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Mexico

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Mexico

by Cesar Garcia


Context for Mexican Immigration

History and Government

Mexico was the cradle of several highly evolved pre-Columbian civilizations, including Olmec, Toltec, Mayan, and Aztec. In 1521, the Spaniard Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztec Empire, setting the foundation for the viceroyalty of New Spain. Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1821 with the initial leadership of the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. Agustin de Iturbide became emperor after the war, and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna proclaimed Mexico a republic in 1822.

Guadalupe Victoria became the first president of Mexico in 1823. Santa Anna was elected president in 1833, and established a dictatorship. The Mexican-American war in 1846 ended with the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Mexican cession of California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. This treaty and the independence of Texas in 1836 reduced the Mexican territory almost in half.

President Benito Juarez conducted liberal reforms in 1855, removing the power and properties of the Catholic Church. The French invasion in 1861 culminated with the execution of the French emperor Maximilian of Austria in 1864. Modernization, economic exploitation of the peasants by landowners (latifundistas), and the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz (1877-1880 and 1884-1911) concluded with the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917).

Under the banner of “Land and Liberty” and the leadership of Emiliano Zapata in central Mexico and Francisco Villa in the north, the rebellion sought to redistribute land to poor peasants and establish democratic elections. In 1929, revolutionary and reformist politicians founded the Revolutionary National Party. It was renamed in 1946 as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and held monolithic power until the year 2000.

In 1938, President Lazaro Cardenas expropriated all foreign oil wells in the country. This strained the relationship with the U.S. until an agreement was reached in 1941. After World War II, the Mexican government’s emphasis was economic growth, which was accelerated by the production of crude oil. By the late 1970s, Mexico was the world’s fourth leading oil producer, but with the fall of oil prices it also acquired an immense external debt. The external debt has been renegotiated several times in past decades. In the 1980s, in spite of austerity measures adopted by President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado, the economy contracted and the standard of living deteriorated considerably. In September 1985, two major earthquakes hit Mexico City and surrounding areas killing between 5,000 and 10,000 people and leaving another 300,000 homeless.

In 1994, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico formed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Tariffs on imports will be gradually removed in a 15-year period. The assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio in Tijuana in 1994, resulted in the presidential election of PRI candidate Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, Colosio’s campaign manager. The divisions within the PRI, general discontent, and the increased popularity of the National Action Party (PAN) culminated in the election of the PAN candidate Vicente Fox as President of Mexico in the year 2000.

The government of Mexico is a Federal Republic with a bicameral congress. Presidential terms last six years with no re-election.

Economy

The GDP of Mexico in 1998 was $815 billions, with a per capita income of $8,300. Extreme income inequality and high inflation create severe hardship among the Mexican people.

Under austerity plans imposed by the International Monetary Fund, many collective farms (ejidos) and public enterprises have been privatized. Thousands of U.S. maquiladoras (corporations) have reduced their work forces in 2000 and 2001. Under NAFTA, it is estimated that 15 million campesinos (farmers) will lose their jobs in 2000-2010 as U.S. agribusinesses under-sell Mexican corn growers. These economic pressures lead to growing immigration to the U.S.

Mexican Immigration

The severe economic pressures causing the migration of Mexicans to the U.S. include the sharp difference in the economies of Mexico and the U.S., the availability of jobs in the U.S. during times of economic expansion, the high unemployment rate and economic fluctuations in Mexico, deep external debt and excessive international borrowing, monetary crises caused by devaluations of the peso, and competition favoring U.S. corporations under NAFTA. Mexicans also came to the United States to escape civil war during the Mexican Revolution and to escape religious persecution during the Cristero Rebellion, a bloody war between some state governments and the church in western Mexico from 1926 to 1929. The immigration of Mexicans to the southwestern United States was also influenced by the existence of large Mexican communities in this region. More recently, since 1994 the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas has probably contributed to the migration of inhabitants from southern Mexico.

Under the 1986 amnesty program, over two million undocumented Mexicans received green cards. Millions more have entered the U.S. legally since then, and it is estimated that three to four million more undocumented Mexicans live throughout the U.S. in 2001, including tens of thousands in Santa Clara County.

Social Characteristics of the Mexican People

Ethnic and Religious Diversity

Ethnic groups in Mexico are mestizo (Indian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, and other 1%. About 89% of the Mexican population is Roman Catholic, 6% is Protestant, and 5% practice other religions.

Family Life

The family has great importance for Mexicans. Family well-being and reputation come first, and family is also the first source of help and support in a time of crisis. Families can be comprised of nuclear families, extended families, and compadres (Godparents). Decision-making authority rests with the father or oldest son. Mothers are very influential in children’s lives. Elders are respected and most of the time cared for at home. Loyalty, solidarity and reciprocity between family members are expected. The roles of males and females in the family are dictated by traditional norms and values, but these are changing with the growing number of working women.

Health Care Practices

In 1995, the Social Security Program provided health care for 50% of the Mexican population. Many of the remaining 50% received health care from a variety of government agencies or private doctors. The focus on present time as well as the high cost of medical treatments prevent many Mexicans from seeking preventive health care. This care is also more available in urban areas than in rural parts of Mexico. For many, God is believed to be the mandating force in future health.

Curanderos (folk healers) are a popular and more economical source of health treatments, especially in rural areas of Mexico. Some ailments commonly cured by curanderos, sobadoras (masseuses), and yerberos (herbalists) include: caida de mollera (sunken fontanelle), empacho (intestinal obstruction), and mal de ojo (evil eye).

Traditionally, Mexican families take care of their disabled members. This includes people with mental retardation, which is more stigmatized than physical disabilities. There are more facilities for the care of people with mental disorders in larger cities. There is still considerable stigma and skepticism among Mexicans in seeking assistance from mental health professionals.

Educational System

The Secretariat of Public Education controls the entire education system. Public education in Mexico is free and secular. Primary and secondary education is compulsory up to age 16. The government provides free textbooks and workbooks to all primary schools. The literacy rate in 1995 for males was 89.5% and 87.2% for females. Only a small percentage of the student population completes a university education.

Mexicans in Santa Clara County

Demographics

Around 75% of Mexicans in the random sample reported leaving Mexico due to economic hardships, and one-third reported coming to the U.S. to reunite with family members or to obtain an education. This group had lived in the U.S. an average of 18 years and 16 years in Santa Clara County.

Of Mexicans in the random sample, 92% stated that Spanish was the language they use the most, 6% used English, and 2% used both languages. The average age for the random sample was 40 years, and 80% of the respondents lived in San Jose. In regards to school years completed, 28% of Mexicans in the random sample completed 1 to 6 years, 45% of them completed 7 to 12 years, and 27% of them completed 13 years or more. The average household size for this group was 5 people.

Of Mexicans in the public benefits group, 83% cited economic difficulties as the reason for leaving Mexico, and roughly one out of three of these Mexicans came to the U.S. to reunite with family members or to take advantage of educational opportunities. This group had lived in the U.S. an average of nine years and in Santa Clara County an average of seven years.

About 96% of respondents in the public benefits group stated that Spanish was the language they used the most, 3% used English, and 1% used both languages. The average age for this sample was 33 years, and 75% of them lived in San Jose. The public benefits survey also revealed that 34% of the respondents completed between one and six years of school, 45% completed between seven and 12 years, and 21% completed 13 years or more. Households for this sample had an average size of 6 people. The income distribution for both samples was the following:

                      $10K & less    $10K-30K    $30K-50        $50K-70K    $70,001+
Random Sample        10%            33%        29%            18%            11%
Public Benefits           46%            36%        11%              5%              2%

Interpersonal Communication

Mexicans commonly use the formal Usted mode of speaking with the elderly, married women, and strangers, and are generally reserved in formal or new settings. Signs of respect such as standing to greet people and shaking hands are very important in social interactions. Relationships with family and friends show warmth and expressiveness. Embracing is common, and kissing is also a popular greeting practiced among women.

Emotional Support

The top three sources of emotional support for Mexicans in the random sample were spouses 56%, friends 43%, and relatives 21%. In this group, the providers of care for children under 12 years of age were mothers 56%, fathers 42%, and to a lesser extent babysitters. For Mexicans in the random sample group, the most preferred ways of caring for seniors and disabled people were at home by family members, or at home by trained caregivers.

In contrast, 31% of public benefits recipients stated they frequently have no one to talk to about their emotional problems, 30% talked to spouses, and 29% talked to friends. Child care providers for respondents in this group were mothers 63%, fathers 28%, and grandparents 16%. The top choices for the care of seniors and disabled family members for this group of Mexicans were also at home by a trained caregiver, or at home by a family member.

Clothing

Mexican dress is westernized and highly influenced by U.S. styles. However, for special occasions, the most traditional outfit used by Mexicans is the charro outfit for men and the china poblana outfit for women. Men use pants lined with silver or shiny buttons on the sides, jackets tailored with shiny ornaments, and a round wide-brimmed sombrero. Women wear a white peasant blouse and a red skirt with ornaments of different colors. There are other traditional outfits for the different regions of Mexico.

Food

The most basic ingredients in the Mexican cuisine are corn, beans, and rice. Dishes vary according to the region of the country. Even dishes with the same name can be prepared differently, such as red and green enchiladas. Corn is used to prepare numerous foods like tortillas, tamales, sopes, gorditas and pinole, and drinks like pinolillo and atole. Tacos are probably the most common dish in Mexico. Contents can vary from cheese to the most delicious beef and fish meats. Other famous dishes are mole (chicken covered by a very tasty red sauce), menudo (a stew prepared with beef stomach and feet), ceviche (small pieces of fish or shrimp cooked with lemon juice and seasoned with onions, cilantro, and peppers), birria (another beef soup-like stew with red peppers) chiles rellenos (chiles stuffed with cheese, covered with flour and egg batter and fried), and pozole (soup-like stew with hominy, spices, and pork stew meat).

Religious Traditions and Holidays

Religious traditions are very influential in Mexico’s culture. One of the most common traditions in Mexico is the celebration of fiestas patronales in honor of the community’s patron saint, accompanied by ferias that add the elements of entertainment and food. Another important tradition is related to Lent and Holy Week (March-April), when many people abstain from eating red meats on Fridays, or from having or doing something they enjoy (sacrificios). El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead on November 2) is also a very important day for Mexicans. They spend most of the day at cemeteries, remembering loved ones who have died and preparing altars in their honor. Many Mexican neighborhoods celebrate nine posadas prior to Christmas. These “processions” represent the pilgrimage of St. Joseph and Virgin Mary prior to the birth of Christ.

Other popular holidays celebrated in Mexico include New Year (January 1), Los Santos Reyes (Wise men, January 6), Day of love and friendship (February 14), Benito Juarez’s birth (March 21), Day of the Child (April 30), Labor Day (May 1), Battle of Puebla (Cinco de Mayo, May 5), Mother’s Day (May 10), Teachers’ Day (May 15), El Grito de Independencia (Independence Day, Evening of September 15), All Saints Day (November 1), Day of the Revolution (November 20), Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), and Christmas Evening (December 24).

Challenges in Santa Clara County

The most pressing needs identified in the random sample were ESL classes 68%, legal help with immigration issues 45%, medical care 42%, dental care 40%, and eye care 30%.

For Mexicans in the public benefits group, the highest needs were ESL classes 75%, medical care 73%, dental care 70%, immigration legal help 55%, and eye care 51%.

A series of focus groups were conducted with different subgroups of the Mexican community in Santa Clara County: youth, low-wage workers and seniors. The key problems they identified in the Mexican community were undocumented immigration status; discrimination in most areas of life (including the police and judicial system); low wages; lack of affordable housing; lack of access to health, food and child care programs; the language barrier; and inappropriate schedules or insufficient ESL classes. In addition, Mexican seniors voiced the need for higher payments from Social Security; subsidized housing and utilities; more complete and efficient medical coverage; and more attention, understanding, and respect from family members and health service providers.

Participants overwhelmingly suggested a new amnesty as the solution that can provide the most benefits, such as higher wages, less discrimination in jobs, access to housing, and access to health and food programs. They also indicated a need for adjusting wages to the cost of living in Santa Clara County, building affordable housing for all, creating health programs for the working poor regardless of immigration status, receiving information on Spanish TV and radio about how to access available services, and increasing the number of ESL classes with appropriate schedules.

Discrimination

Only 41% of Mexicans in the random sample felt respected when stopped by the police. Other negative aspects were also associated with this experience. For instance, 29% of the group felt scared, 28% felt mistreated, and 26% felt they did not know their legal rights. The top five sources of discrimination for Mexicans in this group were employers 33%, police officers 29%, co-workers 23%, social workers or eligibility workers 23%, and job interviewers 19%.

Public benefit recipients presented a similar picture when stopped by the police. Forty seven percent of them felt scared, 44% were unable to communicate well, 34% did not know their legal rights, and only 32% of them felt respected. For this group of Mexicans, the main sources of discrimination were co-workers 25%, employers 23%, DMV officials 21%, social or eligibility workers 21%, and bus drivers 17%.

Barriers to Education, Services & Benefits

Mexicans in the random sample reported that they have the following barriers that prevent them from obtaining education, services and benefits: Not knowing enough English 49%, not enough time 39%, scheduling problems 38%, lack of information 34%, and immigration status 32%.

For Mexicans in the public benefits sample, the obstacles preventing them from obtaining education, services, and benefits were not knowing enough English 64%, immigration status 49%, lack of information 40%, no affordable child care 35%, and no transportation 31%.

Employment and Working Conditions

Occupational Data and Barriers

Common occupations among participants in the random sample were homemakers, custodians, business owners, gardeners, and transportation workers. Occupations in Mexico for this group included farmers, homemakers, and various jobs in the service area.

Roughly half of the respondents in the random sample said that limited English skills were the main reason for the difference between previous and current occupations. Other reasons reported were having a better current job 39%, lack of employment training 35%, not having a license or credential in the U.S. 29%, and the lack of funds 17%.

In the public benefits group, participants reported current occupations such as homemakers, custodians, food service workers, and retail workers. Occupations in Mexico for respondents in this group were homemakers, service workers, and administrative assistants.

Sixty two percent of public benefits recipients cited limited English skills as the main reason for the difference between their occupations here and in Mexico. Other reasons mentioned were not having a license or credential in the U.S. 50%, lack of employment training 35%, having a better current job 31%, and lack of knowledge of occupational requirements in the U.S 22%.

Working Conditions

Mexicans in the random sample worked an average of 40 hours a week. Not surprisingly, 61% of families in this group had two or more people employed. Only 30% of the participants reported just one person employed in the family. Furthermore, 14% of Mexicans in this group had two or more jobs in order to meet their needs. Negative working conditions in the random sample survey were lack of medical benefits 52%, no sick leave 47%, no paid vacation 41%, and no pension or retirement plan 38%. Those with union membership (36%) generally did not suffer these conditions.

Conversely, participants in the public benefits survey worked an average of 33 hours a week. In regards to the number of people working in these families, 40% had one person employed and an additional 43% had two or more people employed. The majority of Mexicans in this group (71%) had one job; however, 25% of them had two or more jobs. Common working conditions for public benefits recipients included lack of medical benefits 65%, no sick leave 62%, no paid vacation 56%, and no pension or retirement plan 50%. Nearly 40% worked for businesses with fewer than 25 employees.

Small Businesses

Only 11% of the random sample reported that anyone in their family was self-employed or owned a business. For the public benefits group, this percentage was reduced to 4%. The top five obstacles in starting a business for both groups were not knowing legal and permit requirements, information on how to get started, getting a loan, learning English, and knowing what business idea might be successful.

Public Benefits in the Mexican Community

Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

Mexicans in the random sample had different levels of knowledge about the requirements for public benefits. Forty one percent of them understood the requirements for MediCal, 25% for food stamps, 15% for Supplementary Security Income (SSI), 10% for CalWORKs, 10% for General Assistance, and 8% understood the requirements for the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants. Among families of respondents to the random survey, 20% had someone in the family receiving MediCal, 8% receiving SSI, and 6% receiving food stamps.

Understandably, Mexicans in the public benefits group were more familiar with the requirements for the different public benefits. For MediCal, nine out of ten respondents knew these requirements, half of them knew them for food stamps, about one third of them knew them for CalWORKs, and only 15% of them knew the requirements for General Assistance. In the Mexican public benefits group 85% reported someone in the family receiving MediCal, 40% of these families had someone receiving food stamps, 23% were receiving CalWORKs, and 19% had someone receiving SSI. Three out of four respondents considered that learning English was the most challenging barrier to become self-sufficient.

Culturally Competent Services

According to Mexicans receiving public benefits, four out of five respondents attended MediCal orientations in Spanish. Eighty six percent of these participants received phone calls from MediCal personnel in Spanish, and nine out of ten received written materials in Spanish. For food stamps programs, 76% of the respondents attended orientations in Spanish, 80% received phone calls in Spanish, and 82% of them received written materials in Spanish. For CalWORKs programs, 63% of them attended orientations in Spanish, 68% received written materials in Spanish, and 74% received phone calls in Spanish.

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K-12 Education

About 54% of adults in the random sample survey and 73% of adults in the public benefits sample had children under the age of 18 in school. Of the respondents in both groups, two-thirds expressed a desire for bilingual (English/Spanish) education for children. English-only education was supported by one out of four respondents in the random sample and by one out of five respondents in public benefits survey. The top three services received at schools were the same for participants in both surveys. In the random sample, 69% attended parent meetings, 66% received information in Spanish, and 64% participated in lunch or breakfast programs. In the public benefits survey, 68% received information in Spanish, 64% attended parent meetings, and 63% participated in lunch or breakfast programs.

Employment Training

Mexicans in the random sample received employment training mostly involving basic skills such as ESL classes, general education, and custodial or technical occupations. These participants received their training mainly through adult education programs, and secondarily through private businesses or institutes.

Public benefits recipients received employment training in areas such as ESL or general education, and occupations like food service worker and technician. Sources of employment training for this group included adult education centers, community colleges, and community agencies.

ESL

In rating their own English skills, 6% of the random sample rated their English as excellent, 22% as good, 50% as average, 18% as poor, and 5% believed they had no English skills. This group of Mexicans endorsed weekend ESL classes (47%), ESL classes closer to home (35%), and better class schedules as helpful ways of learning English.

Of Mexican public benefits recipients, 4% considered their English skills as excellent, 8% as good, 36% as average, 20% as poor, and 32% as non-existent. Participants in this group suggested ESL classes closer to home (54%), better class schedules (43%), and weekend ESL classes (42%) as helpful in improving their English skills.

Citizenship

Forty four percent of Mexicans surveyed in the random sample were naturalized citizens. The most pressing needs in this area were citizenship classes 50%, legal advice 34%, and help filling out application 32%. In the public benefits group, only 11% of the respondents were naturalized citizens. Of these respondents, 46% needed citizenship classes, 42% help to fill out the application, and 41% needed English literacy classes in Spanish.

Communication and Outreach in the Mexican Community

The families of Mexicans in the random survey obtained important information from Spanish TV 80%, Spanish radio 54%, church 39%, English TV 36%, family 32%, and friends 29%. The five most popular information-related devices in the homes of these participants were TVs 99%, telephones 97%, radios 95%, VCRs 83%, and computers 44%.

Similarly, Mexicans in the public benefits group obtained important information from Spanish TV 86%, Spanish radio 55%, friends 30%, family 26%, and church 25%. Their homes had the following devices: TVs 99%, radios 90%, telephones 89%, VCRs 67%, and computers 16%.

Mexicans in Action: Claudia Olivares

Mexicans participating in both surveys reported being actively involved in their communities. About 54% of the random sample group was involved in religious groups, 33% in school or parent organizations, 26% in community organizations, and 19% in neighborhood organizations. In the public benefits group, 51% were involved in religious groups, 44% in school or parent organizations, 18% in neighborhood organizations, 10% in community organizations, and 10% with an informal group of friends. Voter registration was 38% for the random sample and 7% for the public benefits survey.

Mexicans in Santa Clara County dramatically increased their voting power and influence in the 1990s. While only 976 Mexicans voted in the November 1990 election, 8,752 voted in the March 2000 election. In December 2000, the number of Mexicans registered to vote in Santa Clara County was 19,946. The primary cities of residence were San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara.

Claudia Olivares, a 22-year old college student, is one of the tens of thousands of Mexicans living in Santa Clara County. Her mother, younger brother and sister immigrated to San Jose nine years ago. Her family had great difficulty finding housing when they arrived. The exorbitant prices of rents and the low wages of her mom’s jobs forced them to rent rooms from other families, moving ten times in a two-year period.

Cerebral palsy during birth left Claudia paraplegic, but her optimism and her charming personality make her a highly positive influence on the people around her. In spite of all the obstacles, Claudia graduated from high school and her academic achievements earned her two scholarships. Claudia is currently attending both a community and a Christian college. In college, she has received two more scholarships that will assist her in completing her education. Her career goal is to become a counselor in Juvenile Hall.

Claudia’s accomplishments are particularly impressive since she has overcome not only language barriers and hurdles that physically challenged people face, but also discrimi-nation. For instance, she stood up for her rights against a professor who made discriminatory remarks against her and other Mexican students. She is a volunteer at the Juvenile Hall meetings, where she talks to teenagers to motivate and counsel them. Claudia’s mother also deserves much credit. She transports Claudia everywhere in her car, a car with no modifications for the wheelchair.

In 1999, Claudia and her mother were recognized for their efforts in a highly inspirational talk show on national Spanish TV. Claudia represents living proof of the popular Mexican phrase “Sí Se Puede” (you can do it). Everyone in Santa Clara County should feel fortunate to have hard-working and motivated persons like Claudia.

El Salvador

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El Salvador

by Teresa Castellanos


Context for Salvadoran Immigration

History and Government

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, about the size of Massachusetts. Because of its size and its density, land issues have been at the heart of many of the conflicts in El Salvador. El Salvador has a history of social conflicts that have resulted in the repression of the civilian population.

The Pipil Indians, related to the Aztecs of Mexico and the Maya, were the original inhabitants of El Salvador. The Spanish arrived in 1524. Pedro de Alvarado conquered the territory now known as El Salvador. After three centuries of colonial rule, El Salvador declared its independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. It was part of a federation of Central American states until that union was dissolved in 1838. In 1833 an unsuccessful rural upraising led by Anastacio Aquino was followed by brutal retaliation by landowners.

In 1930 Agustin Farabundo Marti led another rebellion. It led to the systematic murder of 35,000 civilians in retaliation. This event is known as “la matanza” or massacre.

During the 1970s social conflicts, political instability, civil unrest and the struggle for power led to the civil war of the 1980s. From 1979 until 1992, the country faced an internal conflict in which the United States supported the oligarchy militarily and financially. The atrocities committed during the civil war gave El Salvador a worldwide prominence. An estimated 75,000 Salvadorans lost their lives during this conflict.

The current form of government is a republic. The government is made up of three branches: the executive, legislative, and judicial. The President and Vice-President are elected by popular vote for five-year terms. The current President is Francisco Guillermo Flores Perez from the ARENA Party. The major opposition party is the FMLN, a grouping of ex-guerrilla organizations.

Economy

El Salvador has a poor economy, which has suffered from the effects of a civil war, factory closings, the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, weak world coffee prices and, most recently, devastating earthquakes and aftershocks. Remittances from the large numbers of Salvadorans living abroad make up an important part of the economy. El Salvador’s economy is largely agricultural. A large portion of the population remains in the countryside to work the coffee plantations and other farms. The labor force is made up of 2.35 million people. The labor force by occupation is as follows: 30% agriculture, 15% industry and 55% services (1999 estimates). An estimated 48% of the population lives below the poverty line (1999 estimates).

Salvadoran Immigration

The immigration of Salvadorans from their homeland has had both economic and political causes. The flight of Salvadorans from their homeland was one of the most dramatic results of the civil war. Fear of persecution led to 20-30% of the population fleeing the country. During the 1980s, death squads murdered many suspected leftists. These squads were secretly connected with Salvadoran government security forces. At the height of persecution, from 1980 to 1982, an average of 800 bodies were found each month. More than half of the refugees of the civil war immigrated to the United States–between 500,000 and one million.

When Salvadoran public assistance recipients were asked to identify the main reason for leaving their country, the top reason given was “war in homeland” (77%).

Despite the fact that the U.S. government’s role in the Salvadoran conflict was unique in sustaining the prolongation of the civil conflict, the government and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) extended little sympathy to the people affected by the war. In the 1980s, the INS granted only 2% of political asylum applications, claiming that democracy existed in El Salvador and that reports of U.S. and government-sponsored “death squads” were overblown. As a response to the U.S. government’s failure to address the situation of Salvadoran refugees in the U.S., American activists established a loose network to aid refugees. Operating in clear violation of U.S. immigration laws, these activists took refugees into their houses, aided their travel, hid them and helped them find work. This became known as the “sanctuary movement”.

In 1990, a federal lawsuit brought against the INS named American Baptist Church (ABC) forced the INS to apply a fairer standard in their judgment of Salvadoran political asylum applications. Prior to this suit it was the U.S. position that government sponsored persecution did not occur in El Salvador. The settlement of this case required the INS to reopen the asylum applications it had previously denied. The INS also had to make determinations based upon individual claims of persecution, not based only upon State Department reports. Nevertheless, many Salvadorans had already gained their residency as a result of an amnesty law passed in 1986, which legalized undocumented immigrants who had entered the U.S. before 1982. In 1992, Congress approved Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans who were in the U.S. since 1990.

This special status was scheduled to expire at the end of 1994, at which time Salvadorans had to apply for asylum. This put most Salvadorans in a difficult position. After having fled the war, they were allowed to stay in the U.S. with this fragile status allowing them only to work and live here, without the benefits of a green card or citizenship. Once the war ended, most asylum claims were very difficult to win, but this was the only option. By this time many Salvadorans had lived in the U.S. for six years, ten years, and some for over fifteen years, having come at the beginning of the war. Salvadorans were in a tenuous position, most of them at risk of being deported. Recently the limited TPS status has once again been offered to Salvadorans, as a result of the devastating 2001 earthquakes.

Relationships among family and persons from the same town are close and lasting. In the migration to the United States, people came to communities where they had family and friends from the same towns. Salvadorans also maintain close ties with family and friend who stayed in El Salvador. Salvadoran Americans visit El Salvador with great frequency. Although the war is over, many Salvadorans have established roots and raised children in the U.S. According to an LA Times poll conducted on December 27, 1992, 70% of Salvadorans surveyed did not intend to return, even if they knew it was safe to do so.

