There are many countries in the world where living conditions can be challenging to bear, to put it mildly. Citizens of developed countries such as the United States, Germany, Sweden, Japan, and so on often have little-to-no idea how difficult it is for millions of people all over the world to get through another day. Not even mentioning the African continent known mostly for its catastrophically-low life standards, poverty, and epidemics, there are many other places on the planet that are not easy to live in: the Middle East, Latin American countries such as Colombia, South-Eastern Asia, India, some countries of the former Soviet Union, and so on. Hunger, unemployment, poor sanitary conditions, corruption, wars and ethnic conflicts, piracy (meaning the real piracy, with robbery and murder, and not just downloading movies from torrent trackers)—these are only some of the problems that inhabitants of the poorer regions of the world have to go through on a daily basis.
Naturally, at some point in their lives, many of these people start considering moving to more developed countries to find new economic opportunities, and hopefully find a better place for themselves and their families to live at. Rather often, people choose neighboring countries for immigration: for example, citizens of Tajikistan often immigrate to Russia, Koreans who manage to escape North Korea go to China or Japan, Latin Americans often shift over to the United States, people from the Middle East immigrate to Europe, and so on. Immigration is a natural process, which under certain circumstances can be beneficial for both sides: immigrants can find a new, safer home, a job, and better living conditions, while hosting countries gain new workforce and new talents, as there are many talented and educated people among immigrants.
The downside of these processes is that immigration is never easy. Not only does a person have to abandon the environment he or she grew up in (and this means abandoning habitual cultural norms, social connections, familiar surroundings, and even family members sometimes), but also he or she has to face bureaucracy, uncertainty, all kinds of legal trouble, and sometimes xenophobia or racism. Being far from home, working twice as hard to make a living and somehow reinforcing their positions in a new country, immigrants may suffer from anxiety and depression for years. If an immigrant is illegally within a country, this fact may cause additional stress due to the risks of arrest, deportation, fines, and in general, because of having little-to-no rights.
Rather often, hardships begin even before a potential immigrant sets his or her feet on the land of his or her new home. For example, when immigrating to the United States under legal conditions, a person may have to wait in queues, since there are thousands of other people trying to do the same. This waiting may last for years, sometimes decades, as there are many bureaucratic formalities, all kinds of checks, and so on. The process, however, may be facilitated if an immigrant has a relative living in the United States. According to Rachel Wilson, an immigration attorney in Tucson, the United States immigration process can be frustrating because of the way immigration laws are set up. “Out there, there is this perception that there is a process you can easily go through to become legal, but let’s say you’re Mexican as an example, since most of the immigrants in Tucson are from Mexico. You decide you want to move to the U.S. for economic opportunity, but if you don’t have any family members here that will sponsor a visa for you, there is no way for them to come legally to the U.S. […] If you have an immediate relative who lives in the United States that is your spouse or a child over 21, then you can apply for a visa relatively quickly. It has to be your immediate relative and that person has to be a citizen. So then let’s say you have a spouse who is a legal permanent resident; then you have to get in line and wait probably three or four years. Or you go all the way down to the farthest relative away who can invite a person in, who is a brother or sister who is a citizen, and that line for Mexican citizens is long. There are different lines based on what country you are from. There are some countries that have extra long lines because the United States has determined that there are too many people from that country already,” says Wilson (Alternet).
Bureaucratic problems are not the only obstacles immigrants run into when moving to a new country. One of the most common issues almost every immigrant has to face sooner or later is a language barrier. Even for those who speak the language of the country they are moving to well, it may not be easy to settle in the new environment. Every language has dialects, accents, slang, phraseology, and so on; rather often, these nuances are impossible to learn if one is not living in the language environment, and in the best case scenario, future immigrants learn the foreign language back at home. So, when arriving to a new country and facing the “real” language, not the one taught in textbooks, an immigrant may feel discomfort and anxiety. Sooner or later, he or she will absorb the new knowledge, and will be able to understand people around them well. However, for immigrants who do not speak the language of the country they are moving to, or speak it poorly, things may get much harder. Language barriers increase the social isolation of an immigrant, disrupt his or her professional integration, cause severe stress, and make a person feel inferior to the citizens of the country they move to (lorricraig.com). Starting with trivial miscommunication, when an immigrant is unable to understand the speech of other people around them, and ending up with numerous hardships in personal and professional life, living without the knowledge of the language can be compared to being deaf and numb. In particular, such an immigrant cannot count on finding a more-or-less perspective job—he or she will be unable to write and submit a CV, not to mention passing interviews, filling in numerous blanks, documents, and so on. Receiving medical treatment, communicating with immigration departments, contacting authorities, buying food or even traversing a city: all this can be challenging if you cannot speak the language.
Yet another issue immigrants can face is discrimination. This conundrum is rarely considered by people for whom immigration may be the only chance for a normal life, but the sad truth is that newcomers in a hosting country may experience all kinds of prejudice and negative attitudes. In almost every country, there are people who have strong biases against the representatives of other cultures; although laws in developed countries protect all people regardless of their racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, or other background, a lot of immigrants face discrimination and infringement upon their rights on a daily basis. In particular, immigrants may face such an attitude when trying to find a job (potential employers may deny an immigrant of a position simply because they come from a different country), when moving to a new neighborhood (for instance, when a black person settles in a neighborhood traditionally inhabited by white people or vice versa), when addressing service agencies or schools (American Psychological Association). The latter is especially disappointing, since no prejudice or superstition can be a reasonable justification of denying children of their right to education. It is true that every job requires a certain educational level and language skills; however, rather often being an immigrant is enough for an employer to reject a person’s candidacy. Such an attitude causes a number of negative consequences for immigrants, starting with the inability to blend into a new society and become its fully-functioning member, and ending up with humiliation, disappointments and frustration, and feeling like a second-class person.
People immigrate because of a number of reasons, the most common of which is seeking a better life in a new country. There are many disadvantaged regions in the world, and not all people living in these areas agree with their living conditions. Believing they deserve better, they choose to immigrate to more developed countries, often facing a number of issues. One of these problems is numerous bureaucratic procedures that one has to endure: people have to spend years in lines, waiting for immigration bureaus to analyze their cases and give them permission to enter a country they want to move to, and seek a job there. The second problem is a language barrier; even if an immigrant has skill in the language of the country where he or she is moving to, it may be difficult to accommodate and adapt to the new language environment; as for those immigrants who cannot speak the language, they cannot establish and maintain communication, and thus their lives in the new country become much more difficult. Finally, many immigrants face discrimination; even though modern societies declare open-mindedness and tolerance, in practice, racism and xenophobia are still flourishing. Respectively, when arriving to a new country, immigrants may experience difficulties in finding a job or settling in simply because of their background. As we can see, immigrants all over the world are a vulnerable social stratum, and thus need more protection.
Mari Herreras/Tucson Weekly. “Why Becoming a Legal Immigrant Is Next to Impossible.” Alternet, www.alternet.org/story/148088/why_becoming_a_legal_immigrant_is_next_to_impossible.
“Migrants: The Psychological Impact of Immigration.” Lorri Craig, lorricraig.com/psychologist/general-psychology/migrants-the-psychology-of-immigration/.
“Psychology of Immigration 101.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/topics/immigration/immigration-psychology.aspx.