Immigration and assimilation: Feeling global, but being an American
Mohammed Raziuddin an Indian high-tech professional came to the US for an education and ended up becoming an American citizen. Though he feels like he fits in here, he still feels like a citizen of the world, not just America.
One of the first jolts for Mohammed Raziuddin came when it started snowing. In October. The brochures from Syracuse University that he'd read back in Hyderabad, India, had lots of beautiful pictures from the spring and fall, he recalls with a laugh.Skip to next paragraph
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When he arrived in upstate New York in 1993, an eager international graduate student seeking a degree in computer science, everything seemed just as described. Then it got cold: "I had never been in a cold climate before. It was a drastic change."
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But in his 20s – and thrilled to be delving into the academic side of an up-and-coming industry – Mr. Raziuddin chalked the chill up as another part of this adventure called the United States of America.
"It was all part of the thrill," he said. "When you make such a leap of faith – I was going to a totally new place – the thrill of that experience trumps the potential pain you are going to go through.... While I was living there I had no regrets."
Today, Raziuddin, who works for IBM, lives in this western suburb of Boston and makes a point with his Malaysian-born wife and American-born children to get outside in the winter. He started with snowshoeing; recently he has been learning how to ski.
And this, really, is how Raziuddin's journey into American life has gone. Although there were plenty of cultural disconnects for the Indian newcomer – from the informal style of American universities (think undergraduates with their feet on desks) to the American reluctance to chat about income – sooner or later he figured out the system and embraced it.
This is typical of one of the fastest growing categories of immigrants to the US, a group from Asia (including the Indian subcontinent) that is better educated, wealthier, and more likely to believe in the power of hard work than native-born Americans are, according to the Pew Research Center.
Asian-Americans are both the fastest growing and highest income racial group in the US, according to the US Census, and recently passed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the country. In 2011, the 1.9 million immigrants from India were the second largest national group in the US, behind Mexicans.
When scholars such as Princeton University's Alejandro Portes explore what they see as a bifurcated immigration system – with both high-skilled professionals and low-skilled manual workers coming to fit into America's "hourglass" economy – they almost always find Asian-Americans at the top.