Social Characteristics of the Salvadoran People

Ethnic & Religious Diversity

El Salvador’s ethnic population is made up 90% mestizo (Amerindian and European mix), 1% Amerindian, and 9% white. El Salvador has small Indian populations who speak Nahuatl. The dominant religion is Roman Catholic, but there has been extensive activity by Protestant religions throughout the country. By the end of 1992 there were an estimated one million Protestant evangelicals in El Salvador.

Family Life

The traditional family in El Salvador is close-knit. The father exercises authority and, together, both parents maintain control over their children. The immigration process and different life conditions in the U.S. have affected Salvadoran family dynamics. Due to the nature of immigration into the U.S., many refugees made the journey alone. In some cases, entire families were separated. Some parents were separated from their children for a long period of time during the immigration process. When they were finally reunited, they realized that the relationships of authority and control had changed. Teenagers have grown into adulthood under U.S. cultural influences. Children learned English and adapted to U.S. culture faster than their parents did. The children’s ability to speak English converted them into their parent’s translator, defender or controller of information. The role–reversal of parent and child changed both generations. Many Salvadoran parents fear that their children will lose their cultural identity.

Of the Salvadoran public assistance recipients with children under 12 years old, 57% stated that children are taken care of by the mother, 21% by the father, 21% by a grandparent and 7% by a relative. With regards to care for senior or disabled Salvadorans, these respondents preferred in-home care by family members or trained caregivers as opposed to institutional care.

Health Care Practices

In the mid 1980s, El Salvador was among the countries in the western hemisphere most affected by malnutrition. Malnutrition was particularly high among young children. The poverty responsible for the malnutrition in the country was also reflected in the poor living conditions and substandard homes. Mortality rates are high for children (about 125 per 1,000 live births) and malaria is a major concern in rural areas. Water-borne diseases are common and one of the major factors in the high mortality rates. Leading causes of death include diarrheal diseases, pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. Medical facilities are inadequate for the general population. The costs of the war, including less funding for health care as more was spent on the military and the destruction of hospitals, severely affected the health care system. Health care and mental health care have not been readily available to the majority of people in El Salvador. As a result there is a custom of self-care for symptom management.

Traditional healing practices and herbs are used in El Salvador as well as in the United States. Many Salvadorans may fail to seek early or preventative care due to lack of resources or understanding of how the medical institutions work. Depression and other mental health illnesses can be attributed to a tangible event. Those who have experienced traumatic life events associated with the civil war in El Salvador may suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression or phycological distress. Because of the continued polarization of society, the reconstruction of the infrastructure, and the national healing which still must occur, there has been limited research on the mental health consequences of the civil war on the Salvadoran population.

In the United States, undocumented Salvadorans are often hesitant to visit doctors or clinics, out of fear of being reported to the immigration authorities. Some Salvadorans carry deep emotional scars from what they suffered and witnessed in their country during the civil war, and from their quest to arrive to the U.S. Some are affected by anger, fear and guilt at escaping the violence that affected their home country. As a result some Salvadorans suffer from depression, alcoholism and erratic behavior. Few Salvadorans can afford to receive the psychological help necessary to work through the trauma of having survived a war.

Educational System in El Salvador

Education in El Salvador is free and compulsory. The Salvadoran public education system includes one year of preschool, nine years of basic education, three years of high school (secondary) education, and four years of higher education at a university or postsecondary institution. Access to these public institutions is governed by the family’s socioeconomic status. In addition, countrywide statistics show that education levels are lower in rural areas and higher in urban areas. During the civil war, government expenditures for education declined and are still low. According to official statistics 71% of the population is literate. A higher illiteracy rate exists in rural areas.

Salvadorans in Santa Clara County

Demographics

Salvadoran respondents who answered the public assistance recipients survey indicated that they average 4.71 persons living in their households, compared to 3.43 in U.S.-born households. When asked if they have non-family members living in the household, 50% of the respondents answered affirmatively. Most Salvadorans live in San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View.

Of these respondents, 29% had received 1-6 years of formal education, 50% had received 7-12 years of formal education, and 21% had received 13 years of formal education or more. About 70% of respondents had household incomes of less than $30,000.

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

Salvadorans use formal Spanish rather than informal forms to show respect when addressing elders or strangers. When addressing another person where there is a relationship of trust, “vos” is used in place of “Usted”. Most Salvadorans are friendly, cordial and hospitable. As in most Latino cultures, touching is common between members of the same sex. Non-verbal gestures are also commonly used. Salvadorans do not require the same amount of personal space as most European cultures.

Emotional Support

When asked who they talk to if they have emotional problems, Salvadoran public assistance recipients answered the following: no one (46%), spouse (39%), a friend (23%), or a relative (23%). None of the respondents answered doctor, religious advisor, mental health specialist or community leader.

Clothing

Contemporary western clothing is worn including dresses, shirts, tee-shirts and jeans. Guayaberas (traditional dress shirts) are used by men for dressing up or by professionals. Traditional clothing may be worn on special occasions such as Independence Day celebrations or religious festivities. Traditional clothing consists of an embroidered shirt or blouse and traditional pants or a skirt.

Food

Salvadoran food is similar to Mexican food but is sweeter and milder. A mainstay of Salvadoran food is corn meal tortillas, rice, salt and beans. Pupusas are a traditional meal made out of corn meal, spices, cheese, beans, and/or pork. Pupusas are served with curtido, a cabbage salad made with vinegar.

Religious Traditions and Holidays

Many Salvadoran Americans celebrate Independence Day, which for all Central Americans is on September 15. The first week in August is the most important religious festival honoring Christ, El Salvador’s patron and namesake. Different communities also might celebrate the memory of the town from which they came, or celebrate victories by soccer leagues, which are made up of families from the same town.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

In the survey of Salvadoran public benefits recipients, 29% were male and 71% female. The average age for Salvadorans who answered the survey was 48 years old and the average number of years living in Santa Clara County was 7 years. Approximately 50 percent of the survey participants stated that they had non-family members living in their households. The top three identified needs in the survey were medical care, eye care and ESL needs.

In the Central American focus group, the top five identified concerns were 1) the need to legalize immigration status, 2) employment discrimination, 3) education, 4) housing and 5) mental health issues. In the discussion of legalization the problems of low wages, lack of drivers’ licenses, lack of access to health care, discrimination, and family separation were attributed to the lack of immigration status. One participant stated “I always tell my daughters: ‘The person who doesn’t have papers in this country is the one who suffers the most’.” A female participant said “Many people drive without a driver’s license, and they only do it because they need transportation and the places where they work are too far away. And what do the police do? They see a Latino and they persecute him. This is what happens. And they take away the car! We lose so much! Our jobs, everything! This must be changed, especially if a person presents himself well, is a hard worker, is a good person, they should take this into account.” She added, “I have a friend who has lost three different cars because he was driving without a license, because without papers, he can’t get a license.”

Discrimination

Salvadoran public benefits recipients stated that they feel most discriminated against by job interviewers, employers and then co-workers, in that order. Participants identified immigration status, lack of English, low wages and lack of job stability as the causes of wage and job discrimination. One Salvadoran woman stated, “Even though we don’t speak English, employers need to respect our skills, our abilities, and respect us as human beings. We deserve respect.”

Barriers to Services, Education & Benefits

When asked what has kept Salvadoran public assistance recipients from obtaining education, services or public benefits, the two top answers were “not enough English” (69%) and immigration status (31%).

Employment & Working Conditions

Occupational Data and Barriers

The top occupations identified by public benefits recipients were agricultural worker, service worker, custodian, office worker and homemaker. When asked why their occupation is different in the U.S. than in their native country, the top answers were lack of employment training, limited English, and the lack of licenses or credentials in the U.S. Salvadorans in the Central American focus group felt that their prior education has not been adequately recognized in the U.S.

Working Conditions

When Salvadoran public assistance recipients were asked about their working conditions, many indicated a lack of medical benefits, sick leave, paid vacation, and pension plan. About 17% stated that they have two employers at the same time, and also have two or more family members who work. These public benefits recipients work on average 29 hours per week.

Small Business

The biggest obstacles identified to starting or managing a business were “knowing legal and permit requirements,” (63%), “information on how to get started” (63%) and “knowing who can help” (55%).

Public Benefits in the Salvadoran Community

Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

Approximately 92% of public benefits respondents did not know the requirements for CAPI (Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants), 91% did not know the CalWORKS requirements, and 63% did not know the food stamps requirements. On the other hand, 92% of the respondents knew the requirements for MediCal. When asked whether the benefits received were adequate, 50% of the MediCal and food stamps recipients said “no”.

Culturally Competent Services

Salvadoran recipients of CalWORKs, MediCal, and food stamps generally felt that their county worker in these areas treats them with respect, communicates well, and knows something about Salvadoran culture. About two-thirds stated that they receive written information and phone calls in a language they understand, but only about half indicated that orientations are conducted in a language they understand.

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K-12 Education

Of the public benefits recipients who answered the survey, 64% stated that they had children under 18. Most Salvadoran parents prefer their children to be taught bilingually. School services received by the children of these public benefits recipients included information in a language the parents understand (71%), parent meetings (57%), after-school activities (29%), and special education programs (29%). School services that are under-utilized were school lunch and breakfast programs, health programs, Healthy Start, tutoring, homework centers, on-site child care, transportation, and academic counseling.

ESL

When asked to evaluate their English skills, Salvadorans receiving public assistance rated their skills as average (46%), poor (15%) and none (39%). The most important needs identified for English were for daily living situations, filling out paper work, and being involved in the community. When asked the best ways to learn English more quickly, the top three responses were: classes closer to home, weekend classes, and better transportation. Salvadorans in the Central American focus group identified a need to have bilingual teachers in entry-level ESL classes, to feel comfortable. They were also concerned about the long waiting lists for beginning English classes and about the little time they have available to attend classes.

Citizenship

When asked which citizenship services they need, the top three answers of public benefits recipients were 1) help in filling out the application, 2) legal advice, and 3) help paying the INS fees.

Communication & Outreach in the Salvadoran Community

When asked where their families get important information, the top three answers of Salvadorans on public assistance were Spanish TV, Spanish newspapers, and Spanish radio. When asked what means of communication respondents have in their homes, the top four answers were TV (100%), telephone (100%), radio (79%), and VCR (64%).

China

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Cambodia
China
El Salvador
Ethiopia
India
Iran
Laos
Mexico
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Philipines
Russia
Somalia
South Korea
Taiwan
Vietnam

China

by Ken Colson


Context for Chinese Immigration

History and Government

China’s Dynastic Period begins with the Shang Dynasty (1500-1000 B.C.), initiating China’s written history, includes the Chou Dynasty (1122-249 B.C.), with Confucius and Lao-tse founding Chinese philosophical thought, the reign of Emperor Ch’in Shih Huang Ti (246-210 B.C.), commencing the Great Wall, the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), opening commerce with the West, the T’ang Dynasty (618-907), the golden age of Chinese painting, sculpture, and poetry, rule by Mongols during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), established by Kublai Khan, and ends with Manchu rule during the Ch’ing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Republican China (1911-1949) began with the uprising against the emperor in 1911. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Kuomintang (Nationalist) Party, became the first president of the Republic of China in 1912. The Republic disintegrated with a takeover by warlords, ending with the Kuomintang and Communist Party forming a United Front against the other warlords (1912-1927). The Kuomintang government under Chiang Kai-shek was established in Nanjing (1928-1937). The Nationalist government allied with Communists during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Civil War between the Kuomintang and the Communists ended in 1949.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) founded in 1949 led to Mao Zedong’s election as Chairman of Central Government Council in 1950. The new PRC looked to the Soviets as an economic model and for technological and financial aid. The Communist Party initiated a series of land, industrial, and social reforms including village industrialization under the Great Leap Forward in 1958. This resulted in a power struggle within the Communist Party leading to the closing of schools and ideological purification under Mao’s Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, the year of Mao’s death. The U.S. reestablished diplomatic relations with China in 1979. Deng Xiaoping assumed leadership the same year. Mao’s economic policies were abandoned. An internal power struggle over the political and economic future of China led to a people’s protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989. China had one of the fastest growing economies in the world in the 1990s. When Deng Xiaoping died in 1997 Jiang Zemin replaced him. In 1997 Great Britain returned Hong Kong to China, and in 1999 Portugal turned over Macao to China. In 2001 China was selected as the site of the 2008 Olympics.

Economy

Since 1960 China’s social system has undergone major changes in composition and structure. There is a new rich peasantry in the countryside, urban entrepreneurs, itinerant skilled and unskilled workers, casual laborers, and a variety of other trades working on the fringe of the official economic system. In 1998, 60% of the labor force worked in agriculture, 17% in industry, and 23% in services. As of 1990 the unemployment rate in urban areas was estimated at 3-10% with substantial unemployment and under-employment in rural areas. Estimates from 1998 indicate a per capita income of $3,600 per person with 8% economic growth and a negative inflation rate.

Chinese Immigration

From 1840 to 1882 Chinese laborers came to U.S. for jobs. Many were employed to work on railroads. In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act suspended all immigration of Chinese to the United States, an overtly discriminatory law. Low immigration quotas for Chinese set by the 1924 National Origins Quota Act ended in 1965. By 1970 Chinese population increased in the U.S. by 84%.

Two-thirds of the Chinese immigrants from the random sample stated that they have been in the county less than 11 years. In the public benefits sample, the majority arrived less than six years ago. Interviews in the Chinese focus group indicated that in recent years immigrants have left China for a better life due to economic hardship, because China is overpopulated, and for freedom of speech, religion, and freedom of choice. Santa Clara County is a particularly popular choice because “… high-tech companies pay more and with stock options, they can get better houses and advance into a better level.” (Eva Lee) The main reasons stated in the random sample for wanting to leave China for the U.S. were economic problems (60%), family reunification (51%) and political problems (10 %). For recipients of public benefits, the key reason for immigrating was family reunification (48%).

Social Characteristics of the Chinese People

Ethnic & Religious Diversity

Ethnically, about 92% of Chinese are Han and the other 8% are Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Korean, and many other nationalities. The PRC is officially atheist but has religious minorities of Taoists, Buddhists, and Muslims (2%-3% each) and Christians (1% estimate).

Family Life

Two or three generations often live in the same household. The wife is expected to become part of the husband’s household. As in every patriarchal society, the oldest males make most decisions. Males are usually more highly respected and valued than females. Children are highly valued. Elders are very respected and honored. In extended care families, grandparents are often responsible for the care of grandchildren. Families are expected to care for children and elders, rather than leave them in day care or institutions. Mothers are often expected to stay at home to raise their children if another family member is not available to baby-sit. However, gender roles have been changing, especially in urban settings.

Respondents to the random survey indicated that a high percentage of mothers cared for their children (45%). However, in 19% of the cases fathers looked after their children. In 13% of the cases children were with nannies, 19% in a child care facility, and 2% with baby-sitters. While the custom is to care for one’s family at the time of old age or disability, families responding to the random survey indicated that only 30% would take care of them at home. Institutional care or no preference was indicated by 53% of the respondents in the random survey.

Health Care Practices

Traditional folk medicine such as acupuncture and herbs is commonly used by older Chinese. Chinese immigrants typically use both traditional and Western medicine. First and second generation Chinese Americans are most likely to rely solely on Western medicine.

A fundamental cultural theory of Chinese foods relates the five flavors of sweet, sour, bitter, piquant, and salty to the nutritional needs of the five major organ systems of the body (the heart, liver, spleen/pancreas, lungs, and kidneys), and stresses their role in maintaining good physical health. It is believed that one must maintain a balance of Yin (cold) foods and Yang (hot) foods. Imbalance of Yin and Yang are believed to cause illness. Yin foods include, fruits, vegetables, cold liquids, and beer. Yang foods include meats, eggs, hot soup and liquids, and oily or fried foods. Illnesses caused by Yang excess are treated with Yin foods, and vice versa.

Mental health problems are often viewed as shameful and not readily discussed. Mental illness is thought to be caused by a lack of harmony of emotions. In some cases mental illness is thought to come from evil spirits, which can be dispelled by a healer.

For the immigrant population, the Chinese group had a high access to health insurance: 92% in the random sample and 78% in the public benefits survey possess insurance.

Educational System

Education is highly valued in China. An estimated 85% of the population is literate. Since 1978, China has adopted the education policy of “nine-year compulsory schooling.” During the period, students finish both primary school and junior high school. For higher education, students must pass entrance examinations for high schools or technical schools. After two to four years students may sit for the national college entrance exam that usually takes place from July 7 to 9. With harsh weather and high stress, July is widely nicknamed “black July”.

Pre-School Education

Children aged 3 to 6 usually attend kindergarten near home, where they learn the basics of the native language. They play games and learn to dance, sing and act. Imparting values and virtues such as “Truth, Kindness and Beauty” is one of the top priorities on the teaching agenda at this stage throughout the country.

Primary School Education

Primary school education has been lengthened from 5 to 6 years. Pupils are required to take a variety of subjects such as Chinese, basic math and moral education. They also take part in sports and extra-curriculum activities. In recent years, foreign languages such as English have become optional in the later years of primary school.

High School Education

The three-year junior high school curriculum includes science (such as chemistry, physics and biology), Chinese history, world history, geography, and physical education. Educators attach great importance to English, the official second language in most of the high schools. In senior high school students begin to take greater interest in a specific subject. A variety of contests are organized annually, such as the “Olympic Series.” The most important is preparation for national college entrance exams.

Higher Education

The main task of higher education in China is to train specialists for all sectors of the country’s development. Universities, colleges and institutes offer four-or five-year undergraduate programs as well as special two-or three-year programs. Students completing a first degree may apply to enter graduate school.

Chinese Immigrants in Santa Clara County

Demographics

The average family size for respondents in both the random and the public benefits sample is three. About 23% of the families in the random sample have one or more non-family members living in the home. In the public benefits survey this rises to 41%. The level of education for the respondents in the random group is relatively high, with 83% having 13 or more years of formal education. Of respondents in the benefits sample 58% had 13 or more years of formal education. In terms of annual income, 38% of the households in the random sample had income of $50,000 or less and 32% had incomes of $130,000 or more, leaving only 30% in the middle $50,000 to $110,000 range. For the public benefits sample, the overwhelming majority of households had very low incomes. The average age for respondents in the random sample was 51, and for the public benefits sample 66.

The resident distribution of respondents in the random survey indicated that the top 3 cities of residence were: Cupertino (33%), Los Gatos (25%) and Morgan Hill (17%). Chinese immigrants reported living in other cities in the following order: Campbell, Saratoga, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, San Jose, and Milpitas. The residence pattern for respondents in the benefits sample was different: 51% San Jose, 14% Sunnyvale and 9% Cupertino.

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

Older and some recently arrived Chinese cannot communicate well in English. Of respondents in the random sample, 73% said they communicate mostly in Chinese, with about 6% using English or English and another language (19%).

Among older Chinese and the recently arrived, eye contact with authority figures is a sign of respect. Asking questions is seen as disrespectful, and silence may be a sign of respect. Chinese people are often very shy, especially in unfamiliar environments. Older Chinese should be addressed as Mr. or Mrs. and last name. Use of the first name could be viewed as disrespectful. The Chinese language is very expressive and often appears loud to non-Chinese. This “loudness” may occur when speaking in English and may sound harsh and abrupt. Chinese with limited English may nod politely at everything being said, but not understand what is being said.

Except for intimate relationships, hugging, kissing, and touching are not common in interactions.

Emotional Support

When asked who they talk to if they have emotional problems, respondents in the random sample stated that they mostly talk to their spouses (50%) or friends (41%), but 33% said that they talk to “no one”.

Clothing

Most Chinese immigrants tend to wear westernized clothes. For some holiday celebrations many people, including children, wear traditional clothes. Jade pendants are commonly worn by women for good health and luck.

Food

Chinese food can be roughly divided into northern and southern styles of cooking. In general, northern dishes in the styles of Tientsin, Shantung, and Bejing use more oil, vinegar and garlic. Noodles, dumplings, steamed stuffed buns, fried meat dumplings and steamed bread are common flour-based dishes. Southern cooking includes Szechwan, noted for using chili peppers, and Hunan, Chekiang, and Cantonese styles, which use more rice and rice based dishes, such as rice noodles, rice cakes, and rice congee. The Chinese have a number of rules and customs associated with eating. Chopsticks are preferred to forks. Food is commonly placed with rice in the individual’s rice bowl.

Religious Traditions and Holidays

By tradition most Chinese are Bhuddist. However, many Chinese, especially younger Chinese, belong to Christian and other denominations. Particularly in the Bhuddist tradition, it is common for Chinese families to honor their ancestors. Most of the holidays celebrated by immigrants are so-called traditional holidays. The most notable are the Lantern Festival, marking the end of the New Year season and held on the 15th day of the first month; Qing Ming, originally a celebration of spring, now a day dedicated to the dearly departed; Duan Wu, the Dragon Boat Festival, held on the 5th day of the fifth month, celebrating the great patriot poet Qu Yuan of the State of Chu; the Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated the 15th day of the eighth month when the moon is the fullest and largest to the eye (second only to the Chinese New Year in significance); and the Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, the biggest and most celebrated festival held on the 1st day of the first month.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

The top five needs identified by respondents in the random sample were: 1) learning more English (63%); 2) help in becoming a citizen (42%,); 3) immigration legal assistance (41%); 4) vision care (37%), dental care (34%), and medical (28%) care; and 5) child (20%) and elder (17%) care. The top five needs identified by respondents in the public benefits sample were: 1) medical (89%), dental (85%) and vision (83%) care, 2) learning more English (73%), 3) help in becoming a citizen (68%), 4) housing (48%), and 5) food (36%). In the PRC focus group, the top needs identified were affordable medical care and insurance, coping with INS procedures and the INS backlog, lack of good public transportation, affordable housing, and taxes.

An overlapping issue in all categories was the need for service agencies to have forms translated into Chinese and to have personnel who can “speak Chinese”. Also noted was the lack of information about existing health care programs, transportation, and tax forms and resources.

Discrimination

The level of discrimination experienced among respondents in the random sample was mixed. While only 43% said they felt respected by police when stopped, only 2% said they were mistreated. About 19% felt discriminated by job interviewers and co-workers.

Among the public benefits recipients, the response was also mixed. While none reported being mistreated by the police, only 32% stated they felt respected by police when stopped and 24% said they felt discriminated by the police. Discrimination also occurred with public transit drivers (17%) and INS officers, job interviewers, co-workers, and landlords.

Barriers to Education, Services, and Benefits

When asked what prevents them or their families from obtaining education, services, or public benefits, 60% from the random sample said not enough English, 30% said no time, 28% said lack of information, 22% said a scheduling problem and 10% said the services or programs were too expensive. For respondents receiving public benefits, the two main reasons for not utilizing educational services or public benefits were lack of English (77%) and lack of time (16%).

Employment & Working Conditions

Occupational Data

About 30% of the respondents to the random survey are working in the engineering/math/computer science/electronics fields and 5% are managers. Before coming to the United States, 30% of the respondents worked in engineering/math/computer science/electronics, 15% were in education, and 8% were students. Reasons given for not following the same career in the United States were limited English skills (58%), different requirements for the occupation (25%), and an opportunity to get a better job (19%).

Of the respondents in the public benefits survey who had a career in China, 25% were retired, 24% were homemakers, and 12% worked as custodians. Before coming to the United States 16% responded that they were educators and 9% said they were retired. Reasons given for not following the same career in the United States were lack of employment training (19%) and occupational requirements being either different or too high (10%).

Working Conditions

The average family in the random survey had two (51%) or one (30%) family members who worked. They averaged 43 hours a week, more hours than any other immigrant group or the U.S.-born in the county. About 86% worked for a single employer. For the respondents in the random sample, 36% had no pension plan, 36% had to work overtime, 27% had no medical benefits, and 23% had no sick leave or paid vacation.

The average family of individuals receiving benefits had two (40%) or one (36%) family members who worked. They averaged 32 hours a week and 71% worked for one employer. Compared to the random sample, a significant number of workers in the public benefits sample did not have paid vacation (52%), sick leave (48%), a pension or retirement plan (48%), or medical benefits (43%).

Small Businesses

For the respondents in the random survey 41% owned a business or were self-employed. The three obstacles to starting a business were: knowing how to get started (58%), getting a loan (39%), and knowing what business idea might be successful (36%). For respondents receiving benefits, only 29% owned businesses or were self-employed. The three obstacles to starting a business were: getting a loan (60%), knowing enough English (50%), and information on how to get started (26%).

Public Benefits in the Chinese Community

Of the benefits available to immigrant residents of the county (e.g. SSI, CalWORKs, food stamps, MediCal, CAPI and General Assistance) respondents in the random sample indicated that MediCal (21%) and SSI (20%) were the two benefits having the most recipients. Over 2/3 of the respondents did not know the requirements in order to receive benefits. Respondents for MediCal (67%) and SSI (55%) felt that the levels of benefits received were adequate.

Of the public assistance recipients, the majority knew the requirements for MediCal (86%) and SSI (63%) and a minority knew the requirements for food stamps (49%), G.A. (37%), and CAPI (30%). Only 16% knew the requirements for CalWORKs. Most recipients felt that the amounts received were adequate.

Of those receiving benefits, the majority (92%) felt they were treated with respect by agency staff. The majority (91%) also felt that agency staff communicated with them effectively. As for understanding their culture background, 73% said agency staff knew about their culture. On the other hand, 70% of those receiving the above benefits indicated that information they received by phone, in writing, or at orientations was not presented in a language they understood.

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K-12 Education

The great majority of respondents (71%) in the random sample did not have children under 18 in school. Of the respondents that had children under 18 in school, 90% wanted their children taught in English and Chinese and 10% wanted their children to be taught in English and another language. None of the respondents preferred English-only instruction. When asked to indicate the kinds of services desired for their children, 60% of the respondents in the random sample said school lunch and breakfast programs, with after school programs (20%) and tutoring (20%) being the next important.

Of Chinese receiving benefits, 76% did not have children under 18 in school, but of those who did have children, 90% wanted their children taught bilingually in English and Chinese or English and another language. Only 10% wanted their children taught only in English. The major need identified in this group was also school lunch and breakfast programs (59%), with parent meetings (37%) and after school activities (26%) being the next important.

