restructuring of families and family dynamics. While micro level changes within the family are important to consider, we can also evaluate how macro-level national immigration policies have influenced family life.
In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, which prevented Chinese individuals from becoming citizens and also prevented any new Chinese immigrants from coming to the United States. In terms of family life, this meant that many of the Chinese men working in the United States were unable to bring their families with them. This policy helps to solidify the idea that race/ethnicity adds another layer of complexity to immigration and its surrounding issues. Because of the anti-Chinese sentiment at the time, a policy was created that quite literally kept individuals apart from their children, spouses, and parents. I think it is important to address the fact that even now, the United States appears more willing to allow people from stereotypically white countries to immigrate to the United States, while often looking at immigrants from less white countries as “dangerous” and “undesirable.” President Trump has reportedly made it clear that he prefers immigrants who come from countries such as Norway, as opposed to countries such as Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries. Clearly, race/ethnicity add to the overall complexity of immigration and the policies that surround it.
Another act would be passed in 1924 that would negatively impact families wanting to immigrate from Europe or Asia. The Immigration Act created a quota-based system for European countries and only allowed a few individuals from each to migrate. Immigration from Asia was ended altogether. While this act likely had similar repercussions to the Chinese Exclusion Act such as forcing families to live apart from their loved ones, another interesting impact was observed in the immigrant communities of the United States. Communities that were once easily replenished with new groups of immigrants, no longer had a steady source of nourishment. This led to a faster rate of acculturation among the children, meaning they were quicker to assimilate into the dominant culture of the United States.