Fear of change or fear of oneself?

by Marius Brusegard

In 2008, just below three percent of the world’s population were international migrants, according to “Immigration’s complexities, assimilations discontents” (2008), by the professor of sociology at University of California-Irvine, Rubén G. Rumbaut. This means that as much as 97 percent of the world’s population is still living in the countries where they were born.

It strikes me then, to hear about incidents like the one in which the Ecuadoran immigrant Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death in Patchogue, N.Y., by 16- and 17-year old boys, as described in Anne Barnard’s article in New York Times (2009). The reasons for these attacks can be argued to be based on ideas such as racism or nationalism, or just the ignorance of youth feeling the urge to experiment with violence or such.

Another way of explaining the attacks can be fear, which the previously mentioned reasons also are rooted in. This being fear of competition in the job market, fear of cultures unknown to themselves, fear of changes etc. If the less than three percent of immigrants (on a world basis), creates enough fear to make someone kill another human being, that might either mean that some people are extremely easily scared, or that they do not need a good reason to become able to kill another human being.

In this case though, the Latino student population in Patchogue Medford School District had risen to 24 percent from 4 in 2003. However, this relatively fast growth of Latino students shouldn’t create as much fear as should be needed to perform the atrocities mentioned. After all, studies have shown that immigrants adjust to their new societies by language assimilation and such. As Rumbaut (2008) describes in his article, the Spanish language of immigrants is no longer spoken by the third generation, because of a switch to English. In fact, studies by Rumbaut and Alejandro Portes (2002) studies show that 95 percent of even Cuban-American children attending private bilingual schools actually preferred English.

Also, Rumbaut argues that according to numerous studies, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or go to prison than the natives, in spite of the opposite misconception. These are all studies that show how the fear of differences in cultural values, or changes, or just immigrants in general, seems unfounded. The immigrants are adapting to their new societies, not the other way around.

America might be the country with the highest variety of nationalities in the world, and the citizens are almost all known to have heritage from outside of America. They call themselves Irish-American, French-American, Chinese-American and such. Yet in a country like that, it seems to be quite a lot of fear of and resistance towards immigrants, in spite of the American’s ancestors all having been immigrants not too long ago.