Employment Training

Of the random sample survey respondents who reported receiving employment training in the U.S., most training occurred in service and semi-skilled occupations with only 14% specifying engineering/math/computer science/electronics and 7% indicating such areas as education and finance. The focus in occupational training reported by respondents receiving benefits was in the professional and service areas.

Respondents in the random sample received their educational training at a university (33%), community college (14%), or adult education (10%). Also 24% received their training from “multiple training” sites. For respondents receiving benefits 42% received their educational training at a university, 21% at adult education, and 13% at a community agency. Only 4% had gone to a community college.

ESL

Most Chinese in the random sample said their English skills were average (34%) to excellent (22%). Of the Chinese in the public benefits survey only 2% said their English skills were excellent. The majority said their skills were average to poor (26% and 39%). The random sample survey indicates that the main reason for needing better English skills is for employment (68%) and daily living (56%). The public assistance recipients survey indicated a counter pattern: 83% said they needed to improve their English for daily living situations and only 14% said they needed better English for employment purposes. This was probably so because most were elderly.

As for different techniques to improve their English skills, 50% of the random sample said having English-speaking friends is the biggest help. About 1/3 of the respondents said that having courses on TV or courses offered closer to home would be helpful. For those receiving benefits, having classes closer to home (50%), longer classes (29%), better weekday schedules (27%), and having English-speaking friends (27%) were the major means identified to learn English quickly, with less interest in such approaches as TV (17%) and audio cassettes (13%).

Citizenship

Whereas 58% of Chinese responding to the random survey are naturalized citizens, only 14% of Chinese receiving public assistance are citizens. When asked what citizenship services they need, the top response was for citizenship classes: 46% in the random sample and 52% in the public assistance sample. The second biggest need was to have literacy classes in Chinese: 14% in the random sample and 31% in the public assistance sample. The third biggest need was getting legal advice and dealing with issues pertaining to INS processing of their applications. About 23% in the random sample and 21% in the public benefits sample said they need legal help, and 23% in the random sample and 20% in the benefits sample need help tracking their INS applications.

Communication & Outreach in the Chinese Community

The random survey indicates 63% of the respondents get news and information from Chinese language newspapers and television. The survey of Chinese receiving public benefits also shows that the respondents get news and information primarily from Chinese language newspapers (84%) and Chinese language TV (82%). Media sources little to never used as sources of news and information are English language radio (3% for both), English language TV (9% and 3%), and the internet (5% and 3%). Information from church, community organizations, and government publications do not inform these communities. About 97% of Chinese families in both survey groups owned a television. More families in the random survey had radios and VCRs (94% and 84%) than in the public benefits survey (72% and 60%). Families in the random survey were slightly more likely to have a telephone (99% to 91%), and significantly more likely to have computers (81% to 51%), fax machines (63% to 30%), e-mail (60% to 19%), and internet connections (52% to 21%). Newspaper subscriptions were about the same for both groups at 53%.

Chinese in Action: Allen Lew

Chinese respondents in the random survey indicated a significant involvement in civic activities such as neighborhood organizations (28%), social issue campaigns (16%), and school or parent organizations (16%). By far the major focus for involvement outside the family is church participation (53%). About 48% reported that they are registered to vote. A major reason given for not participating in voting was not enough time (83%) and/or language barriers.

As of December 2000, 14,061 registered voters in Santa Clara County were born in China, and 6,179 voted in the March 2000 elections. This number of voters is a great increase from the 2,558 who voted in November 1990.

There are many active and successful Chinese immigrants in Santa Clara County. One of them is Allen Lew. Mr. Lew came to the United States in 1981. At the beginning he had two jobs and went to school at the same time. Mr. Lew worked in electronics and sauna cleaning businesses and took ESL classes at De Anza College. Very soon he started his own landscaping business and continued with school for two years. This wasn’t an easy period. However, Mr. Lew is a self-taught artist and he established an art design and trade show business in 1983. The name of the company was changed from Art Mark to Silicon Exhibits in 1999.

At Silicon Exhibits, Mr. Lew designs office space, makes office furniture, prepares trade shows and displays, and produces some of the most outstanding graphic art in all of Silicon Valley. For a period of time Mr. Lew even taught a class in his office. About 15 students learned how to use their talents and apply computer programs for graphic design.

Preparing one exhibition per month on average, Mr. Lew usually works more than 16 hours per day. However, he obviously has a lot of love for this type of work and enjoys having a medium to express his creativity. His understanding family, friends and community play an important role in supporting Mr. Lew as one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative entrepreneurs.

Mexico

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Mexico

by Cesar Garcia


Context for Mexican Immigration

History and Government

Mexico was the cradle of several highly evolved pre-Columbian civilizations, including Olmec, Toltec, Mayan, and Aztec. In 1521, the Spaniard Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztec Empire, setting the foundation for the viceroyalty of New Spain. Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1821 with the initial leadership of the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. Agustin de Iturbide became emperor after the war, and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna proclaimed Mexico a republic in 1822.

Guadalupe Victoria became the first president of Mexico in 1823. Santa Anna was elected president in 1833, and established a dictatorship. The Mexican-American war in 1846 ended with the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Mexican cession of California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. This treaty and the independence of Texas in 1836 reduced the Mexican territory almost in half.

President Benito Juarez conducted liberal reforms in 1855, removing the power and properties of the Catholic Church. The French invasion in 1861 culminated with the execution of the French emperor Maximilian of Austria in 1864. Modernization, economic exploitation of the peasants by landowners (latifundistas), and the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz (1877-1880 and 1884-1911) concluded with the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917).

Under the banner of “Land and Liberty” and the leadership of Emiliano Zapata in central Mexico and Francisco Villa in the north, the rebellion sought to redistribute land to poor peasants and establish democratic elections. In 1929, revolutionary and reformist politicians founded the Revolutionary National Party. It was renamed in 1946 as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and held monolithic power until the year 2000.

In 1938, President Lazaro Cardenas expropriated all foreign oil wells in the country. This strained the relationship with the U.S. until an agreement was reached in 1941. After World War II, the Mexican government’s emphasis was economic growth, which was accelerated by the production of crude oil. By the late 1970s, Mexico was the world’s fourth leading oil producer, but with the fall of oil prices it also acquired an immense external debt. The external debt has been renegotiated several times in past decades. In the 1980s, in spite of austerity measures adopted by President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado, the economy contracted and the standard of living deteriorated considerably. In September 1985, two major earthquakes hit Mexico City and surrounding areas killing between 5,000 and 10,000 people and leaving another 300,000 homeless.

In 1994, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico formed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Tariffs on imports will be gradually removed in a 15-year period. The assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio in Tijuana in 1994, resulted in the presidential election of PRI candidate Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, Colosio’s campaign manager. The divisions within the PRI, general discontent, and the increased popularity of the National Action Party (PAN) culminated in the election of the PAN candidate Vicente Fox as President of Mexico in the year 2000.

The government of Mexico is a Federal Republic with a bicameral congress. Presidential terms last six years with no re-election.

Economy

The GDP of Mexico in 1998 was $815 billions, with a per capita income of $8,300. Extreme income inequality and high inflation create severe hardship among the Mexican people.

Under austerity plans imposed by the International Monetary Fund, many collective farms (ejidos) and public enterprises have been privatized. Thousands of U.S. maquiladoras (corporations) have reduced their work forces in 2000 and 2001. Under NAFTA, it is estimated that 15 million campesinos (farmers) will lose their jobs in 2000-2010 as U.S. agribusinesses under-sell Mexican corn growers. These economic pressures lead to growing immigration to the U.S.

Mexican Immigration

The severe economic pressures causing the migration of Mexicans to the U.S. include the sharp difference in the economies of Mexico and the U.S., the availability of jobs in the U.S. during times of economic expansion, the high unemployment rate and economic fluctuations in Mexico, deep external debt and excessive international borrowing, monetary crises caused by devaluations of the peso, and competition favoring U.S. corporations under NAFTA. Mexicans also came to the United States to escape civil war during the Mexican Revolution and to escape religious persecution during the Cristero Rebellion, a bloody war between some state governments and the church in western Mexico from 1926 to 1929. The immigration of Mexicans to the southwestern United States was also influenced by the existence of large Mexican communities in this region. More recently, since 1994 the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas has probably contributed to the migration of inhabitants from southern Mexico.

Under the 1986 amnesty program, over two million undocumented Mexicans received green cards. Millions more have entered the U.S. legally since then, and it is estimated that three to four million more undocumented Mexicans live throughout the U.S. in 2001, including tens of thousands in Santa Clara County.

Social Characteristics of the Mexican People

Ethnic and Religious Diversity

Ethnic groups in Mexico are mestizo (Indian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, and other 1%. About 89% of the Mexican population is Roman Catholic, 6% is Protestant, and 5% practice other religions.

Family Life

The family has great importance for Mexicans. Family well-being and reputation come first, and family is also the first source of help and support in a time of crisis. Families can be comprised of nuclear families, extended families, and compadres (Godparents). Decision-making authority rests with the father or oldest son. Mothers are very influential in children’s lives. Elders are respected and most of the time cared for at home. Loyalty, solidarity and reciprocity between family members are expected. The roles of males and females in the family are dictated by traditional norms and values, but these are changing with the growing number of working women.

Health Care Practices

In 1995, the Social Security Program provided health care for 50% of the Mexican population. Many of the remaining 50% received health care from a variety of government agencies or private doctors. The focus on present time as well as the high cost of medical treatments prevent many Mexicans from seeking preventive health care. This care is also more available in urban areas than in rural parts of Mexico. For many, God is believed to be the mandating force in future health.

Curanderos (folk healers) are a popular and more economical source of health treatments, especially in rural areas of Mexico. Some ailments commonly cured by curanderos, sobadoras (masseuses), and yerberos (herbalists) include: caida de mollera (sunken fontanelle), empacho (intestinal obstruction), and mal de ojo (evil eye).

Traditionally, Mexican families take care of their disabled members. This includes people with mental retardation, which is more stigmatized than physical disabilities. There are more facilities for the care of people with mental disorders in larger cities. There is still considerable stigma and skepticism among Mexicans in seeking assistance from mental health professionals.

Educational System

The Secretariat of Public Education controls the entire education system. Public education in Mexico is free and secular. Primary and secondary education is compulsory up to age 16. The government provides free textbooks and workbooks to all primary schools. The literacy rate in 1995 for males was 89.5% and 87.2% for females. Only a small percentage of the student population completes a university education.

Mexicans in Santa Clara County

Demographics

Around 75% of Mexicans in the random sample reported leaving Mexico due to economic hardships, and one-third reported coming to the U.S. to reunite with family members or to obtain an education. This group had lived in the U.S. an average of 18 years and 16 years in Santa Clara County.

Of Mexicans in the random sample, 92% stated that Spanish was the language they use the most, 6% used English, and 2% used both languages. The average age for the random sample was 40 years, and 80% of the respondents lived in San Jose. In regards to school years completed, 28% of Mexicans in the random sample completed 1 to 6 years, 45% of them completed 7 to 12 years, and 27% of them completed 13 years or more. The average household size for this group was 5 people.

Of Mexicans in the public benefits group, 83% cited economic difficulties as the reason for leaving Mexico, and roughly one out of three of these Mexicans came to the U.S. to reunite with family members or to take advantage of educational opportunities. This group had lived in the U.S. an average of nine years and in Santa Clara County an average of seven years.

About 96% of respondents in the public benefits group stated that Spanish was the language they used the most, 3% used English, and 1% used both languages. The average age for this sample was 33 years, and 75% of them lived in San Jose. The public benefits survey also revealed that 34% of the respondents completed between one and six years of school, 45% completed between seven and 12 years, and 21% completed 13 years or more. Households for this sample had an average size of 6 people. The income distribution for both samples was the following:

                      $10K & less    $10K-30K    $30K-50        $50K-70K    $70,001+
Random Sample        10%            33%        29%            18%            11%
Public Benefits           46%            36%        11%              5%              2%

Interpersonal Communication

Mexicans commonly use the formal Usted mode of speaking with the elderly, married women, and strangers, and are generally reserved in formal or new settings. Signs of respect such as standing to greet people and shaking hands are very important in social interactions. Relationships with family and friends show warmth and expressiveness. Embracing is common, and kissing is also a popular greeting practiced among women.

Emotional Support

The top three sources of emotional support for Mexicans in the random sample were spouses 56%, friends 43%, and relatives 21%. In this group, the providers of care for children under 12 years of age were mothers 56%, fathers 42%, and to a lesser extent babysitters. For Mexicans in the random sample group, the most preferred ways of caring for seniors and disabled people were at home by family members, or at home by trained caregivers.

In contrast, 31% of public benefits recipients stated they frequently have no one to talk to about their emotional problems, 30% talked to spouses, and 29% talked to friends. Child care providers for respondents in this group were mothers 63%, fathers 28%, and grandparents 16%. The top choices for the care of seniors and disabled family members for this group of Mexicans were also at home by a trained caregiver, or at home by a family member.

Clothing

Mexican dress is westernized and highly influenced by U.S. styles. However, for special occasions, the most traditional outfit used by Mexicans is the charro outfit for men and the china poblana outfit for women. Men use pants lined with silver or shiny buttons on the sides, jackets tailored with shiny ornaments, and a round wide-brimmed sombrero. Women wear a white peasant blouse and a red skirt with ornaments of different colors. There are other traditional outfits for the different regions of Mexico.

Food

The most basic ingredients in the Mexican cuisine are corn, beans, and rice. Dishes vary according to the region of the country. Even dishes with the same name can be prepared differently, such as red and green enchiladas. Corn is used to prepare numerous foods like tortillas, tamales, sopes, gorditas and pinole, and drinks like pinolillo and atole. Tacos are probably the most common dish in Mexico. Contents can vary from cheese to the most delicious beef and fish meats. Other famous dishes are mole (chicken covered by a very tasty red sauce), menudo (a stew prepared with beef stomach and feet), ceviche (small pieces of fish or shrimp cooked with lemon juice and seasoned with onions, cilantro, and peppers), birria (another beef soup-like stew with red peppers) chiles rellenos (chiles stuffed with cheese, covered with flour and egg batter and fried), and pozole (soup-like stew with hominy, spices, and pork stew meat).

Religious Traditions and Holidays

Religious traditions are very influential in Mexico’s culture. One of the most common traditions in Mexico is the celebration of fiestas patronales in honor of the community’s patron saint, accompanied by ferias that add the elements of entertainment and food. Another important tradition is related to Lent and Holy Week (March-April), when many people abstain from eating red meats on Fridays, or from having or doing something they enjoy (sacrificios). El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead on November 2) is also a very important day for Mexicans. They spend most of the day at cemeteries, remembering loved ones who have died and preparing altars in their honor. Many Mexican neighborhoods celebrate nine posadas prior to Christmas. These “processions” represent the pilgrimage of St. Joseph and Virgin Mary prior to the birth of Christ.

Other popular holidays celebrated in Mexico include New Year (January 1), Los Santos Reyes (Wise men, January 6), Day of love and friendship (February 14), Benito Juarez’s birth (March 21), Day of the Child (April 30), Labor Day (May 1), Battle of Puebla (Cinco de Mayo, May 5), Mother’s Day (May 10), Teachers’ Day (May 15), El Grito de Independencia (Independence Day, Evening of September 15), All Saints Day (November 1), Day of the Revolution (November 20), Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), and Christmas Evening (December 24).

Challenges in Santa Clara County

The most pressing needs identified in the random sample were ESL classes 68%, legal help with immigration issues 45%, medical care 42%, dental care 40%, and eye care 30%.

For Mexicans in the public benefits group, the highest needs were ESL classes 75%, medical care 73%, dental care 70%, immigration legal help 55%, and eye care 51%.

A series of focus groups were conducted with different subgroups of the Mexican community in Santa Clara County: youth, low-wage workers and seniors. The key problems they identified in the Mexican community were undocumented immigration status; discrimination in most areas of life (including the police and judicial system); low wages; lack of affordable housing; lack of access to health, food and child care programs; the language barrier; and inappropriate schedules or insufficient ESL classes. In addition, Mexican seniors voiced the need for higher payments from Social Security; subsidized housing and utilities; more complete and efficient medical coverage; and more attention, understanding, and respect from family members and health service providers.

Participants overwhelmingly suggested a new amnesty as the solution that can provide the most benefits, such as higher wages, less discrimination in jobs, access to housing, and access to health and food programs. They also indicated a need for adjusting wages to the cost of living in Santa Clara County, building affordable housing for all, creating health programs for the working poor regardless of immigration status, receiving information on Spanish TV and radio about how to access available services, and increasing the number of ESL classes with appropriate schedules.

Discrimination

Only 41% of Mexicans in the random sample felt respected when stopped by the police. Other negative aspects were also associated with this experience. For instance, 29% of the group felt scared, 28% felt mistreated, and 26% felt they did not know their legal rights. The top five sources of discrimination for Mexicans in this group were employers 33%, police officers 29%, co-workers 23%, social workers or eligibility workers 23%, and job interviewers 19%.

Public benefit recipients presented a similar picture when stopped by the police. Forty seven percent of them felt scared, 44% were unable to communicate well, 34% did not know their legal rights, and only 32% of them felt respected. For this group of Mexicans, the main sources of discrimination were co-workers 25%, employers 23%, DMV officials 21%, social or eligibility workers 21%, and bus drivers 17%.

Barriers to Education, Services & Benefits

Mexicans in the random sample reported that they have the following barriers that prevent them from obtaining education, services and benefits: Not knowing enough English 49%, not enough time 39%, scheduling problems 38%, lack of information 34%, and immigration status 32%.

For Mexicans in the public benefits sample, the obstacles preventing them from obtaining education, services, and benefits were not knowing enough English 64%, immigration status 49%, lack of information 40%, no affordable child care 35%, and no transportation 31%.

Employment and Working Conditions

Occupational Data and Barriers

Common occupations among participants in the random sample were homemakers, custodians, business owners, gardeners, and transportation workers. Occupations in Mexico for this group included farmers, homemakers, and various jobs in the service area.

Roughly half of the respondents in the random sample said that limited English skills were the main reason for the difference between previous and current occupations. Other reasons reported were having a better current job 39%, lack of employment training 35%, not having a license or credential in the U.S. 29%, and the lack of funds 17%.

In the public benefits group, participants reported current occupations such as homemakers, custodians, food service workers, and retail workers. Occupations in Mexico for respondents in this group were homemakers, service workers, and administrative assistants.

Sixty two percent of public benefits recipients cited limited English skills as the main reason for the difference between their occupations here and in Mexico. Other reasons mentioned were not having a license or credential in the U.S. 50%, lack of employment training 35%, having a better current job 31%, and lack of knowledge of occupational requirements in the U.S 22%.

Working Conditions

Mexicans in the random sample worked an average of 40 hours a week. Not surprisingly, 61% of families in this group had two or more people employed. Only 30% of the participants reported just one person employed in the family. Furthermore, 14% of Mexicans in this group had two or more jobs in order to meet their needs. Negative working conditions in the random sample survey were lack of medical benefits 52%, no sick leave 47%, no paid vacation 41%, and no pension or retirement plan 38%. Those with union membership (36%) generally did not suffer these conditions.

Conversely, participants in the public benefits survey worked an average of 33 hours a week. In regards to the number of people working in these families, 40% had one person employed and an additional 43% had two or more people employed. The majority of Mexicans in this group (71%) had one job; however, 25% of them had two or more jobs. Common working conditions for public benefits recipients included lack of medical benefits 65%, no sick leave 62%, no paid vacation 56%, and no pension or retirement plan 50%. Nearly 40% worked for businesses with fewer than 25 employees.

Small Businesses

Only 11% of the random sample reported that anyone in their family was self-employed or owned a business. For the public benefits group, this percentage was reduced to 4%. The top five obstacles in starting a business for both groups were not knowing legal and permit requirements, information on how to get started, getting a loan, learning English, and knowing what business idea might be successful.

Public Benefits in the Mexican Community

Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

Mexicans in the random sample had different levels of knowledge about the requirements for public benefits. Forty one percent of them understood the requirements for MediCal, 25% for food stamps, 15% for Supplementary Security Income (SSI), 10% for CalWORKs, 10% for General Assistance, and 8% understood the requirements for the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants. Among families of respondents to the random survey, 20% had someone in the family receiving MediCal, 8% receiving SSI, and 6% receiving food stamps.

Understandably, Mexicans in the public benefits group were more familiar with the requirements for the different public benefits. For MediCal, nine out of ten respondents knew these requirements, half of them knew them for food stamps, about one third of them knew them for CalWORKs, and only 15% of them knew the requirements for General Assistance. In the Mexican public benefits group 85% reported someone in the family receiving MediCal, 40% of these families had someone receiving food stamps, 23% were receiving CalWORKs, and 19% had someone receiving SSI. Three out of four respondents considered that learning English was the most challenging barrier to become self-sufficient.

Culturally Competent Services

According to Mexicans receiving public benefits, four out of five respondents attended MediCal orientations in Spanish. Eighty six percent of these participants received phone calls from MediCal personnel in Spanish, and nine out of ten received written materials in Spanish. For food stamps programs, 76% of the respondents attended orientations in Spanish, 80% received phone calls in Spanish, and 82% of them received written materials in Spanish. For CalWORKs programs, 63% of them attended orientations in Spanish, 68% received written materials in Spanish, and 74% received phone calls in Spanish.

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K-12 Education

About 54% of adults in the random sample survey and 73% of adults in the public benefits sample had children under the age of 18 in school. Of the respondents in both groups, two-thirds expressed a desire for bilingual (English/Spanish) education for children. English-only education was supported by one out of four respondents in the random sample and by one out of five respondents in public benefits survey. The top three services received at schools were the same for participants in both surveys. In the random sample, 69% attended parent meetings, 66% received information in Spanish, and 64% participated in lunch or breakfast programs. In the public benefits survey, 68% received information in Spanish, 64% attended parent meetings, and 63% participated in lunch or breakfast programs.

Employment Training

Mexicans in the random sample received employment training mostly involving basic skills such as ESL classes, general education, and custodial or technical occupations. These participants received their training mainly through adult education programs, and secondarily through private businesses or institutes.

Public benefits recipients received employment training in areas such as ESL or general education, and occupations like food service worker and technician. Sources of employment training for this group included adult education centers, community colleges, and community agencies.

ESL

In rating their own English skills, 6% of the random sample rated their English as excellent, 22% as good, 50% as average, 18% as poor, and 5% believed they had no English skills. This group of Mexicans endorsed weekend ESL classes (47%), ESL classes closer to home (35%), and better class schedules as helpful ways of learning English.

Of Mexican public benefits recipients, 4% considered their English skills as excellent, 8% as good, 36% as average, 20% as poor, and 32% as non-existent. Participants in this group suggested ESL classes closer to home (54%), better class schedules (43%), and weekend ESL classes (42%) as helpful in improving their English skills.

Citizenship

Forty four percent of Mexicans surveyed in the random sample were naturalized citizens. The most pressing needs in this area were citizenship classes 50%, legal advice 34%, and help filling out application 32%. In the public benefits group, only 11% of the respondents were naturalized citizens. Of these respondents, 46% needed citizenship classes, 42% help to fill out the application, and 41% needed English literacy classes in Spanish.

Communication and Outreach in the Mexican Community

The families of Mexicans in the random survey obtained important information from Spanish TV 80%, Spanish radio 54%, church 39%, English TV 36%, family 32%, and friends 29%. The five most popular information-related devices in the homes of these participants were TVs 99%, telephones 97%, radios 95%, VCRs 83%, and computers 44%.

Similarly, Mexicans in the public benefits group obtained important information from Spanish TV 86%, Spanish radio 55%, friends 30%, family 26%, and church 25%. Their homes had the following devices: TVs 99%, radios 90%, telephones 89%, VCRs 67%, and computers 16%.

Mexicans in Action: Claudia Olivares

Mexicans participating in both surveys reported being actively involved in their communities. About 54% of the random sample group was involved in religious groups, 33% in school or parent organizations, 26% in community organizations, and 19% in neighborhood organizations. In the public benefits group, 51% were involved in religious groups, 44% in school or parent organizations, 18% in neighborhood organizations, 10% in community organizations, and 10% with an informal group of friends. Voter registration was 38% for the random sample and 7% for the public benefits survey.

Mexicans in Santa Clara County dramatically increased their voting power and influence in the 1990s. While only 976 Mexicans voted in the November 1990 election, 8,752 voted in the March 2000 election. In December 2000, the number of Mexicans registered to vote in Santa Clara County was 19,946. The primary cities of residence were San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara.

Claudia Olivares, a 22-year old college student, is one of the tens of thousands of Mexicans living in Santa Clara County. Her mother, younger brother and sister immigrated to San Jose nine years ago. Her family had great difficulty finding housing when they arrived. The exorbitant prices of rents and the low wages of her mom’s jobs forced them to rent rooms from other families, moving ten times in a two-year period.

Cerebral palsy during birth left Claudia paraplegic, but her optimism and her charming personality make her a highly positive influence on the people around her. In spite of all the obstacles, Claudia graduated from high school and her academic achievements earned her two scholarships. Claudia is currently attending both a community and a Christian college. In college, she has received two more scholarships that will assist her in completing her education. Her career goal is to become a counselor in Juvenile Hall.

Claudia’s accomplishments are particularly impressive since she has overcome not only language barriers and hurdles that physically challenged people face, but also discrimi-nation. For instance, she stood up for her rights against a professor who made discriminatory remarks against her and other Mexican students. She is a volunteer at the Juvenile Hall meetings, where she talks to teenagers to motivate and counsel them. Claudia’s mother also deserves much credit. She transports Claudia everywhere in her car, a car with no modifications for the wheelchair.

In 1999, Claudia and her mother were recognized for their efforts in a highly inspirational talk show on national Spanish TV. Claudia represents living proof of the popular Mexican phrase “Sí Se Puede” (you can do it). Everyone in Santa Clara County should feel fortunate to have hard-working and motivated persons like Claudia.

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Vietnam

by Yen Le


Context for Vietnamese Immigration

History and Government

Among the countries that have occupied Vietnam are China, France, Japan and the United States. One Vietnamese folk song depicts the history of “one thousand years of Chinese domination, one hundred years of French domination, and twenty years of internal civil war.” China ruled the territory then known as Nam Viet as a vassal state from 111 B.C. until the 15th century. In 1428, after a decade of leadership by Emperor Le Loi, the Chinese recognized Vietnam’s independence and signed an accord. From 1460 to 1498, Le Thanh Tong ruled Vietnam and extended its territory southward conquering the kingdoms of Champa and Cambodia.

France built up its influence in Vietnam in the early 19th century, and soon took exclusive control of ports and trade. After a series of conflicts and treaties, France succeeded in defeating Vietnam militarily and politically in 1884. The French colonial government exercised complete political control and economic domination.

When Japan occupied Vietnam in 1940, nationalist forces gathered strength and formed the Vietminh (independence) League, led by the Communist guerilla Ho Chi Minh. Between 1946 and 1954 the French sought to regain control of Vietnam and fought both nationalist and Communist forces. France was decisively beaten at the Battle of Dienbienphu in May 1954. The Geneva accords of July 1954 divided Vietnam along the 17th parallel, recognizing a new North Vietnam controlled by the pro-Chinese Vietnamese Communist Party and Ho Chi Minh while calling for elections in the 39 provinces constituting South Vietnam. In October 1955 Ngo Dinh Diem became the first elected president of South Vietnam.

The North adopted a constitution in 1959 based upon Communist principles and called for the reunification of Vietnam. North Vietnam and the Communist Party in South Vietnam (Vietcong), aided by China and the USSR, pressed war in the South. Political instability in the South led to a military coup overthrowing Diem in 1963. Many military governments followed.

U.S. escalation of involvement occurred in the early 1960s beginning with President Kennedy. In 1964 the U.S. began air raids over North Vietnam and the following year the U.S. introduced troops as combatants. Perhaps the worst fighting took place during the Vietnamese New Year (Tet). In the summer of 1970 the U.S. bombed and invaded Cambodia in an effort to destroy Vietcong bases located there. Under U.S. President Nixon a withdrawal plan was developed and in 1971 as the U.S. conducted heavy bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail traversing from North to South Vietnam, most American troops were withdrawn from combat. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger participated in peace negotiations leading to a Paris peace settlement in January 1973. The cease-fire was never implemented.

The Saigon regime fell to the North on April 30, 1975 and Saigon’s name was officially changed to Ho Chi Minh City. Civilian Vietnamese fatalities numbered over one million and combat deaths exceeded 200,000. The U.S. suffered over 58,000 casualties. Displaced refugees from the war in South Vietnam totaled over 6.5 million people. Many of those who remained faced difficult years of poverty, repression, and international isolation.

In 1976, North and South Vietnam were officially reunited as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Beginning in 1986 limited efforts at privatization were begun. The U.S. lifted its embargo in 1994 and reestablished full diplomatic relations in 1995. Today, Vietnam is a socialist state, led by President Tran Duc Luong, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, deputies, and a Government Council. The only legal political party is the Communist Party of Vietnam, and the National Assembly (Quoc Hoi) has 450 seats. All citizens may vote at the age of 18. Elections will be held in 2002.

Economy

Vietnam became a member of the UN in September of 1977. The Vietnamese currency is the dong, and its GDP in 1998 was $135 billion, with $1,770 per capita. Its real growth rate is 4% (1998 est.) while inflation is 9% and unemployment is 25% (in 1995). Vietnam’s agriculture includes rice paddies, corn, potatoes, rubber, soybeans, coffee, tea, bananas, poultry, pigs, and fish. Its labor force is composed of 65% (32.7 million) in agriculture and 35% in industry and services (1990 est.). Industry includes food processing, garments, shoes, machine building, and mining. Its natural resources include phosphates, forests, and coal.

Vietnamese Immigration

Soon after the withdrawal of the U.S. military and economic support, the military government of South Vietnam deteriorated and the flight of the Vietnamese refugees began within the country. As a result, about one million refugees poured out of Pleiku, Kontum, and Ban Me Thuot and headed for the capital city, Saigon. The coastal city of Da Nang was evacuated at the end of March 1975 followed by Nha Trang, Cam Ranh, and other coastal cities. On April 30, 1975, Saigon and all of South Vietnam came under the control of the Provisional Revolutionary Government. Many feared retaliation and “blood baths” by the Communists, resulting in the first wave of the newest Asian Pacific immigrant group to the U.S. as well as to many other countries around the world.

The first wave of about 135,000 refugees began arriving in April 1975 and continued through 1977. The second period of the Vietnamese refugees migration began in 1978. No one knows exactly how many thousands of people took to boats, and some estimates that as many as half of them perished at sea. The successful ones reached refugee camps in countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Many tried to escape political oppression and the social and the economic changes made by the Communist government of Vietnam. As a result of the conflict between China and Vietnam in 1978, thousands of Chinese Vietnamese were also forced out of Vietnam. Today, Amerasians, former political prisoners, and family members continue to come to the United States through “orderly departure” and ordinary immigration channels.

The general attitude of the American public at the end of the war was one of hostility toward Vietnamese refugees, largely because of the number of Americans who died and listed as missing in action during the war. Much of the hostility was also racially and economically based. To minimize the social impact of the large influx of Vietnamese refugees on an American public that did not favor the Vietnam War, the U.S. government, under the leadership of President Gerald Ford, adapted the Refugee Dispersion Policy with the goal of assimilating Vietnamese refugees into American society as quickly as possible. As a result, refugees were resettled throughout the United States and many extended families were broken up as well as many social networks that formed while they were abandoning their homelands or in refugee camps.

Despite the original intention of the federal government to disperse Vietnamese refugees throughout the United States, Vietnamese refugees began to relocate to different locations in the United States with the largest concentration in Westminster, Santa Ana, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego. San Jose now has more Vietnamese than any city outside of Vietnam. As a result of the Orderly Departure Program, the Humanitarian Operation Program, and the Homecoming Act of 1987, many former refugees are now able to sponsor immediate family members for immigration to the United States although the process may take years and a large financial investment.

Social Characteristics of the Vietnamese People

Ethnic and Religious Diversity

About 88% of the population is ethnic Kinh (Vietnamese) and about 3 percent of the Chinese form an important merchant class in Vietnam. The rest of the population consists of Khmer, Hao, and Cham people in addition to more than 50 highland minority groups, each with its own language and culture.

Four philosophies and religions have shaped the spiritual life of Vietnamese people: Confucianism (Khong Giao), Buddhism (Phat Giao), Taoism (Lao Giao), and more recently, Catholicism (Cong Giao). Vietnam’s constitution has always guaranteed freedom of religion, but the government has frequently interfered with religious practice and the internal affairs of churches. Buddhism is practiced by 55 percent of the populations with temples and pagodas full of people making offers for success and health to various gods and goddesses. About 12 percent of the population is Taoist and 7 percent is Roman Catholic. Christianity is becoming more popular in cities. Regardless of religion, nearly all Vietnamese venerate their ancestors. Because many Vietnamese believe the deceased are accessible to help or hinder the living, almost every family has an altar for ancestor worship.

Family Life

The family is the most important of all social units in Vietnam. Hieu, filial piety, which refers to the idea of love, care, and respect that children give to their parents, is one of the basic virtues taught from a very young age. The family traditionally was composed of three to five generations living in the same house (parents, children, grandparents, and sometimes, unmarried uncles and aunts).

The long history of wars changed the basic structure of the Vietnamese family because many family members were killed during the different wars. However, the extended family basically remains intact. Today, the rural family household is typically composed of parents, unmarried children, married sons, and their families living together. As married sons establish their own households, the youngest son usually inherits the parental home and cares for the elderly parents. Single-family homes are more common in urban areas.

Men and women share most responsibilities in the family and both are often breadwinners. If farmers, they work together in the fields. Vietnam also has a patriarchal system where the man, or husband, typically serves as the head of the family, takes care of money matters, and is responsible for providing for his family. Women, on the other hand, are in charge of the affairs in the home and raising the children.

In Santa Clara County, when asked who takes care of children ages 12 and under in the family, 39% of the respondents from the random sample answered “mother,” 23% replied “father,” and 18% said “grandparent”. For public benefits recipients, mothers (42%), fathers (23%), and grandparents (10%) take care of children. This shows that the extended family is still very much in existence in today’s Vietnamese households. Less than 10% in both groups use child care centers.

Health Care Practices

Vietnam’s health care system offers free or low-cost medical care to all people, but facilities are often inadequate, especially in rural areas. Every commune has a clinic, but it often lacks modern medicine or other supplies. Traditional healing and natural medicines play an important role in health care. Many people in Vietnam use coining (rubbing a coin with hot ointment to an appropriate part of the body), among many other home remedies, as a technique to get rid of headaches, colds, pain, and nausea. Such rubbing will remove the “bad wind” or symptoms received from the environment or from people made contact with. Many Vietnamese people believe that healthiness is a holistic concept that encompasses physical, spiritual, emotional, and social factors. Preventive health care is an essential part of health care, and nutrition plays a substantial part. However, malnutrition affects a large proportion of rural children and more than one million people suffer from hunger in some regions affected by drought followed by floods in 1998. In 1999, floods damaged one million homes and put more people at risk of disease.

Educational System in Vietnam

Primary education is free to all in Vietnam, beginning at age five. In some areas, school facilities do not adequately handle all children, so students attend on a half-day basis. The school week is Monday through Saturday. All children are encouraged to finish high school, but the dropout rate is increasing as young people leave to look for work. University education is free to qualified students, but there is tough competition for limited space. Vietnam has begun allowing students who do not qualify for a government subsidy to enter a university as paying students.

Vietnamese in Santa Clara County

Demographics

Vietnamese have faced a wide range of social, cultural, economic, and personal issues for the past 25 years as immigrants in the United States. Of the Vietnamese respondents in the random sample survey, 79% stated that Vietnamese is still the language they speak most often while 4% speak English. The average age of respondents in this group was 50 years, and they had lived in the U.S. an average of 12.6 years. With respect to the total number of school years completed, 27% completed 10-12 years while 17% completed 15-16 years and 15% completed 13-14 years. The survey shows that the average size of Vietnamese households in Santa Clara County is four people. Respondents in this group lived mostly in San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale. In addition, 28% of the respondents reportedly have a total household income of $10-30,000 per year while 18% make $30-50,000 per year and 17% make $50-70,000 per year.

For respondents in the public benefits group, the languages used the most were Vietnamese (96%) and Cantonese/Mandarin (3%). The average age of respondents in this group was 48 years, and they had lived in the U.S. for 5.5 years. The number of school years completed were the following: 6 years or less (22%), 7-9 years (15%), 10-12 years (33%), and 13 years or more (30%). The average household size of this group of Vietnamese was 5 people, and they lived mostly in San Jose, Milpitas, and Santa Clara. The total household income for this group was less than $10,000 per year (32%), $10-30,000 per year (55%), and more than $30,000 per year (13%).

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

Vietnamese people, especially men, generally shake hands when greeting formally, but otherwise greet verbally, bowing the head slightly. However, Vietnamese living in the U.S. may greet each other in English and perhaps a hug. Traditionally, a formal greeting between strangers is chao (hello) followed by a title, based on family, as if everyone were related. For instance, a person from North Vietnam greeting a man about the same age (or older) as the person’s father calls the man bac (uncle) and if he is about the same age he greets him as anh (brother).

In regards to gestures, it is usually inappropriate to touch another person’s head, the body’s most spiritual point. It is rude to summon a person with the index finger. Traditionally, one should wave all four fingers with the palm down. In Vietnam, men and women generally do not show affection in public, but it is common for members of the same sex to hold hands or hold each other while walking. However, this may vary from city to city in Vietnam, and it especially differs among Vietnamese people living in the United States.

Emotional Support

Many Vietnamese are still traumatized by the devastating events that forced them out of their homeland and they have not received any mental health care since their arrival. This is largely due to the pressure of economic assimilation and lack of familiarity with Western mental health concepts. In addition, individuals with emotional problems do not usually get professional help; instead, over 40% of respondents in the random sample preferred to talk to their spouse, relative, or friends rather than mental health specialists (5%). Public benefits recipients talked to spouses (46%), friends (45%), and relatives (31%).

Clothing

In Vietnam, everyday dress for both men and women generally consists of slacks worn with a casual cotton or knit blouse or polo shirt. For special occasions, going to church, or attending high school or college, women wear the traditional ao dai (a long dress with front and back panels worn over satin trousers). Men might wear shorts at the beach or work site but not otherwise in public. In Santa Clara County, Vietnamese usually wear typical American clothes but many women still wear ao dai for special occasions.

Food

Steamed white rice is eaten at almost every meal and may include a salty dish (such as pork cooked in fish broth), a vegetable dish (boiled vegetables or stir fry), and soup (such as fish and vegetable soup). Fruits may also be eaten after meals for dessert, which includes watermelon, papaya, jackfruit, and mango. In addition to this typical Vietnamese diet, Vietnamese also consume different ethnic foods available in Santa Clara County.

Religious Traditions and Holidays

There are 11 major lunar holidays in Vietnam, but the most important one is the Lunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan) in late January or early February and on this day, everyone becomes a year older. In Vietnam, people spend up to a week feasting and visiting loved ones, after cleaning their houses and mending relationships. In the U.S., few people take time off from work for New Year’s but most people do celebrate by offering gifts to their families and close friends. Often, the elders give good luck money to children in red envelopes called li xi, followed by mung tuoi (exchange of new year wishes). In Santa Clara County, an annual Tet festival is held at the Fairgrounds.

Tet Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn Festival) is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. In ancient times, this night was observed to predict the weather and the events that would affect the crops for the upcoming year, impacting the lives of farmers and the society of Vietnam as a whole. Over time, the Mid-Autumn Festival became a cultural event, focusing primarily on children. The children are seen as the next generation that will continue the cycle of life in the community and thus they participate in a lantern march throughout the neighborhood.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

In conjunction with resettlement issues such as racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, inter-generational differences in the household, and conflict with other minority groups, Vietnamese face many other challenges in Santa Clara County. The top six needs for respondents in the random sample were: housing, medical care, and learning English (42% each), dental care (41%), eye care (39%), and help in becoming U.S. citizens (26%). For Vietnamese respondents in the public benefits group, these needs were: medical care (75%), housing (72%), dental care (71%), eye care (66%), ESL (63%), and food (54%).

In a focus group conducted with Vietnamese in Santa Clara County, participants prioritized learning English as their number one need, followed by housing, transportation, and health insurance. Similarly, in a focus group conducted with Vietnamese women on CalWORKs, they expressed a need for housing, more time to learn English, more help finding a job that pays enough to live in Silicon Valley, affordable child care, accurate information, and individual attention from their eligibility workers (in that order of priority).

During these focus groups and community meetings called Immigrants Building Community (IBC), solutions were suggested to address these concerns. For housing, participants requested rent control. Those on CalWORKs would like to see an increase in their grant money to reflect the housing cost in the area. The Vietnamese women on CalWORKs recognize the need to learn English but predict that it may take at least 4 years instead of the 12 months that they feel CalWORKs allows to attend ESL classes. They also feel they need more time for job training, perhaps an opportunity to get a degree or certificate, and free or low-cost child care. These participants were of the opinion that government should mandate all companies and businesses to offer health benefits to full-time employees and their families.

Discrimination

According to the random survey, 27% of respondents were unable to communicate well when stopped by the police. Consequently, 24% of respondents felt scared. Many did not know the law (36%) and did not know their rights (35%). Furthermore, 36% felt discriminated against by the police, 33% by their boss, 28% by their co-workers, and 18% by job interviewers. Many public benefits recipients similarly reported not knowing their legal rights (39%), having communication problems (33%), and feeling scared (29%) when stopped by the police. Sources of discrimination for this group included: police (39%), job interviewer (30%), social/eligibility worker (26%), and co-workers (17%).

Barriers to Education, Services, and Benefits

When asked what prevents them from obtaining education, services, or public benefits, the top three reasons given by respondents in the random sample were lack of English skills (48%), lack of time (39%), and lack of information (24%). Barriers reported in the public benefits group were comparable: lack of English skills (71%), lack of time (24%), and scheduling problems (18%).

Employment & Working Conditions in Santa Clara County

Occupational Data and Barriers

The employment history and socioeconomic adaptation of Vietnamese in the U.S. are complex and dependent upon such factors as how familiar they are with an urban setting, their exposure to western culture, the time of arrival to the United States, and their level of preparation prior to resettlement. Overall, research regarding Vietnamese employment indicates that Vietnamese are doing reasonably well. However, for immigrants to a new country, language proficiency is a major factor that prevents them from obtaining high-paying jobs or jobs that would reflect their former educational and skill level. The survey reveals that 40% of respondents in the random sample had to change occupations because of limited English skills, 35% because of the different requirements for their occupation in the U.S., 30% because they have no license or credential in the U.S., and 22% because of lack of funds to keep the same occupation. Roughly one third of them reported having a better job now than they had in Vietnam. The public benefits group indicated that significant employment barriers were limited English (60%), different requirements for their occupation in the U.S. (34%), and the lack of a license or credential in the U.S. (32%).

Working Conditions

The average number of people living in a Vietnamese household is about four. In 36% of those cases, two of those four people are wage earners, and 18% of those households have three members working for wages. The average Vietnamese worker in Santa Clara County works 38 hours per week and 92% of respondents worked for only one employer. About one-half of the respondents reported working in a unionized job. About 27% do not have medical benefits, a pension, or a retirement plan, 24% have no paid vacation, and 20% have no sick leave. About 3 in 10 Vietnamese work swing shift, graveyard shift, or weekends.

Small Business

About 9% of Vietnamese in the random survey and 4% in the public benefits group reported one person in the family as self-employed or having a small business. The biggest barriers to starting or managing a business were about the same for both groups: not having a loan or enough money (57%), not knowing legal and permit requirements (55%), and not knowing enough English (50%) for the random sample. For the public benefits group the key barriers were not knowing enough English (68%), not having a loan or enough money (57%), and not knowing legal and permit requirements (46%).

Public Benefits in the Vietnamese Community

Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

Of the respondents from the public benefits survey, 51% do not know the requirements for SSI and 34% say that the money received from SSI is inadequate for Silicon Valley. In addition, 33% of respondents do not know the requirements of CalWORKs and 50% feel that the money received from CalWORKs is not enough. About 19% do not know food stamp requirements and 45% feel the food stamp amount received is inadequate. In addition, 74% of respondents do not know the requirements for General Assistance and 83% do not know the requirements for CAPI.

Culturally Competent Services

When asked whether or not Vietnamese feel respected by their MediCal county worker, 95% say that they feel respected and 87% feel that are treated with respect by their CalWORKs worker. Meanwhile, 43% of Vietnamese in Santa Clara County say that the five-year limit to be self-sufficient is too short and 83% feel that learning English is the most important aspect when searching for a job. For those who receive food stamps, 20% of respondents report not receiving written information in a language they understand. Also, 30% report that they do not get phone calls and orientations from MediCal personnel in Vietnamese and 24% report that the orientation to CalWORKs is not in a language they understand. This is also so with food stamps orientations (34%) and phone calls (44%).

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K-12 Education

In the random survey, 49% of respondents report having children under 18 in school. Of these, 72% indicate that they would prefer their child to be taught in English and their native language while only one out of five favor education in English only. Of the services that they receive in schools, 64% of the respondents attend parent meetings, 56% get information in a language they understand, 48% of the children receive school lunch or breakfast programs, 23% participate in after school activities, 22% receive counseling, and 16% have homework centers. In the public benefits group, 72% have children under 18 in school and 65% of them would prefer their children to be educated in English and their native language. They report receiving these services at school: school lunch or breakfast programs (77%), parent meetings (58%), information in a language they understand (45%), tutoring (26%), after school activities (25%), and counseling (18%).

Employment Training

Because of the language barrier and the pressure to provide for the family, many Vietnamese have found low-paying jobs that require limited English skills.

Those with employment skills comparable to the American market are more likely to obtain a higher-paying job. Most Vietnamese who were professionals in their home country are unable to continue their professions in the U.S. because of licensing and exam requirements. Of Vietnamese who have received job training in the U.S. the highest percentage of occupational training has been in the electronics/technician field (42%), mostly at a community college (25%), university (24%) or private business or institute (15%).

ESL

Of the respondents in the random survey, only 3% rated their English skills as excellent or good. Sixty-three percent of the respondents felt that their English skills were poor or non-existent, and 34% rated themselves as “average”. About 73% indicated that English is most needed for daily living situations, followed by employment needs (70%), filling out applications or paperwork (51%), and participating at a child’s school (35%). To learn English faster, 63% of respondents endorsed TV, having English-speaking friends (47%), having better weekday schedules (32%), and learning through audiocassette tapes (35%). In the public benefits group, English was considered important for employment (71%), filling out applications or paperwork (56%), participating at a child’s school (46%), and for continuing education (43%). The preferred ways of learning English quickly were: TV (60%), audiocassette tapes (39%), having English-speaking friends (38%), classes closer to home (36%), and better weekday class schedules (35%).

Citizenship

About 71% of the random sample and 20% of public benefits recipients were naturalized U.S. citizens. The greatest needs for citizenship services in the random sample were citizenship classes (40%), help in paying or waiving the $250 INS fee (22%) and filling out the application (19%). In the public benefits group, these needs were help in paying or waiving the $250 INS fee (42%), citizenship classes (40%), and help filling out the application (35%).

Communication and Outreach in the Vietnamese Community

Vietnamese in Santa Clara County reported receiving information mostly through Vietnamese newspapers (76%), Vietnamese radio (68%), Vietnamese TV (52%), and the San Jose Mercury News (44%). The vast majority of these families own radios, television sets, VCRs, and telephones. In addition, 65% of respondents had a home computer, 45% e-mail accounts, 35% internet access, 25% a fax machine, and 23% a newspaper subscription. The public benefits group reported similar sources of information with the only difference that friends replaces the San Jose Mercury News in level of importance. Fewer people in this group reported having computers (46%), e-mail accounts (19%), internet access (12%) and newspaper subscriptions (9%).

Vietnamese in Action

Although Vietnamese have only been in the U.S. for a quarter of a century, they have established many institutions and businesses, especially in Santa Clara County. Organizations include the Association for Viet Arts, the Bay Area Vietnamese American Professionals Alliance, Vietnamese American Cultural & Social Council, Gay Vietnamese Alliance, Association of Vietnamese Organizations of Northern California, and the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce. Hundreds of Vietnamese businesses exist. Large festivals such as the Tet and Mid-Autumn Festivals are celebrated. The random survey from the summit showed that 36% of the respondents engage in school or parent organizations, 32% participate in a religious group, and 11% are active in a social issue campaign.

In the heart of Silicon Valley, data from 1998 showed that there were 1,645 engineers, 478 computer scientists, and 289 managers who are of Vietnamese descent. Vietnamese professionals and leaders include professors at San Jose State University and community colleges, medical doctors, CEOs and business owners, lawyers, high-level school administrators, recording artists, and executive directors of community agencies serving the Vietnamese community. Their valuable contributions are multiplied many times over by thousands of other Vietnamese men and women who make daily contributions in every walk of life.

Political participation by the Vietnamese community is accelerating. Student groups such as the Vietnamese Student Association and the Association of Vietnamese Organizations of Northern California are working towards creating a more politically active community. Furthermore, 71% of Vietnamese adults are naturalized U.S. citizens and 66% are registered to vote. The number of actual Vietnamese voters in the November 1990 election was 2,403. This increased to 11,768 in the March 2000 elections. As of December 6, 2000 there were 35,889 Vietnamese registered voters in Santa Clara County, a significantly larger number than immigrants registered to vote from any other country in the county.

Taiwan

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Taiwan

by Ken Colson


Context for Taiwanese Immigration

History and Government

Originally Taiwan was settled by people of Malay-Polynesian descent. Subsequent settlement of the island by the Dutch and people from the mainland of China forced these original inhabitants to live in the mountains, where they reside to this day. Modern history dates from 1590 when a Dutch navigator on a Portuguese ship, exclaimed “Ilha Formosa” (beautiful island), which became its name for the next four centuries. The Dutch brought in Chinese laborers as sugar and rice plantation workers. Many of these laborers married native women. In 1662 the Dutch were defeated by Chinese pirates.

In the 18th century many Chinese fled war and famine on the mainland and migrated to Taiwan (Formosa). The Manchu rulers from Beijing attempted to extend their control of the island but were repulsed during several years of intermittent battles. Manchu Imperial authority declared Taiwan to be a province of their Empire. In 1895 the Japanese defeated the Manchus in the Sino-Japanese War. China ceded Taiwan to the Japanese. The same year Taiwanese with help from Manchu officials attempted to establish an independent nation. This led to the landing of Japanese troops to crush the independence movement.

In 1943 the Cairo Declaration was signed by allied powers agreeing to Chiang Kai-Shek’s request that Taiwan be returned to Nationalist China. In 1947 inhabitants of Taiwan demonstrated against Chang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang’s occupation of Taiwan. Kuomintang troops were sent from the mainland to crush the demonstration and imprison the opposition. In 1949 Chiang Kai-Shek lost the war on the mainland and fled to Taiwan. Martial law was declared and remained in effect for four decades. When U.S. policy shifted in 1971 recognizing the People’s Republic of China, Beijing replaced the Kuomintang’s seat in the UN.

Today’s government is a multiparty democratic system headed by President Chen Shui-bian.

Economy

Taiwan’s GNP per capita has increased from $1,132 in 1976 to $12,100 in 1999. This economic development has also been associated with improved income distribution. The impact of income distribution is especially significant for the infant mortality rate of children under age five, which has decreased from 21 per 1000 in 1953 to two per 1000 in 1995. The life expectancy at birth has also increased for males and females respectively from 58 and 61 years in 1953 to 72 and 78 years in 1995.

Taiwanese Immigration

Beginning in 1953 the Ministry of Education in Taiwan encouraged the best Taiwanese students to go to the U.S. for studies. Following the Immigration Act of 1965, another wave of Taiwanese immigrants came to the U.S. to pursue advanced studies. Many Taiwanese students intended on returning to Taiwan once their studies were finished, but the majority stayed. The last wave of Taiwanese immigrants came in 1979 when the Taiwanese government allowed its citizens to apply for tourist visas. Many changed these visas to employment-based visas in the 1980s.

The main reasons for coming to the U.S. given by Taiwanese immigrants who responded to the survey of public assistance recipients were family reunification (59%) and educational opportunities (41%). Survey data indicated that the average number of years that respondents have been in the county is less than 8 years.

Significant numbers of Taiwanese immigrants are professionals, H-1B visa holders. In a focus group, one 62-year-old Taiwanese American said: “…the pressure of the schools in Taiwan is very severe. For both economic reasons and the child’s education, we decided to settle down here.” In a different study conducted in 1973 at Dartmouth College, Taiwanese students listed political and academic advantages as the main reason for immigration and listed economic and social betterment as secondary reasons.

Social Characteristics of the Taiwanese

Ethnic & Religious Diversity

“Native” Taiwanese are descendants of Chinese who migrated from Fujian and Guangdong Provinces on the mainland, primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries. On the other hand, after 1945 the “mainlanders” who arrived in Taiwan came from all parts of China. While Han Chinese represent the major ethnic group, there are nine major indigenous groups in Taiwan Province (Atayal, Saisiyat, Bunun, Tsou, Paiwan, Rukai, Puyuma, Tsou, and Yami ). As of 1992 about 370,000 aborigines inhabited the mountainous central and eastern parts of the island.

According to Taiwan’s Interior Ministry figures, of those individuals saying they practice a religion 75% identify themselves as Buddhists or Taoists. At the same time there is a strong belief in Chinese folk religion throughout the island. These are not mutually exclusive, and many people practice a combination of the three. Confucianism is also an honored school of thought and ethical code. Christian churches have been active in Taiwan for many years. Today the island has more than 600,000 Christians, a majority of whom are Protestant.

Family Life

In Taiwan, the cultural ideal is the extended family. Filial piety is very important in the extended patriarchal/hierarchical system and the father/elder wields much authority. Parents are to be respected, and older siblings have authority over younger siblings. Within marriage a woman usually becomes part of her husband’s family. The traditional preference among parents for boys over girls is still visible in some families.

Given the dual influences of population growth and social change, Taiwan has undergone large-scale transformations in the area of intra-familial relations. Spousal relations have faced great pressure to adjust under these circumstances. Large numbers of women entering the workforce has led to issues within the family household in terms of husband-wife relations and the distribution of spousal rights. Younger women now tend to have much greater economic and personal freedom in their daily lives. Moreover, as women develop a growing sense of independence, one finds a corresponding increase in the number of single-parent households, a phenomenon that has influenced traditional child-rearing practices as well.

In the survey of public benefits recipients in Santa Clara County, 73% of the respondents had children under 12 years old. Of these, the principal caregivers were mothers (27%), other relatives (20%), fathers (13%), grandparents (13%) and nannies (13%).

The survey showed that Taiwanese prefer elderly or disabled family members to be cared for at home. About 45% preferred this option of care by family members or trained caregivers over institutional care, preferred by 36% of the respondents. It should be noted that respondents in this sample had an average age of 65.

Health Care Practices

Traditional health care beliefs and practices are similar to those found in the People’s Republic of China, described in this publication. Health is seen as a balance between positive (yang) and negative (yin) energy in the body. Illness could occur from an imbalance of body elements, and balance of food groups and diet can restore health. Illness may also be caused by moral retribution by ancestors or deities for misdeeds or negligence. The remedy is to appease this anger through ritual. Superstition and Fung Shui also play important roles in health beliefs.

Traditional Chinese therapeutic medicine treats the person as a whole using acupuncture, acupressure and herbs, dietary therapy and supernatural healing. Older people often use traditional folk medicine, but the younger generation and particularly children born in the U.S. are most likely to rely upon Western medicine.

Mental health problems are often psychosomatic and mental illness is frequently not clearly differentiated from physical illness. Repressed feelings often increase the mental health burden.

Taiwanese are often reluctant to embrace psychological treatment, but when they do they may accept traditional treatments such as exorcisms, incantations and ceremonies or use them together with or instead of Western drugs. However, more educated and urban Taiwanese are likely to prefer Western treatment to address mental health problems.

Educational System

A nine-year public educational system has been in effect since 1979. Six years of elementary school and three years of junior high are compulsory for all children. About 95% of junior high graduates continue their studies in either a senior high or vocational school.

Taiwan has an extensive higher education system with more than 100 institutions of higher learning. Each year over 100,000 students take the joint college entrance exam and about two-thirds are admitted to a college or university. Opportunities for graduate education are expanding in Taiwan, but many students travel abroad for advanced education, including 13,000 who study in the United States annually.

Special classes for mental and physically challenged students are provided in regular schools. Severely disabled students attend programs at any one of eleven special schools. The Education Broadcasting System and the Chinese Television System broadcasts cultural and educational programs daily for the general public. Credit courses are offered on the “School of the Air”.

Taiwanese Immigrants in Santa Clara County

Demographics

The average household size for the survey respondents was three, with 29% of the families having 2 to 6 non-relatives living in the home. The total annual income for 40% of the households of public benefits recipients in the sample was $10,000 or less, and a majority had family income of less than $50,000 per year. The average age of respondents in this sample was 65. Respondents lived primarily in San Jose (45%), Sunnyvale (23%), Santa Clara (9%) and Saratoga (9%). In terms of educational attainment, 44% had 13 or more years of formal education, 28% completed 10 to 12 years, and 28% had one to nine years of schooling.

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

The ability to speak or write English varies with the individual. But older and some recently arrived immigrants may be unable to communicate well in English. Respondents in the public benefits sample stated that the language they communicated in the most was Chinese (72%). Among older and the recently arrived, eye contact with authority figures is a sign of respect. Asking questions is seen as disrespectful, and silence may be a sign of respect. Taiwanese immigrants are often very shy, especially in unfamiliar environments.

Older people should be addressed as Mr. or Mrs. and their last name. Use of the first name could be viewed as disrespectful among older individuals. The Chinese language is very expressive and often appears loud to non-Chinese. This “loudness” may occur when speaking in English and may sound harsh and abrupt. Immigrants with limited English may nod politely at everything being said, but not understand much. Except for intimates, hugging, kissing, and touching are not common to interactions.

Emotional Support

Respondents from the public benefits survey reported that they rely upon the following persons whey they have emotional problems: friends (50%), spouses (30%), relatives (18%) and religious advisors (8%). In addition, 16% reported that they talked to no one.

Clothing

Younger generations tend to wear westernized clothes. Jade pendants are commonly worn by women for good health and luck.

Food

While all styles of Chinese cooking can be found in Taiwan today, Taiwanese cuisine is largely a variant of Fujianese style from the mainland. Among the favored dishes of Fujianese cuisine are soups and seafood. The style of cooking involves simmering and quick deep-fat frying. Chopsticks are preferred to forks.

Religious Traditions and Holidays

Listed below are some of the national holidays in Taiwan:

 

  • January 1: Founding Day of the Republic of China, New Year’s Day
  • April 5: Tomb-Sweeping Day/Passing of President Chiang Kai-Shek
  • October 10: Double 10 National Day (marking the Republic of China’s birth at the uprising in Wuchang on October 10, 1911)
  • October 31: Chiang, Kai-Shek’s Birthday
  • November 12: Dr. Sun Yet-Sen’s Birthday
  • In addition to these, there are also some holidays defined in terms of the Lunar Calendar:
  • January 15: Chinese New Year
  • May 5: Lantern Festival
  • July 1: Dragon Boat Festival
  • July 15: Chung-Yuan Day (also known as Ghost Day) vAugust 15: Mid-Autumn (Moon) Festival

    Challenges in Santa Clara County

    The top needs identified by Taiwanese respondents in the public benefits sample were medical care (96%), learning more English (87%), help in becoming a citizen (73%), immigration legal services (60%), vision care (37%), and dental care (34%). Taiwanese focus group participants reported similar needs, especially 1) the need for more information provided in Chinese, 2) medical care, 3) better public transportation, 4) difficult INS procedures and long INS processing times, and 5) affordable housing.

    Suggested solutions for these needs included hiring more employees who speak Chinese, translation of forms and government documents into Chinese, interpretation services for the elderly, ESL instructors who speak Chinese so that they may better explain class materials, assistance with transportation, extension of BART to San Jose, an increase of bus service in residential areas, more information about government programs, free medical service, more INS collaboration with Chinese community organizations, changing English language requirements for citizenship to accommodate seniors and people who have been in the U.S. for over 10 years, and making housing available regardless of income or immigration status.

    Discrimination

    One-half (50%) of the public assistance respondents said they were not respected when stopped by police, and 33% said they felt discriminated by the police. However, none reported that they were mistreated, scared, or had a communication problem when stopped by police. Two thirds (67%) felt discriminated by teachers and school officials. One half (50%) said they didn’t know much about American laws. One-third (33%) felt discriminated against by co-workers, bosses, job interviewers and restaurant workers.

    Barriers to Education, Services, and Benefits

    Taiwanese public assistance recipients indicated that the biggest barriers were insufficient English (63%), lack of information (31%), having no time (13%), and fear of government, mistrust of providers to help, expensive programs, or inability to leave the house (6% each).

    Employment & Working Conditions

    Occupational Data and Barriers

    The largest group of this elderly group of public benefits respondents (40%) were homemakers, with 8% working in technical fields. Before entering the United States, 48% indicated they did not have a job, 12% were homemakers, 8% were retired, and 8% were students. Reasons given for not following the same career in the United States included limited English skills (80%), no U.S. license or credential (60%), and lack of employment training (20%).

    Working Conditions

    The average family in the public benefits survey had only one member (73%) who worked an average of 32 hours a week for a single employer (80%). One-fifth of the respondents (20%) worked three jobs at the same time. Most respondents expressed overall satisfaction with working conditions. However, 60% had no pensions plans, 60% had no medical benefits, 40% had no paid vacation and 20% had no sick leave. None of those responding to the survey held a union job, and 40% had an immigrant employer.

    Small Businesses

    Of the survey respondents 31% owned a business or were self-employed. The three most significant obstacles to starting a business were getting a loan (63%), knowing what business idea might be successful (63%), and lack of information on how to start a business (38%).

    Public Benefits in the Taiwanese Community

    Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

    Of the respondents receiving public benefits, 60% said they knew the requirements for SSI and 67% said the amount was adequate. Only 24% knew the requirements for CalWORKs, and all the respondents (100%) said CalWORKs benefits were not adequate. More than half (53%) did not know the requirements for food stamps and 100% said the benefit amount was not adequate. Almost all (96%) of those surveyed knew the requirements of MediCal, but only 54% said the level of benefits is sufficient. Only 50% knew the requirements for General Assistance and the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) and all felt that the benefits were not adequate.

    Culturally Competent Services

    All of the CalWORKs and MediCal recipients indicated that they were treated with respect by agency staff. Of those receiving food stamps, only 50% said they were treated with respect by agency staff. Most of the respondents felt agency staff communicated with them effectively (100% receiving MediCal, 83% for those on CalWORKs, but only 50% on food stamps). As for understanding their cultural background, 100% on MediCal and CalWORKs said agency staff knew about their culture, but only 50% of those on food stamps said agency staff knew about their culture.

    Four-fifths (80%) indicated that the orientation they received to the food stamp program was not presented in a language they understood. And only 50% attending orientation sessions for MediCal and CalWORKs said they could understand what was presented. Also, 86% did not understand written materials related to food stamps, 38% did not understand CalWORKs written materials, and 31% did not understand written materials related to MediCal. Finally, 80% of the respondents did not understand phone calls related to food stamps, 67% did not understand phone calls related to CalWORKs, and 33% did not understand phone calls related to MediCal.

    Educational Access in Santa Clara County

    K-12 Education

    The majority of respondents (82%) did not have children under 18 in school. Three-quarters (75%) of the respondents with children in school preferred that their children be taught in both English and Chinese. When asked to indicate the kinds of services their children were getting in school, 100% indicated the Healthy Start Program, 100% information in Chinese, 100% parent meetings, 50% tutoring, 50% homework centers, 50% after- school activities, 50% counseling, 50% school lunch and breakfast, 50% health programs, 50% on site child care, 50% special education, 50% transportation, and 50% academic or career counseling.

    Employment Training

    Taiwanese immigrants were trained in finance and accounting (40%), as receptionists or office workers (20%), or in engineering, math, or computer science (20%). About 60% of the respondents received their training at a university while 20% received training at a private business institute and another 20% from a community agency.

    ESL

    While 16 % of the respondents said their English skills were average and 16% said good, 36% reported having poor English skills and 32% said they had no English skills. The main reason given for needing better English skills was daily living situations (83%), being involved in the community (37%), filling out applications (33%), reading literature (29%), and continuing their education (21%). As for ways to improve their English language skills, 46% said having classes closer to home would help them, 40% said having longer classes, 38% said having English-speaking friends, 27% said having a better weekday schedule, and 18% said having audio cassettes.

    Citizenship

    About 36% of Taiwanese responding to the survey were naturalized citizens. They reported that they or a family member have the following major citizenship needs: citizenship classes, 53%; literacy classes in Chinese before learning English, 47%; and legal advice, 21%.

    Communication & Outreach in the Taiwanese Community

    The survey indicated that respondents get news and information primarily from Chinese language newspapers (79 %), Chinese TV (75%) and Chinese radio (21%). Family and friends are a source of information for 25% of the respondents. In English, TV (21%), the San Jose Mercury News (17%), the Internet (17%), and radio (8%) represent relatively insignificant sources of information. Information printed in English from church, community organizations, and government publications do not inform significant numbers in these communities (4%).

    The vast majority of families owned a television (96%), telephone (83%), radio (79%), computer (71%), and VCR (58%), and 58% had a newspaper subscription. On the other hand, very few had fax capabilities (33%), an e-mail account (33%), or access to the Internet (29%).

    Taiwanese in Action: Yalin Chen and Eddie Yuan

    Taiwanese are active in many aspects of community life. For example, public assistance recipients in the survey indicated that they are involved in religious organizations (50%), community organizations (28%), social issue campaigns (22%), school parent organizations (17%), and political campaigns (11%). In addition, 32% reported that they were registered to vote. There has been a great increase in numbers of actual voters from Taiwan –from 775 in November 1990 to 3,874 in March 2000. As of December 2000 there were 10,270 registered voters born in Taiwan. The major reasons given for not voting were not enough time (33%) and language barriers (33%).

    Two Taiwanese community leaders who challenged public opinion regarding second language learning are Yalin Chen and Eddie Yuan. Parents within the Cupertino Union School District, they wanted their daughter and others to be taught bilingually and to retain the culture of their homeland. This professional couple collaborated with other parents (including Caucasian parents) who shared high-tech backgrounds and believed that the best way to prepare children for the global and culturally diverse workforce was to immerse them in a dual language (English/Mandarin) curriculum during the primary grades. They researched the effectiveness of other immersion programs, engaged in grassroots outreach, and fought hard to convince school board members, district officials and even parents to embrace the idea of starting an immersion program. There was a significant amount of resistance and the issue even provoked anti-immigrant and anti-Chinese/Taiwanese sentiments.

    The Chinese Immersion Program was established during the 1998/99 school year. It would not have occurred without activism from parent leaders such as Yalin and Eddie. The program was first offered as a language enrichment model, with instruction in Mandarin occupying 10% of the school day. As of September 2001 there were five classes included in the program. The concept and program have generated great interest and astounding success.

    Both Yalin and Eddie came to the U.S. as students two decades ago to continue their education. In Taiwan, Yalin’s major was in foreign languages and literature, and Eddie’s was in management and computer science. After they came to the U.S., Yalin also studied computer science. Both of them worked for a number of high-tech companies. They met each other in the workplace and got married.

    Once Yalin and Eddie were financially successful, they decided to re-direct their energies to civic service and community involvement. In addition to helping establish the Mandarin immersion program, they are also active in the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute. Eddie also serves on the board of the Vision 2000 Foundation. They are both outstanding examples of Taiwanese who have given back to their community and to the community at large.

South Korea

Bosnia
Cambodia
China
El Salvador
Ethiopia
India
Iran
Laos
Mexico
Nicaragua
Philipines
Russia
Somalia
South Korea
Taiwan
Vietnam

South Korea

by Rani Chandran


Context for Korean Immigration

 

History and Government

Known to its people as Choson ( Land of the Morning Calm), undivided Korea’s history stretches 5000 years back. The word Korea comes from the Koryo dynasty, which made great artistic, literary and scientific advancements during its 400-year rule from 936-1392 A.D. In the 16th and 17th centuries, frequent attacks by Japan left the country weakened. However, this was also the period when western scientific influences began to impact Korea through China. For two centuries, China and Japan fought to control Korea. The defeat of the Chinese in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 diluted Chinese dominance over Korea. In 1910, Japan officially annexed Korea.

During the 35 years of Japanese colonial rule, the country was modernized along western lines. But it was also subject to economic and cultural imperialism. Inevitably, discontent led to demonstrations against the Japanese government and a movement to free the nation began to take form. Korean nationalists living abroad supported guerrilla tactics against the Japanese. One of them, Syngman Rhee, living then in the United States, would later be chosen South Korea’s first President. During World War II, though Koreans were put to work on Japanese war efforts, the provisional government created by the nationalists declared war on Japan. The allied victory in 1945 ended Japanese colonialism, but the occupation of Pyongyang and other northern cities by the Soviet Union created a divided nation.

In 1948, with the support of the United States, the Republic of Korea was founded south of the 38th parallel. The period of trauma, however, was not over. In 1950, North Korea attacked the southern republic. A bitter and bloody war followed for three years until an armistice was signed in 1953. The peninsula continued to be divided into two nations – democratic South Korea and Communist North Korea. Thousands of families were separated. All attempts to re-unify the two nations have been unsuccessful. However, recent events have led Korea-watchers to be cautiously optimistic that a reunification will materialize. The Republic of Korea is currently headed by President Kim Dae Jung and Prime Minister Lee Han Dong.

 

Economy

The war-torn economy was rebuilt with the help of the U.S. With a strong centralized executive, the nation since 1948 has moved from a predominantly rural to a highly sophisticated industrial economy. Its exports range from automobiles and ships to electronic goods. The economic crisis that hit Asian countries in the late 1990s severely affected South Korea too. Since 1999, however, the Republic has rallied significantly. With a GDP of $584.7 billion and a per capita income of about $ 12,000, the republic is one of the wealthiest economies on the Pacific Rim. However, economic problems persist due to a legacy of monopolistic control of major industries. The process of reform has been slow and painful.

 

Immigration

Korean immigration to the U.S. can be traced to 1903 when Hawaiian sugar plantation owners offered employment to Korean nationals. Between 1907 and World War II, wives of the Korean immigrants, political refugees and students formed the bulk of the entrants. In the post World War years, restriction of emigration by the Korean government and the quota system created by the U.S Office of Immigration kept Korean inflow at very minimal levels. The Immigration Act of 1965, which replaced the quota system with a preference system where priority in immigration was given to immigrant family members and to professionals, allowed a wave of educated, skilled Korean professionals to enter the U.S. The largest number settled in California.

 

Social Characteristics of the Korean People

 

Ethnic & Religious Diversity

Koreans form a homogenous ethnic group. Shamanism is the country’s oldest religion. Today, around 48% are Christian, 48% Buddhist and the rest belong to faiths such as Confucianism and Chondogyo (religion of the Heavenly way).

 

Family Life

Extended families and tradition are pivotal to Koreans whose Confucian principles place elders in high regard and grant the male the role of a strong family head. The strong ties of kinship are reflected in the help accorded to family members in their immigration and settlement process as well in the care for elderly parents who often live with their children. Traditional Korean families displayed strong control over children and decisions regarding their future were often the domain of parental responsibility. Though this has changed considerably today, filial piety, or respect for one’s elders and obedience to their wishes, remains an important expectation in Korean families

 

Health Care Practices

While western medicine is undoubtedly the most widely practiced and accepted system, herbal therapies and acupuncture are also popular. Traditional Korean belief was that illness is caused by imbalance of hot and cold and by disharmony in nature and environment. The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs coordinated efforts with employers and insurance firms to achieve its goal of making medical security (medical insurance and medical aid) available to the entire population by 1991. For low-income groups, the Free and Subsidized Medical Aid Program was set up. Today all Koreans are covered by health insurance.

 

Educational System

Education is highly valued and providing higher education for children is a major goal for parents. The educational system in Korea has been influenced by the U.S. model and consists of universal six-year elementary school, three-year middle school, and three-year high school. The four-year college program is not universal but is highly desired. As a result of the standardization policy of the government, a single entrance examination is conducted for admission to institutions of higher education. However, competition for admissions to college is extremely intense and only a small percentage go on to college.

 

Koreans in Santa Clara County

 

Demographics

A survey of Korean recipients of public benefits reveals interesting data on these Koreans in Santa Clara County. Almost 58% were residents of San Jose. The average age of the respondents was 57 years and the mean for the length of stay in the county was seven years. Approximately 27% had 15-16 years of schooling and the average household had three members. The total annual income of 83% of the survey respondents was $ 30,000 or less.

 

Social Customs

 

Interpersonal Communication

Like most Asians, Koreans treat elders with deference. Hence, tone alters when instructions are given to the old and to the young. It is also considered rude to direct the sole of one’s foot towards another person. Direct eye contact is avoided when speaking to strangers or superiors.

 

Emotional Support

Relationships with family and friends seem to be close. Around 40% of respondents stated that they would turn to a spouse or friend if they had an emotional problem. In households with children under 12 years of age, mothers appeared to be the primary caregiver (32%) followed by grandparents (21%).

 

Clothing

Most Koreans today wear modern western clothes both in the U.S. and in their native country. But traditional holidays are times when Korean women wear a chi-ma and cho-gori, a long skirt and jacket. Men don long white coats and paji, or baggy trousers.

 

Food

While some of the ingredients of Korean food such as tofu and soy sauce may be similar to those of Chinese and Japanese cuisines, the Korean palate demands greater seasoning with garlic, sesame, and pepper to balance the blander components such as noodles, rice and barley. Kimchi, the national dish, is a spicy pickle made of cabbages, turnips and radishes. A Korean meal is traditionally eaten with chopsticks.

 

Religious Traditions and Holidays

Koreans preserve their cultural identity through community gatherings at Korean churches and Korean language schools. Approximately 89% of respondents participate in religious organizations. The celebration of the Chinese New Year, called Sol, involves feasts, kite-flying and rituals to ward off evil spirits. Chusok is a time of Thanksgiving for plentiful harvests and a time to prepare kimchi for the coming winter. A child’s first birthday is also celebrated with great festivity. Korean Christians also observe major Christian holidays.

 

Challenges in Santa Clara County

The top five needs of public benefits respondents in order of priority were medical care (83%), dental care (71%), eye care (70%), learning more English (57%) and food (48%).

In the focus group discussion, the top five needs identified were health insurance, housing, language assistance, community activities targeted towards Korean youth and family, and the need for a community service center. Focus group participants stressed the need for more bilingual workers and for pamphlets and brochures to be translated into Korean.

 

Discrimination

Focus group participants indicated that they sometimes feel discriminated against because of their racial and cultural background.

 

Barriers to Services, Education, and Benefits

Around 79% of the respondents attributed their inadequate knowledge of English to their inability to obtain the services and benefits available in the county while 26% felt that they lacked information on these issues.

 

Employment & Working Conditions

 

Occupational Data and Barriers

Focus group members pointed out that their limited English skills proved to be an obstacle in securing jobs commensurate with their education and professional training. A suggestion offered was that the immigrant could be given a small allowance so that he/she can attend job training or language classes. Often even information on these classes becomes difficult to access since it is conveyed only in English.

 

Working Conditions

A large number seem to belong to single income families with the earning member working an average of 36 hours per week. Many work for a single employer and do not always receive employment benefits such as medical benefits, sick leave, paid vacation, retirement or pension plans.

 

Small Businesses

While Korean immigrants have traditionally taken to running small businesses, the major obstacles they face are inadequate knowledge of English, lack of translation of business material, and getting a loan.

 

Public Benefits in the Korean Community

 

Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

About one-third of all Korean respondents receiving public benefits knew the SSI requirements and most considered the benefit level to be adequate. In contrast, there was almost no awareness of requirements for CalWORKs. MediCal requirements were familiar to most respondents and the amount was considered adequate.

 

Culturally Competent Services

A large number considered that they were treated with respect by the county workers for CalWORKs (70%), MediCal (95%) and food stamps (50%). About 79% of respondents felt that MediCal agency staff communicated well with them. The corresponding figures for CalWORKs and food stamps were 50% and 55%, respectively. However, they indicated that agency staff for CalWORKs and food stamps did not always know about their cultural background. While written materials, phone calls and orientation sessions for MediCal used a language that they understood, this was not the case for food stamps and CalWORKs.

 

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

 

K-12 Education

Approximately 36% of those surveyed had children under 18 in school. They were evenly divided on the issue of whether their children should be taught in English and Korean, English and another language, or English only.

 

ESL

Developing linguistic skills in English is an acute need for most immigrants. The survey bore this out with 36% rating their English skills as poor and another 36% stating that they had no English skills. Respondents felt that English was particularly important for daily living situations (74%) while 37% felt that it was also critical for employment and being involved in the community.

 

Citizenship & Voter Participation

Of the respondents, 24% were naturalized U.S. citizens. With regards to services required for U.S. citizenship, 47% needed help filling out the application forms, another 47% wanted English literacy classes in Korean before learning English, and about 27% wanted disability waiver information.

In general, Koreans have more than doubled their voter participation in the last ten years in Santa Clara County. The 540 Korean voters in the November 1990 election increased to 1,300 Korean voters in the March 2000 election. As of December 2000, there were 4,937 registered Korean voters in Santa Clara County.

 

Communication & Outreach in the Korean Community

Most Korean homes have a TV (92%), a telephone (96%) and a VCR (79%). Not surprisingly, Korean TV was the source for important information for 54% of the respondents while 42% listed friends and newspapers in Korean and 33% listed family as significant sources.

 

Koreans in Action: Chong Moon Lee

To Koreans in the U.S., Chong Moon Lee is a legend in his own lifetime. This native of Seoul, South Korea is today a captain of the Bay Area’s high-tech industry, a committed philanthropist and a recognized leader of the Asian American Community. He is currently Chairman and CEO of AmBex Venture Group, LLC, and Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc. His skillful stewardship of these organizations brought him the Cyril Business Leadership award from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and the Excellence 2000 award as Asian-American man of the year in 1995 from the Asian American Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C.

Lee has been an active participant and a philanthropist in the local community. He donated 1 million dollars in 1993 and another 15 million dollars in 1995 to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the largest Asian art museum outside Asia. The Los Angeles Times named him America’s 21st ranked philanthropist (December 25, 1996). He is actively involved in the DARE Program in Santa Clara County, while also serving as an honorary deputy sheriff for Santa Clara County. He is a Board member of the American Red Cross in Santa Clara. Lee is also a founding member and Board of Director of the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California. Lee took a pioneering role in organizing the inaugural U.S. and Asia/Pacific Information Technology Summit. The IT Summit has now become an annual event in the Silicon Valley.

Lee has received accolades for outstanding leadership in the business and civic areas, including the Key to the City of San Francisco. He is a Consulting Professor at the Asia Pacific Research Center of Stanford University and holds an Honorary Doctorate of Economics and Public Service from John F. Kennedy University, an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering from the University of Seoul, an MBA equivalent from Korea University in Seoul, an M.S. in Library Science from George Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN., and an L.L.B. degree from the law school of Chung Ang University.

His life continues to be packed with activity. He is fond of saying, “there are 50-year old men and then there are 70-year young men”. He is living proof of the latter.

Somalia

Bosnia
Cambodia
China
El Salvador
Ethiopia
India
Iran
Laos
Mexico
Nicaragua
Philipines
Russia
Somalia
South Korea
Taiwan
Vietnam

Somalia

by Carol Stephenson


Context for Somali Immigration

 

History and Government

Somalis have a 1,000 year history of nomadic culture where people are identified and divided by clans. Somalia was colonized by the English, French and Italians. The borders of Somalia were determined by colonial powers in the 19th Century.

In 1960 the British and Italian protectorates joined to form an independent United Republic of Somalia. Many Somalis, for example those colonized by the French, were left out of the new nation of Somalia. Somalia has had intermittent border disputes with neighboring countries in an effort to include all cultural Somalis within Somalia.

For a few years after its founding Somalia enjoyed an era of parliamentary democracy and the success of a multiparty system, in part because the clan system is traditionally egalitarian. However, toward the end of the 1960s the government began to be perceived by Somalis as corrupt. In 1969, the President was assassinated by a bodyguard.

Major General Mohammed Siyaad Barre, a military leader, took over in the aftermath. During his first years as president Somali was developed as a written language. This accompanied a literacy campaign and improved educational access. Over time, Siyaad Barre became a dictator, controlling much of the Somali economy and practicing nepotism. After a breakdown in the Somali-Soviet relationship, the Soviets were expelled in late 1978, and Siyaad Barre created ties with the U.S. and Europe. During the 1980s, dissident groups opposed to the increasingly corrupt Siyaad Barre government began to voice opposition, and in 1991 he was ousted.

Late 1991 marked the beginning of two years of intense fighting, especially in the south, over control of the country. In the first two years after Siyaad Barre fell, agriculture and animal husbandry were disrupted, and 400,000 people died of starvation. An additional 50,000 people died in the fighting and 45% of the population was displaced. In August 1992 one-quarter of the population was at risk of starvation and one half of Somali children under five had died. Since then, the death toll has risen to nearly 1,000,000. In 1992, the United States sent humanitarian aid and troops to Somalia and the United Nations took over in 1993.

Divergent clans have not been able to agree on a central government, so virtually none exists. The northern part of the country has declared itself the Somaliland Republic but it is not recognized by any government as an independent state. In August 2000, a parliamentary government was put together although it not fully operational. The head of state is Abdiqassim Salad Hassan and the Prime Minister is Ali Khalif Galaid.

 

Economy

Somalia is one of the world’s poorest countries, with a per capita income of about $600 per year. Ninety percent of the population lives outside of the cities, remaining nomadic and primarily practicing animal husbandry. The nomadic population has no running water, electricity or services. The cities generally have these services, although the civil war has caused disruption. Clans have always had disputes over resources and land. During the ongoing civil war, these conflicts continue.

 

Somali Immigration

In the early 1990s the conditions of fighting and starvation forced many Somalis into refugee camps. Since then the flow of migration has continued across clans and includes both nomads and city dwellers. Overall conditions created by ten years of civil war have prompted ongoing migration. Over 80% of the survey respondents cited war in their homeland as the reason for immigrating to the U.S.

The U.S. accepts certain numbers of refugees from around the world each year. Refugees who are living in camps in Africa fill a percentage of these slots. Refugees do not usually choose the country in which they will be resettled. Between 1991 and 1999 a total of 29,328 Somalis were admitted into the U.S. as refugees. An additional 4,129 were granted asylum in the U.S. The largest population of Somalis in the U.S. lives in Minnesota.

In Santa Clara County, a relatively large community of Somalis was resettled in the early 1990s. Somalis continue to be resettled in the county and still more come through family-based immigration to join close family members. The Somali population in the county, however, continues to decline because of the high cost of living.

 

Social Characteristics of the Somali People

 

Ethnic & Religious Diversity

Approximately 85% of Somalia is comprised of ethnic Somalis. Bantu, Arabs, and others make up the remaining 15% of the country’s population.

The Somali rural culture is shaped by nomadic life. Clans are governed by egalitarian councils and people have a strong distrust of government. Oral tradition is extremely important and those who are skilled with words, such as through story telling or poetry, are highly respected.

There is little religious diversity: Somalis are virtually 100% Sunni Muslim.

 

Family Life

People live in large families. Several generations and extended family frequently live together in one house. Many people remain at home during the day and people walk every day to see neighbors, do household chores and do errands. Because of the civil war, families have lost members through death and separation. The father is considered the head of the household and family duties are divided by gender. Men in rural areas practice animal husbandry, while women in both the cities and rural areas are in charge of the household and children. Families are quite large, with the fertility rate at slightly over seven children born to each woman. The infant mortality rate is 125 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The social standing of women is relatively high in that the work of women is respected and economically important. In the cities, women own shops and work in a variety of occupations. Female circumcision is practiced. It is common for men and women to meet and eat separately. As Muslims, men can have up to four wives, but divorce is easy and common. Islam specifically teaches against violence against women.

Because of the war and Somali oral tradition, Somalis are unlikely to have written documents such as birth, death and marriage certificates. As such, they may not know their own age or the year in which an event occurred. This causes various conflicts in U.S. society in areas such as school, social security benefits and immigration. Somalis are unable to provide such documents and, if pressed, can only guess at such numbers and or years.

In Santa Clara County, most of the survey respondents (85%) had children under 12. Mothers were the most likely to take care of these children. In 10% of the cases fathers were reported as care takers. As reported, the rest of children were taken care of by the grandparents, relatives, friends or older siblings. About 30% of children had nannies or baby-sitters, and only 5% were enrolled in child care centers, according to the survey respondents. Similarly, only 6% of the survey respondents would choose institutional care for disabled family members. Over 50% of the respondents prefer in-home care by family members and about one fourth prefer in-home care by trained caregivers.

 

Health Care Practices

Life expectancy in Somalia is 46 years. Medical histories are not kept so, for example, often Somalis do not know what kind of medication they have taken in the past. Similarly, many Somalis do not know the cause of death of their parents. Somali women tend to be modest and may be uncomfortable discussing health concerns, especially with a male doctor.

Fifty-five percent of the Somalis in the survey stated that they or their children received medical care through the child’s school, more than any other service received at the school.

Mental health care is not something people seek out in Somalia and the majority of Somalis in the survey stated that they do not talk to anyone about their emotional problems.

 

Educational System

The Somali language had no written form until 1972. Before that time, educational systems were primarily in Italian for the very few. Under Siyaad Barre, a Somali system of education was developed and literacy increased. Still, the literacy rate for men is 36% and for women it is 14%. Education has only been made available in the cities. Since the fall of the government, the system of education has collapsed. The only schooling that occurs now is through Moslem leaders. It is available to both boys and girls although girls may be less likely to attend.

 

Somalis in Santa Clara County

 

Demographics

Women were the majority of those who responded to the public benefits survey. The average age of respondents was 39. All Somali residents in the county speak Somali. The survey revealed that nearly all Somali residents in Santa Clara County used Somali most often in their communication. They are relatively recent arrivals in the County ranging from 1.5 to 6 years of county residence. About 75% live in San Jose, with most others living in Santa Clara or Sunnyvale. Only 15% of the respondents have completed more than 12 years of schooling, while 35% have completed only 1 to 3 years of schooling. Approximately 82% of the respondents reported having a total annual household income of $10-30,000 and 18% reported annual income of $10,000 or less. No respondent reported having a household income over $30,000. An average of 5.2 people lived in each household. Over 70% of the respondents had mixed households with non-family members living together with Somali families.

 

Social Customs

 

Interpersonal Communication

Somali people use their first name and their father’s name (as well as their grandfather’s name, great-grandfather’s name, and so on). Only when they came to the U.S. were they asked to provide a first, last and middle name. In almost all cases the father’s name is used as the last name in the U.S. Therefore, it is a common practice to use the first name in communication, even at the first encounter. It is also common to have direct eye contact. Shaking hands is appropriate with men, but men do not shake hands with women. Only women shake hands with each other.

 

Emotional Support

The majority of the survey respondents (55%) indicated that if they had emotional problems they would talk to no one. However, of those who would talk to someone, 40% would talk to a doctor, 20% would talk to a teacher, and 15% would talk either to a friend, relative or mental health specialist. Some would also talk to a community leader (10%) and spouse (5%).

 

Clothing

In cities and in professional settings Somalis dress in Western clothing. In leisure and rural setting, they use traditional dress. Men may wear white cotton as a skirt wrapped around their waist, and another cotton cloth around their upper body as a shawl. Girls wear blouses and pants while women generally wear full-length dresses. Married women wear headscarves. Fundamentalist and Arab women might wear veils.

 

Food

Many European cuisines influenced the Somali cuisine. Traditional Somali foods are meat based. Like other Muslims, Somali do not use pork in their diet. There are special standards for fresh meat preparation, and Somali people are willing to go to stores that are far away from their neighborhoods in order to get meat that is properly prepared. Traditional foods are specially prepared for various types of celebrations. In addition to meat, rice is used often in the Somali cuisine. Alcohol is forbidden.

Whenever Somali families have visitors they serve tea. It is customary to offer a cup of tea without asking.

 

Religious Traditions and Holidays

Almost all Somalis practice Islam that guides their eating practices, family life and moral codes. Ramadan is celebrated every year around the time of the end of the western calendar year. Ramadan is marked by daytime fasting ending with the feast of Id Al Atah. Also celebrated is Muhammed’s birthday, among other holidays.

 

Challenges in Santa Clara County

The top five needs that Somalis identified in the survey were medical and dental care, food, housing, ESL and citizenship, in that order. In the Somali focus group, the top issues identified were ESL, family reunification, housing, and lack of good paying jobs. Talking about the fear of losing their religious and cultural identity in the U.S., Somali immigrants saw a great need for creating a cultural, educational and religious center. They thought that such a center would also help solve other issues facing the Somali community. At the same time, focus group members and participants in Immigrants Building Community (IBC) argued for simplifying and shortening the processes for family reunification and obtaining a green card and U.S. citizenship. Many also do not have documents to prove their job skills and need simple exams to show their skills and abilities, in order to improve their employment opportunities.

 

Discrimination

Somali immigrants who responded to the survey most often felt discriminated against by the DMV (54%), social or eligibility workers (46%), police and criminal courts (39% each). Over 30% also felt discriminated against by job interviewers, bosses, co-workers, and the INS. About one-quarter indicated they feel discriminated against by civil courts and landlords.

 

Barriers to Services, Education, and Benefits

According to the respondents of the public benefits survey, the biggest barriers to education, services and benefits were lack of English, scheduling problems, lack of affordable child care, lack of information, and being house-bound. In addition, the Somali focus group participants emphasized gender-related barriers, lack of transportation, lack of classes in their neighborhoods, and generational and cultural differences that prevent them from understanding their rights and responsibilities. Many parents expressed their confusion about how to raise children in the U.S.

 

Employment and Working Conditions

 

Occupational Data

Most of the Somali respondents did not report any occupation or profession or reported being unemployed. In addition, 14% of the respondents reported being students. Other respondents reported working in retail or as security or assembly workers.

 

Working Conditions

Two-thirds of the survey participants have no medical benefits and over half have no sick leave. Over 40% have no paid vacation, pension, or retirement plan. One third reported making less than $5.75 per hour and one third were injured on the job. The Somali focus group discussed the many challenges faced in employment. They stated that many refugees have low wage jobs in temporary agencies and do not receive benefits. Some stated that they had been temporary employees for more than five years.

 

Small Businesses

Only 8% of the survey respondents reported having a family member being self-employed or having a small business. Most of the respondents reported a need for information about how to get started, but they also stressed other barriers such as: getting a loan, knowing what kind of a business idea might be successful, and lack of English skills.

 

Public Benefits in the Somali Community

 

Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

Many of the survey respondents reported needing more information and better understanding of public benefits. Of the Somali public benefits recipients who answered the survey, the following percentages did not know the requirements: for CAPI, 83%; for General Assistance, 67%; for SSI, 53%; for MediCal, 35%; for food stamps, 31%; and for CalWORKs, 27%. In the areas of cash aid such as CalWORKs, SSI, and General Assistance, Somalis did not believe that the benefits were adequate to live, while in areas such as food stamps and MediCal the benefits received were thought to be generally adequate.

 

Culturally Competent Services

Only 40% of food stamp recipients and 50% of CalWORKs recipients felt respected by county workers, while 60% of the MediCal recipients felt respected. In addition, a great number of CalWORKs and MediCal recipients reported that county workers did not know enough about their cultural background. About 60% of CalWORKs recipients reported not understanding written materials and only 53% reported that they understood orientations. Regarding food stamps, 60% of the respondents reported not understanding orientations, 53% did not understand phone calls, and 47% did not understand written materials. The situation was better with MediCal. Only 17% of the respondents reported not understanding written materials, 22% did not understand phone calls, and 27% did not understand orientations.

 

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

 

K-12 Education

Approximately 43% of the public benefits recipients reported having children under 18 in school. Since many Somalis have never attended school, educational access is an extremely significant issue for youth. First, they are assigned to classes by age, but Somali youth may not know their correct age. Second, the culture of school, such as raising one’s hand, is entirely foreign. Third, parents are unable to assist their children in a meaningful way.

The dropout rate is high among Somali youth. The survey responses also suggested that parents and schools could improve their relations. For example, less than 10% of parents were involved in parent/teacher organizations, a low percentage compared to other immigrant groups. Also, no respondent reported that their child had received educational counseling in school. However, schools such as Morgan Hill High School that are sensitive to the special needs and particular religious traditions of Somali students find that students can be successful.

 

Employment Training

Along with ESL, employment training is an enormous challenge for the many Somalis who have no prior formal education. Without a good understanding of English, vocational training is all but impossible. Over fifty percent of respondents in the county survey declared that lack of employment training is the reason for having a different job in the U.S. than in Somalia.

 

ESL

Somalis in the focus group discussed lack of English in depth as the first major barrier in the U.S. affecting work, raising children, and becoming citizens. ESL poses a particular challenge to Somalis because many have never attended school. The Immigrants Building Community (IBC) participants noted that ESL classes are hard to get to, the teacher does not speak their language, and no babysitting is available. Even when they can take a class, it can take years to become comfortable enough with English, to get a good job. The IBC participants were overwhelmed at the notion that they were expected to learn English and get a job within eight months of arriving in this country. The survey respondents rated lack of English as the number one reason that they have a different job in the U.S. than in Somalia. Somalis in the focus group also described the trouble finding good paying jobs in the area because of their lack of English.

 

Citizenship

Only a small number of Somali immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens (14% of the survey respondents). The public benefits recipients reported having various needs related to citizenship: need for information about disability waivers (26%), help with an INS inquiry about their cases (26%), English literacy classes in Somali (31%), help in filling out application forms (31%), legal advice (42%), citizenship classes (53%) and most often—help in waiving the INS fee (90%).

 

Communication and Outreach in the Somali Community

With such a strong oral tradition, the single most effective form of communication and outreach in the Somali community is by word of mouth. There is no local Somali newspaper or television station in Santa Clara County. Indeed, 71% of the survey respondents stated that they get important information from friends, far more than any other source, including television in English (48%), radio in English (43%) and family (38%). A Somali community organizer notes: “If I have a meeting where I need to present information and only five Somalis come, I am sure that the entire community will get the information.” However, most of the survey respondents reported having a radio, a TV and a telephone. Just 5% of the respondents reported having fax machines, 11% email and internet access, 21% newspaper subscriptions, and 45% VCRs. None of the respondents reported having personal computers.

 

Somalis In Action: Bravely Learning in a New Land

Somali immigrants in the U.S. find a culture vastly different from their own. In Somalia, they are accustomed to having many family members living together and living close to neighbors. People walk and spend most of their time outside accompanied by friends, family and neighbors. Oral tradition is strong and Somalis love to talk. The differences in the U.S. create a world of intense isolation, especially for women and older people, because their families work out of the house all day each day. It can be frightening to venture out alone and many end up homebound.

However, a group of Somali women who range in age from their 20s to their 60s meet each weekday from 9 a.m. to 12 noon to learn English at Economic and Social Opportunities. To do so, they take the bus across town and they all transfer at least once, some with children. When one member of the class learned the bus system, she taught the others how to use it. They study English without having ever learned to read and write Somali. Women gather not only for the education, but also to give support to their classmates, to make sense of this foreign place, and to heal from the scars of the war. These Somali women, like many others, face enormous barriers each day and are taking the first difficult steps to life in the U.S. Other informal groups, such as the focus group participants who described working together to get ESL classes at their apartment complex, are also breaking down barriers to survive and thrive in the U.S.

These are not isolated instances. In fact, over 50% of the Somalis on public assistance are involved with an informal group making change in the community and 40% participate in a neighborhood organization. Impressively, 45% of Somalis on public assistance are registered to vote. As reported by the organizer of the Somali focus group, “The people we talked to seemed well adjusted despite all the problems that they have had in the past and seemed to be trying as hard as they knew how to lead a fruitful life here in Santa Clara County.”

Russia

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Russia

by Richard Hobbs


Context for Russian Immigration

History and Government

Slavic tribes migrated into Russia from the west in the 5th century. The first Russian state was established by Scandinavian chieftans in the 9th century at Kiev and Novgorod. Mongols controlled the country from the 12th to 15th centuries. Ivan IV (the Terrible) became the first Czar in 1547, founding the modern Russian state. Russia moved from medieval to capitalist forms under Peter the Great (1689-1725) and Catherine the Great (1762-1796). Serfdom was abolished in 1861 under Alexander II (1855-1881). Revolutionary strikes and defeat by Japan led Czar Nicholas II (1894-1917) to allow a representative Duma in 1906, but corruption and reactionary practices led to the accession of Alexander Kerensky and then the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin in 1917.

Communist control of all of Russia took place in 1920. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was set up as a federation on December 30, 1922. When Lenin died in 1924, Joseph Stalin secured power until 1953. The USSR collectivized agriculture and set up large industrial enterprises under a command economy under five-year plans. Stalin disallowed dissent and resorted to purge trials, mass exiles, and executions. With full employment and access to health and education, the standard of living improved considerably. During World War II the USSR stopped German advances and helped free Eastern bloc countries from Hitler’s rule.

Nikita Khrushchev favored peaceful co-existence. However, after arming Cuba with missiles and withdrawing them after a confrontation in 1961 with the U.S., and breaking with China in 1963, Khrushchev was replaced in 1964 by Leonid I. Brezhnev. The USSR provided military support to North Vietnam until its victory and entered Afghanistan in 1979. Brezhnev died in 1982 and Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded him in 1985. Gorbachev proposed reforms such as more open and democrat political processes (glasnost) and restructuring (perestroika). In the space of five months in late 1991, Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Communist Party and of the USSR, leading to the dissolution of the Communist Party and the USSR.

The current government of Russia is a federal republic with a new constitution approved in 1993. There are 21 autonomous republics and 68 autonomous regions and territories. Boris Yeltsin, the President of the Russian Republic under the USSR, continued as President. A tumultuous political decade including Yeltsin’s dissolution of Parliament in 1993, his 8-month absence in 1996-97, and dismissal of his entire government in 1998 led to his resignation on Dec. 31, 1999. He is succeeded by Vladimir Putin, who won the presidential election in March 2000 with 53% of the vote. He has sought to centralize power in Moscow and weaken the influence of extremely wealthy business leaders and regional governors.

Economy

The 1998 per capita income of $4,000 accompanied an inflation rate of 84%, an unemployment rate of 12% with more underemployment, and negative growth of the economy. Income is supplemented by public welfare funds from the state budget, enterprises, and trade unions in such areas as free medical care, pensions, scholarships, and training. Russian exports exceed imports and its chief trading partners are Germany, the U.S., and China.

In 1992 Russia ended state subsidies for most goods and services and then began privatizing thousands of large and medium-sized state-owned enterprises, causing soaring prices with low salaries and a downward spiral in the standard of living of Russia’s labor force, estimated at 66 million. Policies to curb monopolies in natural gas, electricity, and railways and to restore control over regional leaders have basically failed. The Russian stock market and ruble have fallen dramatically in recent years. In 1998 Russia defaulted on its foreign debt. Attempts to rein in oligarchs in the media, auto, oil, and metals industries have had limited success.

Russian Immigration

From 1900 to 1914 Christian Orthodox Russians fled Russia seeking religious and political freedom. After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, thousands of expropriated wealthy Russians and middle class professionals and army officers fled their homeland. About 20,000 Russian refugees, enslaved workers, or war prisoners from Germany entered the U.S. from 1947 to 1952. From 1971 to 1991 about 181,000 persecuted Russian Jews entered the U.S. for religious and political reasons. Since the 1991 breakup of the USSR, tens of thousands of persecuted Jews and professionals seeking improved opportunities fled to the United States. When Russians receiving public assistance in Santa Clara County were asked why they left their homelands, most declared “to reunite with family members”, followed closely by racial, political, economic, and religious reasons, in that order.

Social Characteristics of the Russian People

Ethnic & Religious Diversity

About 82% of Russia’s citizens are of Russian ethnicity, with 4% Tatar, 3% Ukranian, and 11% belonging to smaller ethnic groups. The dominant organized religions are Russian Orthodox, Muslim, and Jewish. Religion was prohibited in the USSR, and many immigrants may not practice religion. Russian Jews constitute a majority of immigrants to the U.S.

Family Life

Russians consider their family commitments and responsibilities above all else. Multi-generational families and extended family households are common. Extreme importance is placed on respect for one’s elders. Although the primary decision maker may be the father, mother, or eldest son or daughter, the role is typically held by the strongest personality.

In general children are taught to behave, be obedient, and respect elders. Grandparents are expected to care for their grandchildren when parents work. Elders are family-oriented and are active in Santa Clara County as part-time volunteers and workers, ESL students, and participants in field trips and sociocultural activities. Russian public benefits recipients in the county report that mothers, grandparents, and fathers are most likely to take care of children under 12.

Health Care Practices

Life expectancy in Russia is 59 years for men and 72 years for women. In 1998, there was one hospital bed per 85 persons and 1 doctor per 215 persons. Infant mortality is about 20 per 1,000 births.

The mental health system in Russia is underdeveloped. Seeking mental health care is stigmatized. Persecution, non-acceptance, and moving into new environments are the most common causes of strain. Culturally it is inappropriate to discuss mental illness casually.

Adults are expected to care for or find solutions to care for the infirm, and to accept their parents into their home should the need arise. Russian public benefits recipients stated they prefer in-home care of home-bound seniors and disabled family members by a trained care giver at twice the rate of their next preference, in-home care by a family member. Institutional care is not favored at all. Children and grandparents are also expected to care for ill family members. Frequently terminally ill patients are not told about their condition, to leave the patient in peace. Rabbis or other religious leaders should be allowed to visit patients.

Russians have a high pain threshold and may not ask for pain medications. Many Russians believe drugs poison the body, and won’t accept sleeping pills or medications for depression. Home and folk remedies are relatively common, including the rubbing of oils or ointments, enemas, light exercise with fresh air, mud and steam baths, mineral water, herbal teas, hot soups, and sweet liquor. Russians usually believe that illnesses come from poor nutrition, too many drugs, not dressing warmly, family history, stress, or a pregnant woman not caring for herself.

Pregnant women typically don’t expect prenatal care unless something feels wrong. However, their prenatal ritual is extremely thorough. Women are encouraged to walk when contractions begin (to promote dilation) and discouraged from taking any pain medication such as epidurals. During birthing women follow the orders of the doctor or midwife, and generally the husband is not present. Very close female family members are allowed. Breast feeding is expected of all Russian mothers until milk is gone, even until toddler years. The average maternity leave in Russia is 25 months. Babies are to stay warm in all instances. Female and male circumcision is never performed, with the exception of some Jewish parents who may prefer male circumcision.

Educational System

The Russian educational system is highly centralized. Preschool is quite developed and education is free and compulsory for ages 7 to 17. Non-Russian children are taught in their own language, but by secondary school Russian language is required. The literacy and high school graduation rates are 99%, some of the highest in the world. High school used to be a 10-year program in the USSR but now it is 12 years. Most Russians receive a college education, although it is a highly selective and competitive process. First degrees usually take five years. Teachers and professors are highly respected but paid very little.

Most recent Russian immigrants are highly educated and many speak English. The learning style in the former USSR was relatively rigid. English was not emphasized in the USSR and it is not dominant in Russia today. It is a significant barrier for many Russian elderly.

Russians in Santa Clara County

Demographics

Of the Russian public assistance recipients who answered the survey, 65% are female and 35% are male. Russian is the language most often used by 91% of the respondents. The average age is 51. Russians are recent immigrants, only averaging 2.8 years in the county and the U.S. as of the spring of 2000. Most Russians live in San Jose, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale. Almost every Russian public assistance recipient has finished high school, and the vast majority enjoys a college education. Russians are among the most educated persons in the county and many possess advanced degrees. Russians receiving public assistance have the smallest number of family members of any immigrant group, averaging 2.39 persons per family. They live in households that average 2.55 members. Of this public assistance group, the annual household income for 60% of families is less than $10,000 and for 28% of families is $10,000 to $30,000.

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

Russians use direct eye-to-eye contact. They nod for approval. They touch freely with close friends and relatives. Personal space varies with the degree of familiarity or friendship. Greetings—shaking hands or kisses on the cheeks if a close relationship—are important and vary depending on gender and status. Shaking hands with an unknown woman is considered inappropriate. Elders are highly respected and greeted with titles (such as Mr., Mrs., Aunt, Grandfather) even in the absence of a blood relationship. Most Russians try to be on time for appointments, or even arrive a little early.

Emotional Support

When asked whom they talk to for emotional support, Russian public assistance recipients in Santa Clara County replied spouses, relatives, friends, or no one. They tend to trust resettlement agencies like Jewish Family Service that help them resettle, but expressed little reliance upon religious advisors, teachers, mental health specialists, or community leaders, and only some willingness to talk to doctors. The community expressed a need for more bilingual mental health providers in Santa Clara County.

Clothing

Russians generally dress similarly to Americans.

Food

Russians eat three meals a day, with lunch being the biggest meal. Often there is extensive ritual and ceremony surrounding food and meals in the home. In Russia it is common to have snacks in between with chai (hot tea) or fruit. The typical diet is high in fat, starch, and salt. Preferred drinks are chai, lukewarm water, and fruit juices, with no ice. Some Jews prefer no pork and various shellfish. When ill, Russians prefer hot soups, such as borscht, a vegetable, beet and cabbage soup; broth soups; bland foods such as oatmeal, boiled chicken, baked and mashed potatoes, fresh fruit, vegetables, and plain yogurt; and chai with lemon and honey or hot milk and honey.

Religious Traditions and Holidays

Most Russians in Santa Clara County are Jewish and they tend to celebrate Jewish holidays such as Passover, Rosh Hashah, Yom Kippur, and Chanukah. Those who are Russian Orthodox celebrate their holy days. For many Russians, Easter is important. Three other major holidays are celebrated: May 9 Victory Day, celebrating victory in WWII (celebrated in conjunction with Mother’s Day the same weekend), U.S. Veterans’ Day in early November, and U.S. Thanksgiving Day, a day emotionally close to Jewish Harvest Day. In death, family members may want to wash the body and dress the person in special clothing. Most Russians believe the body is sacred and thus disfavor organ donation and autopsies.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

When asked to identify major needs, over 70% of Russian public benefits recipients indicated they need help with dental care, ESL, and medical care; over 50% said they need help with housing, citizenship, and eye care; and about 1/3 had needs in the areas of food, job training, help finding a job, immigration legal assistance, and help with emotional problems.

Similarly, in the Russian focus group of 11 seniors, the #1 issue was insufficient income, especially SSI. These seniors suggested reducing utility costs for seniors, improving affordable transportation and escort services, developing job search for seniors, providing bilingual information regarding benefits and community resources, lowering immigration legal fees and INS costs, and adjusting the levels of SSI and other cash aid to the cost of living in the county.

The #2 issue was housing, particularly the high cost and the lack of accurate information regarding Section 8 programs. These Russian seniors felt that providing clear Section 8 information, rent control, and more affordable housing are solutions.

The #3 issue was access to learning English and, in the interim, receiving information in Russian. Solutions included more ESL classes with more community education, classes closer to senior housing, bilingual phrase books covering day-to-day situations, and better public transportation.

The #4 and #5 issues in the Russian community are access to medical and dental care and access to citizenship and immigration legal services. Russian seniors expressed deep concern that Russian interpreters at major hospitals do not exist and that the waiting periods and billing systems are inefficient. They also concluded that dental care under MediCal focuses too much on dentures without replacing teeth. Citizenship is an issue because for seniors, the INS process with lost files, lost fingerprints, long delays, and high costs are extremely painful to endure. One idea is to integrate the history and government requirements of citizenship into ESL curriculum early on.

Discrimination

Most Russian respondents did not feel discriminated against. But some Russians felt discriminated against by eligibility workers, social workers, and landlords and to a lesser extent by job interviewers, the INS, and in civil court. When stopped by police, 83% of Russians said they felt respected, and 33% said they had communication problems.

Barriers to Services, Education, and Benefits

Russian public benefits recipients indicated that their greatest barriers are insufficient English (83%), lack of information in a language they understand (37%), child care (17%), fear of government (15%), lack of time (13%), and the high cost of programs or services (11%).

Employment & Working Conditions

Occupational Data and Barriers

The main occupations of employed Russian public assistance recipients in the county are in computer science/software engineering, retail, elderly care, child care, and education. More than half are homemakers, students, or not formally employed. In their home country they all worked – primarily in engineering, math, or computer science (35%), in education (16%), in other professions (14%), in industry as assemblers (9%), in unskilled service work (7%), or in finance or accounting (6%). The main barriers to working in their same occupation were identified as lack of English (73%), the lack of a license or credential in the U.S. (36%), and different occupational requirements in the U.S. (27%).

Working Conditions

On average, Russians on public assistance work about 27 hours per week. About 54% of the families have one member working, and 27% have two working family members. About 85% have a single employer. These Russians report that 57% of their jobs have no medical benefits, 48% no sick leave, 48% no pension or retirement plan and 44% no paid vacation. Forty percent are employed by companies with fewer than 25 employees. About 96% have no union. Approximately three in 10 work the swing shift, graveyard shift, or weekends, two in 10 work for an immigrant employer, and one in 10 report doing piecework.

Small Businesses

About 1/3 of these Russians report having a small business or being self-employed. The biggest barriers to starting or managing a business were identified as not knowing enough English (69%), not knowing legal and permit requirements (51%), lack of information on how to get started (46%), getting a loan (43%), and not having help (34%).

Public Benefits in the Russian Community

Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

The percentage of Russian public assistance recipients aware of the requirements for Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) was 24%; for CalWORKs, 33%; for SSI, 45%; for General Assistance (GA), 54%; for MediCal, 73%; and for food stamps, 87%. Only 6 in 10 Russians believe that SSI, food stamps, MediCal, and CAPI assistance levels are sufficient, and only 36% think CalWORKs or G.A. is adequate.

Among Russians receiving CalWORKs, 50% felt that 5 years is not enough time to prepare for self-sufficiency, and 58% felt that the amount of time permitted to complete job training to become self-sufficient is inadequate. Of this latter group, 100% indicated that learning English before taking job training is the most pressing problem.

Culturally Competent Services

About 5 of 8 Russians indicated they received an orientation to food stamps in a language they understood, compared to 6 of 10 for MediCal orientations and 7 of 8 CalWORKs orientations. About 2 of 3 Russians said they receive phone calls related to food stamps in a language they understand, compared to 1 of 2 for phone calls related to MediCal and 3 of 4 phone calls related to CalWORKs. About 2 of 3 Russians stated they receive written materials related to food stamps in a language they understand, compared to about 1 of 2 for materials related to MediCal and 6 of 10 for materials related to CalWORKs. While Russians feel they are treated with respect by county CalWORKs, MediCal, and food stamp workers, only about one-half feel that these employees know their cultural background.

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K-12 Education

Of Russian public assistance recipients, 41% reported having children under 18 in school. Of these parents, 69% preferred having their children taught bilingually in English and Russian (or English and another language) and 31% preferred the teaching in English only. Of school services, only 32% of these Russian parents reported receiving information in a language they understand, while 47% attend parent meetings. About 42% of the children of Russian public benefits recipients receive school lunch and breakfast programs, and about 11% of the kids receive tutoring or participate in after school activities. Only 5% receive transportation or use on-site child care, and none of these parents say their children receive counseling, health programs, Healthy Start, or special education.

Employment Training

Russian public assistance recipients report receiving training in the U.S. in three main areas: as office workers and receptionists, as professionals in the areas of finance, accounting, and computer science, and as semi-skilled service workers. Most receive training at community colleges, and to a lesser extent at community agencies or private institutes.

ESL

Of Russians receiving public assistance, only 6% identify their English skills as excellent or good, 31% as average, 41% as poor, and 22% as nonexistent. The most important needs for English are for continuing education, daily living situations, reading literature, and employment. They stated that they can learn English most quickly by having English-speaking friends (61%), by TV (44%), by audio cassette tapes (42%), and by tutoring (33%).

Citizenship

About 5% of Russian public assistance recipients have naturalized. About one fourth said they need help to fill out the citizenship application, to pay or waive the $250 INS fee, or to inquire about their delayed cases. One in three need citizenship classes and 1 in 5 need legal advice. Very few need help with the disability waiver.

Communication & Outreach in the Russian Community

Russian public assistance recipients rely upon the following to get important information, in this order: newspapers in Russian, friends, TV in English, family members, and the internet. Of these Russians, nearly all have a TV and telephone; 8 of 10 have a VCR; 7 of 10 have a computer; 6 of 10 have a radio; 5 of 10 have internet access; and over 1 in 3 have an email account. Less than 2 in 10 subscribe to any newspaper. Many elderly Russians lack conversational English and need interpreters in health, legal, and other situations.

Novay Zizn (New Life) is a monthly publication from San Francisco that covers Santa Clara County. Novoye Russkoye Slovo (New Russian Word), Kstatie (By the Way), and Vzglyad (Glance) are all well-known weekly newspapers. The Jewish Family Service of Silicon Valley in Los Gatos and the Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto have monthly newsletters in Russian. There are also regular two-hour programs in Russian on Channel 26 broadcast from Cupertino, and TV and radio programs broadcast from New York City.

Russians In Action: Alex Spivak

Russians have made valuable contributions in Santa Clara County in areas such as technology, social services, education, law, and the arts. Involved in many religious groups and community service organizations, they express a strong desire to become citizens and vote. The number of Russian voters in the county increased from 253 in 1990 to 1,009 in 2000, and the total number of Russians registered to vote was 2,476 as of December 2000.

One professional who has made impressive contributions to the entire community is Alex Spivak, a Russian concert pianist who is the owner and director of the Almaden School of Music, Art and Dance in Almaden Plaza. Alex holds a master’s degree in piano performance and has over 25 years experience teaching piano. In Russia he made several commercial recordings, edited two piano books, was Professor of the Culture of Music, and performed throughout Europe. He and his wife Maryana and two daughters arrived in San Jose as refugees in 1991. They were helped by Jewish Family Service (JFS) in Los Gatos.

The Spivaks opened their own business in 1995 when more than 100 students were taking piano lessons at their home. Their 10,000 square foot school now has over 400 students, 35 teachers, and classes in dance, art, gymnastics, chess, singing, and musical instruments as diverse as the piano, violin, drums, saxophone, guitar, and clarinet. Students range in age from 3 to 17 but also include many adults. About 10% of the students are Russian.

Alex arrived with very little knowledge of English. He declares: “My biggest issue is time”. He works seven days a week from 10 a.m. in the morning until 10 p.m. at night, except on Christmas. In addition to managing the business side and supervising instructors, Alex personally teaches piano to 50 students. Many of them compete in regional contests and donate time for volunteer causes. Alex still finds the time to tend to his favorite hobby, cultivating fruit trees and roses at home.

Says Vlada Gelfond, Director of Social Services at JFS, “Alex is a man who has had to overcome many personal barriers. His talents, personal drive, compassion, and many contributions make him a model for the entire community.”

Philipines

Bosnia
Cambodia
China
El Salvador
Ethiopia
India
Iran
Laos
Mexico
Nicaragua
Philipines
Russia
Somalia
South Korea
Taiwan
Vietnam

Philipines

by Nadine Fujimoto


*Author’s note: Although the spelling “Filipino” is most commonly used in Santa Clara County, some prefer the term “Pilipino.” Given the tremendous diversity in this community, the statements and terminology in this text may not apply to, or be used by, all Filipinos in common.

Context for Filipino Immigration

History and Government

By the 5th century A.D., immigrants from Malayasia, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, India, and the Middle East had integrated with the indigenous population of the Philippines, resulting in a new civilization from the mixture of cultures. In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to reach the islands in service of Spain. From 1565 to 1898, the Philippines was a Spanish colony, and conversion to Christianity by the Catholic Church was an important aspect of Spanish rule.

Chief Lapu-Lapu successfully led the first Filipino revolt against Magellan. In the late 19th century, the Philippine League, later led by Emilio Aguinaldo, waged organized resistance against Spain. In 1897, a pact was signed guaranteeing Spanish reforms within three years, conditional upon the withdrawal of Filipino leaders from the islands. In 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the U.S. following the Spanish American War, and Aguinaldo returned to the islands where his forces resisted U.S. colonial rule but were defeated in 1901. In 1902, U.S. civil government replaced military authority.

>From 1902 to 1934, American policy towards Philippine independence shifted repeatedly under various presidencies. In 1934, the Tydings-McDuffie Bill was passed, which granted independence by 1946 and provided for interim commonwealth status. Japan occupied the Philippines during World War II. Shortly after granting independence in 1946, the U.S. obtained military bases on a 99-year lease, shortened to 25 years in 1959.

The new Republic of the Philippines was faced with problems of economic rehabilitation and internal strife. In central Luzon, the Communist Hukbalahaps (“Huks”) organized a rebel government with its own military, civil, and administrative bodies. In 1953, former Defense Minister Ramon Magsaysay was elected president, and waged a successful campaign against the Huks.

In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos was elected President. In the early 1970s, the Communist New People’s Army and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Mindanao-based Muslim separatists, waged guerrilla warfare against the government. In 1972, Marcos imposed martial law. The congress was dissolved, opposition leaders imprisoned, strict censorship imposed, and Marcos ruled by decree. In 1983, opposition leader Benigno Aquino was murdered, and in 1986 Marcos won the presidential election against Corazon Aquino, Benigno’s widow. Reports of election fraud and widespread popular rebellion forced Marcos into exile. Aquino became president in 1987, and won the enactment of a new constitution.

In 1992, the last U.S. military bases closed, and General Fidel Ramos was elected president. During the early 1990s, the southern Philippines was the site of renewed guerilla activities by Muslim separatist forces. In 1996, a peace agreement was reached with the MNLF, but other rebel groups continue to oppose the Philippine government. In 1998, Joseph Estrada was elected president, and removed from office in 2001 on charges of corruption and graft. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became president, but ongoing contention exists between Estrada and Arroyo forces over the presidency.

The current government is a republic. The president is elected to a single, six-year term, and a bicameral legislature seats 24 senators and a maximum of 250 house representatives. The Supreme Court is presided over by a chief justice and 14 associate justices who are appointed by the president on recommendation of the Judicial and Bar Council. Governors head 73 provinces plus the national capital region.

Economy

The economy is a mixture of agriculture, light industry, and supporting services. The total labor force is an estimated 32 million, with 40% engaged in agriculture. The 1998 per capita income was $3,500 annually, accompanied by an inflation rate of 9.7% and a negative real growth rate of –0.5%. In 1997, an estimated 32% of the population was below the poverty line. The Philippines had a $51.9 billion external debt in 1999, and was the recipient of $1.1 billion in economic aid.

Filipino Immigration

The earliest Filipino settlers to the U.S. immigrated after deserting Spanish galleons in Mexico during the late 1700s, and migrated to the bayous of Louisiana where they established several hamlets specializing in fishing and drying shrimp. From 1910 to 1938, young Filipino men enrolled as students in American colleges, encouraged by the Pensionado Act created by Governor General Taft’s administration. Many became trapped as service and agricultural laborers as they were overwhelmed by the high cost of living and tuition.

Significant numbers of Filipinos began arriving from 1906 to 1934, when the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) actively recruited thousands of unskilled laborers from economically depressed regions of the Philippines for employment in Hawaiian sugar cane fields. Because they were U.S. nationals, the HSPA was able to use Filipinos as replacement labor after a series of anti-Asian immigration laws restricted their use of other Asian workers. Filipino men also immigrated to the western U.S. to work in agricultural fields, canneries and service industries in significant numbers.

During the 1920s, Filipinos represented the largest group of Asian farm laborers on the U.S. mainland. Due to anti-Asian discriminatory land ownership and leasing laws, Filipinos were never able to move beyond laborer status. In 1934, the Tydings-McDuffie Act restricted Filipino immigration to 50 per year, solidifying a gender imbalance. Because prior immigrants were predominately male laborers, the restrictive quota meant that women did not immigrate in significant numbers. Racially discriminatory anti-miscegenation laws forbade Filipino from marrying white women. This left a generation of single men who were unable to marry or send for family members in the Philippines, greatly restricting family formation.

From 1898 to 1934, Filipinos were classified as U.S. nationals and could enter and leave the U.S. with an American passport, but were unable to obtain citizenship. From 1934 to 1946, Filipinos were designated aliens ineligible for citizenship. A series of U.S. Supreme Court cases declared that only whites or persons of African descent were entitled to citizenship via naturalization. This effectively barred Filipinos from practicing medicine, law and other professional occupations since most states required citizenship to practice licensed professions. Filipinos were also legally barred from public facilities such as swimming pools, movie theaters and tennis courts. Race riots and acts of racial violence were frequent. As U.S. nationals, Filipinos had no ambassadors or consuls to support them, and without citizenship, they lacked many of the legal avenues necessary to defend themselves.

Despite such barriers, Filipinos were instrumental in shaping the 1930s labor movements on the mainland and in Hawaii. Though banned from membership in the American Federation of Labor and attacked by white vigilantes, in the 1930s they formed the Agricultural Workers Industrial League to organize field workers. In 1933, the Filipino Labor Union struck against California lettuce growers. From 1920 through the 1950s, Filipinos in Hawaii organized and participated in a variety of work actions that led to important labor victories and political power. In 1959, Filipinos led the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, which later merged with Cesar Chavez’s union to become the United Farm Workers.

The period from 1946 – 1965 saw a second wave of immigration as Filipinos who were military recruits and war brides entered the U.S. This group included some 7,000 “1946 boys”, agricultural laborers brought to Hawaii by sugar planters to break up the first interracial, territorial-wide strike in the sugar cane fields. Instead, Filipino workers joined the strike, which resulted in the first major victory for agricultural workers in Hawaii. A 1947 U.S. military agreement with the Philippines also allowed recruitment of men to work in mess halls and as personal attendants to officers in the U.S. armed forces.

In 1965, the 1934 Naturalization Act was amended, eliminating restrictive national-origins quotas and bringing in a third wave of immigrants. The post-1965 Filipino immigration differed from the pre-1965 immigration in two major ways. First, it included both large numbers of English-speaking Filipino professionals and skilled workers, particularly in the medical fields, between the ages of 20 and 40, as well as unskilled laborers. Second, this wave was characterized by a large influx of Filipina women and families, both nuclear and extended.

In Santa Clara County, 60% of randomly surveyed Filipinos cited economic problems as the main reason they left the Philippines. Fifty three percent also reported a desire to reunite with family. Similarly, 65% of public benefits recipients cited family reunification as the main reason they left their home country. Fifty-three percent reported economic reasons.

Social Characteristics of the Filipino People

Religious & Ethnic Diversity

In the Philippines, 83% are Roman Catholic, 9% Protestant, 5% Muslim, and 3% are Buddhist and other religions. About 91% of the population is Christian Malay, with 4% Muslim Malay, 2% Chinese, and 3% other ethnicities.

Family Life

Family relationships are very important to Filipinos. In the Philippines, extended family structures provide sustenance, such as sharing food, labor and financial resources. Extended family members, compadres (ritual or honorary kinsmen, godparents), and sometimes neighbors and fellow workers are all tied together by a system of lifelong support and obligation. Traditional families are patriarchal with men as providers. Children are taught to show respect and deference to adults and authority figures.

Health Care Practices

Life expectancy in the Philippines is 67 years. It is 65 for females and 70 for males. Adults are expected to care for sick or injured family members until health is regained or eventual death. Traditionally, elders are cared for in the home. The father or eldest son may act as the family spokesperson. However, decisions are usually made by the entire family. Close family members should be included in medical discussions. Those who do not use English regularly are more comfortable using their native dialect to discuss sensitive issues such as medical diagnosis or prognosis, sexually related matters, and socioeconomic status, since such information is considered personal. When using an interpreter, a family member should be included for sensitive topics. It is better practice to request income as a range, not a specific figure.

In the Philippines, access to mental health services is limited to extreme cases requiring institutionalization, and mental health problems are highly stigmatized. Individuals tend to seek help first from a local priest, extended family members, or close friends. It is better practice in community outreach and individual service to avoid using the term “mental health.”

Educational System in the Philippines

The literacy rate is 94.6%. Historically the Catholic Church operated schools, until the U.S. instituted a universal education system based on the American model, with English as the language of instruction. Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 12.

Filipinos in Santa Clara County

Demographics

The Filipino community is scattered in the suburbs of San Jose, Milpitas, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale. While most speak English, many do not consider it their first nor most frequently used language. Significant differences exist between public benefits recipients and the general population represented by random sample surveys.

Public benefits recipients tend to be more recent immigrants, having resided an average of four years in Santa Clara County. They are older, with a median age of 67. The majority are between the ages of 50 and 86. Fifty two percent cite Tagalog as the language they most frequently use, 13% use a language other than English or Tagalog, and only 11% use English regularly. Just over half have 10 to 14 years of schooling, and almost 30% have less.

In contrast, Filipinos responding to random sample surveys tended to be younger, have lived longer in the U.S., have more education, and use English more frequently. They averaged 18 years in the U.S., with 53 years as the median age, and the majority were between the ages of 40 and 64. Of this group, 31% cited Tagalog, 23% English, and 37% English and another language as most frequently used languages. About 54% had 13 to 16 years of schooling.

Both groups had an average household size of four people, but differed significantly in income. Almost half of public benefits recipients earned between $10,000 and $50,000 in 1999, and 22% earned less than $10,000. In contrast, 45% of randomly surveyed adults earned between $30,000 and $70,000, with 17% earning $90,000 to $110,000.

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

Most Filipinos speak English, but recent immigrants may be unfamiliar with idioms and slang, and have difficulty with accents and pronunciation. The most common dialects in Santa Clara County are Tagalog, Ilocano, Visayan, Pangasinan, and Capangpangan. The culture of the Philippines is highly complex, with a great deal of regional, local, and provincial variations. In a general sense, Filipinos can be said to be group and not individualistically oriented. Politeness is valued, and they tend not to be directly confrontational. Many are quiet in formal settings or unfamiliar surroundings, while lively among friends and family. Silence does not mean assent, but rather can be a form of politeness. Filipinos are taught to be respectful to elders and authority figures. For those who are more acculturated, these practices are less applicable.

Emotional Support

Filipinos maintain extended family relations as support networks. In random sample surveys, 49% said they would talk to a spouse for an emotional problem, followed by a friend (39%) or a relative (31%). Very few would consult a teacher, doctor, community leader, or mental health specialist. The majority relied on family members to care for children under the age of 12, generally the mother or father, followed by a grandparent or relative. Seventy five percent felt that homebound seniors or the disabled should be cared for in the home by family members, trained care givers, or a combination of the two.

Religious Traditions & Holidays

Filipinos in America follow U.S. traditions, but also celebrate Philippine Independence Day and frequently participate in hometown fiestas. Christmas, Easter, and Holy Week have religious importance for the majority who are Catholic.

Clothing

In the U.S., Filipinos wear American clothes. Occasionally men may wear a barong (embroidered dress shirt) and women a kimona (dress with large, puffed sleeves) for formal occasions such as baptismals, weddings, or fiestas.

Food

Filipino cuisine has numerous indigenous and foreign influences, including Chinese, Spanish, American, Malay and Arab. Filipinos are very familiar with American food. Traditional immigrants tend to eat rice with every meal; like food with sauce or broth; think American cuisine is bland; and may enjoy rice porridge when ill. Some Filipinos are lactose intolerant.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

Focus group participants and interviews with community service providers identify orientation to American life as the most critical need for new immigrants. As a solution, they proposed an orientation center to provide education on U.S. laws regarding child abuse, domestic violence, and other matters. Physical discipline of children is acceptable in the Philippines, and domestic violence is seen as a family problem that does not lead to government intervention. In the U.S., families are broken up when Child Protective Services remove children from the home and police incarcerate parents for child abuse or domestic violence.

Affordable housing was also cited by the same respondents as a basic need. Fifty one percent of public benefits recipients needed housing assistance. The high cost of housing results in overcrowding, which in turn creates stress on families. Rent control and housing construction with federal or state funds are community proposed solutions.

Many families lack affordable medical, dental and vision insurance. Low-income medical insurance programs are limited to children and seniors, and nothing is available for moderate income families. Approximately 83% of public benefits recipients cited a need for medical insurance. Employer and government provision of affordable insurance would address this issue.

Female focus group participants identified the high cost of child care as a barrier to employment. They could not afford licensed child care providers. They proposed after school care at school sites, employer provided child care, child care by high schools and colleges, and government funded child care for low and moderate-income families.

Both focus group participants and service providers stated that culturally specific mental health services were lacking in the community. Education to reduce stigma and government funding for culturally and linguistically appropriate services are solutions.

Discrimination

Filipinos did not report high instances of discrimination, with the exception of the workplace. Forty six percent of random sample respondents felt they had been discriminated against by their employer, and 29% by a co-worker. Most felt respected by police when stopped, but an equal number felt they did not know the law or their rights.

Barriers to Education, Services & Benefits

Lack of transportation (35%), time (32%), and information (32%) are cited by public benefits recipients as the major obstacles faced in accessing education, services and benefits. Random survey respondents also cited lack of time, lack of information and scheduling as barriers in similar percentages. Community service providers reported the stigma attached to public benefits, mental health, and domestic violence issues as serious obstacles. They also state that professionals who are not able to practice their occupation in the U.S. often work long hours at lesser jobs, and thus lack the time necessary to pursue their family needs.

Employment & Working Conditions

Occupational Data & Barriers

Many professionals cannot practice the occupation they had in the Philippines due to lack of employment opportunities. Their credentials or licenses are not recognized in the U.S., or different occupational requirements exist. Many take lesser jobs, working long hours, and more than one job to support extended family both in the U.S. and in the Philippines. Unemployment is low.

Many Filipinos in the random survey reported that the number employed as professionals in the Philippines decreased upon entering the U.S. Thirty-three percent stated that having no license or credential in the U.S., or having different job requirements in the two countries (21%) were reasons their occupations were different.

Similarly, public benefits recipients in Santa Clara County noted a decrease in the number of Filipinos employed as professionals and semi-skilled workers upon entering the U.S. One third also reported not having a license or credential as the reason their job was different, and 30% cited lack of employment training as the cause. Only 24% felt their current job was better than the one they had in their home country.

Working Conditions

Among random survey respondents, 34% of families reported two wage earners in the family; about one fourth reported only one; 13% reported three. Eighty percent worked for only one employer; 19% for two or more employers. The majority worked for employers with more than 25 employees in non-unionized jobs, averaging 40 hours per week. About 42% worked a swing, graveyard or weekend shift, and 46% were required to work overtime.

Small Businesses

Few Filipinos report family members in small business in either group surveyed. The greatest obstacle to starting and managing a business was knowing what ideas might be successful (68%) and finding information on getting started (67%). This was followed by obtaining loans (59%), information on legal and permit requirements (49%), and knowing where to get help (43%). The majority of Filipino businesses are small, and tend to have English, not Filipino names.

Public Benefits in the Filipino Community

Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

Only 6% of Filipinos responding to the random sample survey knew the program requirements for CalWORKs, 16% for food stamps, and 5% for the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI). The highest level of knowledge was for SSI, at 32%, followed by 28% for MediCal, and 14% for General Assistance. Of the very few respondents who reported family members receiving benefits, none felt the amounts were adequate for CalWORKs, food stamps, General Assistance, or CAPI. Forty two percent felt the amounts were adequate for SSI and 62% for MediCal. Among all surveyed public benefits recipients, less than 10% were familiar with CalWORKs and General Assistance requirements, and 15% with CAPI requirements. Thirty percent were familiar with SSI requirements, and 24% with food stamp requirements. Fully 82% knew the requirements for MediCal, and 75% thought the amount of benefits for MediCal were adequate.

Culturally Competent Services

Interviews with community service providers indicate that a lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services for Filipinos is a serious problem. Government agencies do not have staff who are bilingual in the major Filipino dialects used in Santa Clara County. While most Filipinos speak English, it is not always their first language nor the language they use most frequently. Particularly in discussing emotional problems or sensitive issues, immigrants are more fluent and comfortable using their native dialect.

Educational Access

K–12 Education

Roughly half the respondents to random sample surveys have children under 18 years old in school. About 44% participate in school lunch and breakfast programs, but families tend not to access other school services. Only 38% reported receiving information on services in a language they understood. The vast majority of parents preferred that their children be schooled in English and another language, or in English and their native language.

Employment Training

Public benefits recipients received job training in the U.S. as receptionists, office workers, and health workers. One third reported receiving training at a private business or institute, and 19% received multiple training. Filipinos responding to random sample surveys received training mostly as semi-skilled office workers and technicians, with 48% receiving training at a private business or institute, and 26% at community colleges.

ESL

Eighty percent of Filipinos who responded to random sample surveys rated their English language ability as excellent to good. About 72% stated that employment was their most important need for English, followed by daily living situations at 63%, continuing their education, reading literature and community involvement at about 50% each. In contrast, only 40% of public benefits recipients rated their ability as excellent to good, 34% as average, and 25% as poor to none at all. Their most important need for English was for employment (52%), daily living situations (53%), and filling out applications and paperwork (39%). While 57% felt that TV was the best way to learn English more quickly, 41% thought having English speaking friends was the best way.

Citizenship

About 74% of randomly surveyed Filipinos were naturalized U.S. citizens, and 42% did not require assistance with the naturalization process. In contrast, only 17% of public benefits recipients were citizens. About 41% needed help in paying or waiving the $250 INS fee, and 27% needed help with citizenship classes and filling out the application.

Communication & Outreach in the Filipino Community

Over 95% of Filipino families have TVs and telephones at home, and over 80% have radios and VCRs. About 77% of random sample survey respondents own computers; 57% have Internet access; and 49% have email. Families get important information most often from English language TV programs (85%) and the San Jose Mercury News (80%). Friends (61%) and family members (53%) are the next most common information sources.

Public benefits recipients had similar levels of TV, telephone and radio ownership, but only 58% had computers, and one third had Internet and email access. Important information is most often obtained from English language TV (77%), the San Jose Mercury News (58%), and TV in their primary language (52%). About half also rely on friends and family members.

Filipinos in Action: Josephine Hughes

Filipinos are actively involved in civic affairs, contributing to the community. Hometown association activities are common. The majority are involved in a religious group and one-third participate in a school or parent organization. As of December 2000, 21,820 Filipinos were registered to vote in Santa Clara County. While 4,400 voted in the November 1990 elections, 7,552 voted in the March 2000 election. Sixty-nine percent of the randomly sampled Filipinos report they are registered to vote, in contrast to only 10% of public benefits recipients. About 60% of random sample respondents who don’t vote regularly cite lack of time as the number one reason for not voting.

One person who has been a model of success for the community has been Josephine Hughes. Success did not come easily to Josephine. Back in the Philippines where she grew up, she recalls how hard it was to earn a living in a developing country where jobs did not pay well. At the age of eighteen, Josephine juggled three jobs to put herself through college. She worked full-time as an administrative assistant, managed the family restaurant on weekends, and ran her own clothing boutique, frequently traveling across Asia on purchasing trips. After nine years she obtained her B.A. in business administration from Philippine Christian University.

In 1983 Josephine migrated to the U.S. Her degree was not recognized, so she worked as an administrative assistant for five years. In 1988, she started her own business, Josephine’s Personnel Services, an employee placement firm which she ran by herself for five years. Today, her business sees $10.5 million in annual revenue, has 12 staff, maintains 300 to 500 employees, and has won three business awards from the San Jose Business Journal.

Nicaragua

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El Salvador
Ethiopia
India
Iran
Laos
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Nicaragua
Philipines
Russia
Somalia
South Korea
Taiwan
Vietnam

Nicaragua

by Cesar Garcia


Context for Nicaraguan Immigration

History and Government

Spanish settlers occupied Nicaragua from the conquest in 1552 until 1821. Nicaragua was part of Mexico and then part of the United Provinces of Central America, but it became an independent republic in 1838. The politics of the new republic were characterized by the struggle for power between the Liberals and the Conservatives. The U.S. supported the Conservatives, and twice during the early 1900s, U.S. marines were stationed in Nicaragua.

Guerrilla leader Cesar Augusto Sandino fought these forces from 1927 until 1933 when they were withdrawn. With the assassination of Sandino in 1934, General Anastasio Somoza Garcia rose to power and established a dictatorship that lasted until 1956 when he was killed. The Somoza family controlled the Nicaraguan government directly or with the assistance of close family friends until 1979.

On July 17, 1979, the Sandinista Popular Liberation Front (FSLN) assumed power, initiating a literacy campaign, a mixed economy, and political pluralism. The new Sandinista government was accused by the U.S. government of supplying arms to rebels in El Salvador. From 1981 to 1987, contra guerrillas financed by the U.S. fought to overthrow the Sandinistas. Sandinista President Daniel Ortega signed a treaty with the contras in August of 1987, ending the war. In 1990 Violeta Barrios de Chamorro was elected president, and the conservative Arnoldo Aleman was elected president in 1996. Nicaragua is a republic with a unicameral assembly and 5-year presidential terms.

Economy

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Central America. Production in Nicaragua is low and external debt is extremely high. Fluctuations in prices of exports such as coffee, bananas, cotton, sugar cane and rum strongly impact the economy. Nicaragua’s GDP was $11.6 billion in 1998 and its per capita income was $2,500. Inflation was about 16% and unemployment was 14%. Hurricane Mitch caused $10 billion in damages in 1998.

Nicaraguan Immigration

The main reasons for Nicaraguan immigration were to escape the armed conflict and to escape poverty. Nicaraguan immigration to the U.S. occurred in waves. During the 1979 uprising, many wealthy families left the country, and in the 1980s Sandinista restructuring caused many property and industry owners to leave. The last wave included young men avoiding the military draft and poorer families escaping the deplorable economic conditions and violence.

In 1998 more than two million Nicaraguans were left homeless due to hurricane Mitch. Many Nicaraguans received permanent residence or temporary protected status (TPS) in the late 1990s.

Social Characteristics of the Nicaraguan People

Ethnic and Religious Diversity

Ethnic groups in Nicaragua include 69% mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white), 17% white, 9% black, and 5% Amerindian. The predominant religions are Roman Catholicism (85%) and Protestant religions.

Family Life

The family is the most important institution in Nicaragua. It encompasses close ties with extended family and also godparents, and has a strong influence on the social, economic, and political relations of Nicaraguans. Households are large as a result of high fertility and the presence of extended family. Relatively few families in the lower classes formalize their marriages through church or state. In the 1980s, women headed an estimated one third of the families, primarily due to war and the search for employment. These rates were higher in urban areas. Traditionally women have been dependent and devoted mothers, whereas men are expected to be independent, protective and assertive. The prevalence of female-headed households and increased participation in the labor force have transformed the lives of many Nicaraguan women.

Health Care Practices

The Nicaraguan health care system underwent major improvements under the Sandinista government in the early 1980s. Efforts of different entities and volunteers (brigadistas) were unified, and special emphasis was placed on primary and preventive medicine. At present the upper class uses private health care, about 8% of the population use the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute, and the remaining 90% are poorly served in public facilities. Mental health issues in the Nicaraguan population include Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) disorder, an aftermath of the atrocities of war. Symptoms include nightmares, nervousness, insomnia, loss of appetite, and tearfulness. Mental disorders are believed to be caused by significant life events (e.g. death of husband), experiencing strong emotions (e.g. anger, grief, surprise leading to sadness, anxiety or nervousness), and supernatural causes.

Educational System

Education is free and obligatory (ages 7-13). In 1999, 80% of females and 76% of males were enrolled in primary and secondary education. The literacy rate was 63% in 1995, and education spending (primary and secondary) was 2.6% of the GDP.

Nicaraguans in Santa Clara County

Demographics

Public benefits recipients from Nicaragua reported coming to the United States primarily to escape the war and political problems in Nicaragua. Most have lived in the U.S. an average of 13 years, the majority speak Spanish most of the time, the average age for the group is 34 years, and 80% of them live in San Jose. Twenty-two percent have completed 7-9 years of schooling, 45% have completed 10-12 years, 22% have completed 13-16 years, and 11% have completed more than 18 years. The average household has five people. Family income is distributed as follows: 29% earn less than $10,000 per year; 57% earn $10,001-$30,000; and 14% earn $50,001-$70,000.

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

Nicaraguans and most Central Americans show respect for elders. Touching between people of the same sex is ordinary. Nonverbal gestures are also common, and the need for personal space is not essential in their culture. Kissing is a popular form of greeting for women. When speaking, the use of “vos,” an antiquated form of “you,” is common.

Emotional Support

Those who provide emotional support for the Nicaraguans surveyed include (in order of importance) friends, relatives, spouses, religious advisors, community leaders, mental health specialists and doctors. Mothers, fathers, and grandparents were the main providers of child care. For Nicaraguans in this group, the most accepted way of caring for seniors and disabled persons was at home by family members, followed by choices involving trained caregivers. No one selected institutional care.

Clothing

The everyday clothes of Nicaraguans are those of countries in the western hemisphere, with the necessary adaptations for the hot and humid weather of the region. Typical folkloric outfits include El Gueguense, El Viejo y La Vieja and La Gigantona.

Food

Corn and beans are essential ingredients for Nicaraguans. Other foods include eggs, poultry, lamb, pork, fish, rice, alubias, tortillas, fruits, and salads. El gallo pinto, nacatamal, tajaditas, arroz a la valenciana, and vigoron are popular Nicaraguan dishes. Vigoron is one of the main tourist attractions in Central Park in the city of Granada. Pinolillo, tiste, and cacao are typical Nicaraguan drinks.

Religious Traditions and Holidays

As in most of Latin America, Catholic Nicaraguans traditionally celebrate the patron saints of most towns and cities. These annual festivities include religious processions, special ceremonies, fireworks, and food. Pictures of saints are very common in Nicaraguan homes, for they are considered intermediaries between people and God. During Holy Week, many Nicaraguans spend the day at the beach and attend religious processions at night. The official holidays in Nicaragua are New Year (January 1), Holy Week (March-April), Labor Day (May 1), Liberation Day (July 19, not official), Saint Dominic festivities (August 1-10), Battle of San Jacinto (Sept. 14), Independence Day (September 15), Day of the Dead (November 2), Immaculate Conception La Purisima (December 8, one of the biggest religious holidays in Nicaragua), and Christmas (December 25).

The largest celebration of La Purisima takes place in the city of Granada. In cities such as Managua and Leon, people traditionally give fruits and other foods to people in their neighborhoods. Nine days prior to Christmas, an image of newborn Jesus is passed from house to house and the Pastoras return the image to the church in the middle of a loud and happy celebration. The traditional Misa de Gallo is a mass celebrated December 24 at midnight and fireworks also mark the celebration of Christmas. Other traditions include La Primera y la Octava in the city of Masaya, and a celebration in Santo Domingo with the typical dress called El Gueguense.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

The top five needs identified by survey respondents were dental, medical and eye care; housing; and help finding a job. The top five problems identified in a focus group conducted with Nicaraguans were: 1) discrimination and abuses in every area of life due to undocumented status, 2) employment and wage discrimination, 3) lack of ESL classes and bilingual teachers, 4) housing being too scarce, too expensive, and not accessible (due to discrimination), and 5) lack of access to health care and lack of interpreters in the health care system.

Solutions offered from focus group included: 1) immigration law reform; 2) more respect and concern by employers for employees despite of immigrant status; 3) bilingual teachers and better ESL class schedules, and at least partial credit for degrees obtained in Nicaragua; 4) rent control and more accessible housing, and 5) more flexibility, respect, and attention to limited English speakers in hospitals.

Discrimination

Sources of discrimination reported by this group of Nicaraguans included co-workers, landlords, restaurant workers, teachers, and bosses. These were the top five choices.

Barriers to Education, Services and Benefits

The top five obstacles cited by public benefits recipients were not enough English, lack of time, scheduling problems, lack of information and immigration status.

Employment and Working Conditions

Occupational Data and Barriers

Some of the occupations reported by participants were homemaker, custodian, administrative assistant, office worker, self-employed, and manager, but these last two comprised only 1% of the responses. Concerning occupations in Nicaragua, responses included administrative assistant, office worker, and student. Half of the respondents reported that limited English skills were the main reason for the difference between their previous and current occupations. Other reasons reported were their lack of a license or credentials in the U.S. and different requirements for occupations.

Working Conditions

Sixty-three percent of the respondents had three people working in their families, and only 13% had no persons working in the family. Half of the participants had one employer and the rest reported two or more employers. The most prevalent complaints about working conditions were lack of medical benefits, sick leave, and no paid vacation; working swing, graveyard or weekend shifts; no overtime; and being paid in cash.

Small Businesses

Nicaraguan public benefits recipients reported that in their families, 43% have one self-employed person or business owner, and 14% of the families have two such persons. The top five obstacles to starting a business were not knowing legal or permit requirements, not knowing enough English, not having business information translated, not knowing who can help, and not knowing how to get customers.

Public Benefits

Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

Two-thirds of the participants knew the requirements for MediCal benefits, and one-third of them had someone in the family receiving it. Of those receiving MediCal, half said the benefit level was adequate.

Cultural Competency of Services

Sixty percent of respondents reported receiving information in a language they understand in orientations, 67% during phone calls, and 80% in written materials.

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K-12 Education

Thirty-eight percent of the participants had children under age 18 in school. Some education-related services received by Nicaraguans on public benefits were bilingual education, parent meetings, information in a language they understood, school lunch and breakfast programs, after school activities, transportation, and homework centers.

Employment Training

Nicaraguans who have received employment training indicated that they work as industrial assemblers, office workers, and administrative assistants.

ESL

Survey respondents indicated that having ESL classes available closer to home would assist them in learning English, as would better class schedules, weekend classes, and TV classes. They also mentioned having English-speaking friends as helpful in learning English. Many had difficulties finding entry-level ESL classes. Less literate Nicaraguans expressed the need for bilingual ESL teachers.

Citizenship

Fifty percent of the Nicaraguans surveyed were naturalized citizens. Those who were not expressed a need for help filling out the application, disability waiver information, English literacy classes in Spanish, assistance with an INS inquiry about their case, and help paying or waiving INS fees.

Communication and Outreach in the Nicaraguan Community

In order of importance, this group reported receiving important information from Spanish TV, Spanish radio, church, friends, and Spanish newspapers. The top five information-related devices respondents had at home were radios, TVs, VCRs, telephones, and computers.

Nicaraguans in Action: Carolina Vega

The largest Nicaraguan community in the Bay Area is located in San Francisco. Formal Nicaraguan organizations in Santa Clara County are almost nonexistent. However, Nicaraguan families get together for religious and family purposes. For instance, El Torneo de Amistad, a Nicaraguan group, organizes the festivities of La Purisima at Sacred Heart Church in San Jose.

The involvement of Nicaraguan participants in the community includes involvement in religious and parent organizations. In addition, 44% of public benefits recipients reported being registered to vote.

Nicaraguans have tripled their voter participation in Santa Clara County in the last 10 years. Nicaraguan voters increased from 135 in the 1990 November election to 459 in the 2000 March election. The number of registered voters as of December 2000 was 1,054, living mostly in San Jose, Santa Clara, and Milpitas.

One Nicaraguan success story is Carolina Vega. Carolina is a 17-year old Nicaraguan woman, currently a junior in high school. She lives with her two younger sisters and her parents. In school, she is the only Latina participating in the Pre-Engineering Magnet Program that prepares high school students to succeed in college. She is also being considered for an engineering scholarship.

Carolina and her family have faced numerous adversities since their arrival in San Jose, including the lack of any relatives or friends in the area. Not having a personal computer to complete her engineering assignments, she completes them in public libraries.

Despite all the hardships, Carolina has always been involved in the community. She was an altar girl at her church when she was 5 years old. She is currently a eucharistic minister, a catechist, and a participant in the yearly reenactments of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Jesus’ crucifixion during Holy Week. Her role as Our Lady of Guadalupe made the front page in the San Jose Mercury News in 1998. Carolina’s participation in the Teatro del Pueblo when she was eight years old and her participation in a play in school have sparked her interest in theater. She also works selling products in her spare time.

Carolina Vega is an exemplary Nicaraguan immigrant, open to the cultural diversity of this valley and proud of her Nicaraguan roots. Her aspirations will undoubtedly be the source of numerous achievements in her future.

Laos

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Laos
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Laos

by Carol Stephenson


Context for Lao Immigration

History and Government

Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia bordered by Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, China and Vietnam. Beginning in the 8th century the Lao people migrated from China into what is now Laos. Between the 14th and the 17th centuries, Laos was occupied by a Khmer leader and called the Lane Xang kingdom or “Land of One Million Elephants.” During the 17th century it was split into three kingdoms at constant conflict with each other. At the end of the 18th century it came under Thai control.

In 1893 Laos became a French protectorate and its territory was incorporated into Indochina, with Vientiane as the capital. During World War II, the Japanese invaded Laos but in 1946 the French reestablished a constitutional monarchy. The Pathet Lao, a Communist independence movement headed by Prince Souphanouvong, was established inside North Vietnam in 1951. The Pathet Lao and the Viet Minh invaded central Laos and this led to the division of the country as part of the 1954 Geneva accords. Later the kingdom gained full control, and for a short period the royal premier Prince Souvanna Phouma and the Pathet Lao tried to form a unified government. Fighting broke out again in 1960.

When the U.S. entered in the Vietnam War, Laos was profoundly affected. The Pathet Lao fought alongside the Communist Vietnamese and, in 1964, the U.S. bombed Eastern Laos as part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. At the same time, the CIA began hiring many ethnic Hmong living in Lao mountain areas to fight against the Communists of Laos and Vietnam. Over the next decade, Laos became the most bombed country in the history of warfare. Thousands of Lao fled their hometowns in fear of the bombing.

In 1973 a ceasefire and coalition government was negotiated in Laos. When communists took over Vietnam in 1975, the Royalists of Laos left, mostly for France. The Pathet Lao then took complete control of the country and established what is now known as Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

During the 1990s the Supreme People’s Assembly adopted a new constitution, retaining one-party rule but dropping the word socialism. The economy became more market-oriented and the U.S. lifted its prohibition of aid to Laos. Today this Communist state is headed by President Khamtai Siphandon and Prime Minister Sisavat Keobounphan. Both assumed power in 1998.

Economy

By most accounts, Laos is considered one of the world’s 10 poorest nations., with an average per capita income of $1,260 per year. Economic decentralization efforts that began in the mid 1990s resulted in growth for a short time, but as these efforts slowed growth declined. The 1997 Asian financial crisis hurt Laos and was as its worst in 1999 when the value of the kip plunged. The currency has since stabilized, but inflation is above 100%.

Laos has no railroads and only a simple road system. Electricity is limited to the cities and communications are limited. Subsistence agriculture accounts for 80% of employment and 46% of Lao live below the poverty line.

Lao Immigration

With the fall of the royal government in 1973, most of the highly educated and wealthy Lao left for France. Thousands more fled to refugee camps in Thailand. Although the Communist takeover of Laos was considered peaceful, the average Lao felt great apprehension of the new government. Rumors abounded, and people heard that the Communists would take their families and change their ways of life. Many people who opposed the Communists were sent to “reeducation camps”. Lao on public benefits in Santa Clara County rated war in their homeland and political problems as the top reasons for coming to the U.S.

The Hmong had additional fears. Not only had they been subject to prejudice historically, many were targeted by the new government because they had supported the Royalists as mercenaries for the CIA. Although Hmong make up only a tiny fraction of Lao, nearly 150,000 ethnic Hmong have migrated to the U.S.

The U.S. Congress passed the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act in 1975, beginning the flow of migration to the U.S. However, in the first years of the new Communist government, the U.S. considered most Lao to be economic migrants rather than refugees. In 1975 only 800 Lao were admitted to the U.S. During the three years from 1976 to 1978, less than 20,000 Lao were admitted as refugees. By the late 1970s, however, international attention was focused on Southeast Asia, including Cambodia and Laos, and the flow of migration greatly increased. From 1979 to 1981 105,000 Lao were admitted to the U.S., the highest amount in any three-year period. In 1995 the camps were closed and the remaining Lao were repatriated.

By 1990 about 150,000 Lao, not including Hmong, had immigrated to the United States. One third of those have settled in California with the largest concentration in Fresno.

Social Characteristics of the Lao People

Ethnic and Religious Diversity

The people of Laos are made up of over 50 different ethnic groups with as many different languages and cultures. The ethnic groups are divided into three categories: 68% Lao Loum (lowlanders), 22% Lao Theung (uplanders), 9% Lao Soung (highlanders including the Hmong and Mien) and 1% Vietnamese/Chinese.

The lowland Lao, which make up 2/3 of the population, share a common heritage with the Thai people. Thus, modern day Thai and Lao have many cultural similarities.

The uplanders are mostly tribal Hmong: indigenous people of Southern China who have migrated over the last two hundred years from China to escape Chinese control. Hmong have settled in several Southeast Asian countries. However, Laos is the only Asian country in which they are numerous enough to be recognized as a significant minority. The Hmong resist government control and practice “slash and burn” agriculture. They have been in conflict with the government of Laos for many years and have experienced ethnic prejudice.

Although Communism officially frowns on religion, the Lao government recognizes the importance of Buddhism in Lao culture and it continues to be practiced. The population is 85% Theravada Buddhist, influenced by spirit-based religions and Hinduism

Most of the remaining 15% is animist, which is associated with the uplander tribes. Small minorities of Christians, Muslims and Confucianists exist as well.

Family Life

Family is central to the Lao way of life. Families in Laos generally work together in subsistence agriculture and extended families living together is common. These may include distant relatives and those related by marriage. Both in Laos and in the U.S. family members tend to live close by and provide support, which may contribute to the low divorce rate in the U.S. Marriages are usually arranged by parents, although the bride and groom each has a right to withdraw or refuse. A bride price is generally paid by the groom’s family. Children often stay in their parents’ house after marriage until they establish their own household.

Men are considered the head of the household and the main provider although they may also share household duties. Women perform work associated with childrearing and household duties including finances. The fertility rate in Laos is 5.21 children born to each woman. Men usually hold leadership positions in the community, but women are often involved in decision making and very active in their community. Elders are important sources of information and wisdom for the family. They command respect and obedience.

In Santa Clara County, many grandparents and older children take care of young children, according to the Lao respondents of the public benefits survey.

Health Care Practices

Life expectancy in Laos is 53 years. Infant mortality across the country is 98 deaths to every 1,000 live births. The number is much lower in urban areas and much higher in remote villages. Chronic vitamin and protein deficiencies complicate health problems associated with malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhea. Consequently, nutrition is an important part of preventative health care.

There is no reliable widespread health care system in Laos. Traditional health care by rural Lao involves herbal medicine, massage and healing rituals. Practitioners of traditional medicine are highly valued. Little western medicine is practiced, and where it is, it coexists with traditional medicine. Although there is little preventative health care in Laos, the Ministry of Public Health has a program of vaccination reaching about 50% of targeted children. Buddhist monks often play a role in physical healing. All family members contribute to the care of the sick and physical privacy is important. The concepts of mental health and mental health care are not developed.

Educational System

Public schooling in Laos begins at age six. After six years of elementary school, students take an exit exam and many end their education at that point. At the 10th grade level another round of exams are given. Public education is provided up to the 13th grade; however, further education is basically unavailable. Those who can and wish to keep studying generally must seek international education. The literacy rate in Laos is 70% for men and 44% for women.

Lao in Santa Clara County have a wide range of educational backgrounds, with lowland Lao being more likely to have attended school.

Lao in Santa Clara County

Demographics

About 7,000 Lao live in Santa Clara County. The first Lao were resettled in the county from refugee camps in 1980, as in other parts of the country. The greatest number also came at that time, so that Lao as a community has experienced twenty years of acculturation. Over time, new arrivals have been more likely to have come based on family unification. The respondents of the survey had lived in the county from one to twenty-one years, with an average of 11 years. Very few Hmong have been resettled in Santa Clara County, and in general, the few who are here have been incorporated into the greater Lao community.

The Lao on public benefits reported living almost exclusively in San Jose. The total number of people living in the household ranges from four to twenty-one. Nearly all had less than six years of education. All had household income of $30,000 per year or less.

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

Lao generally greet each other with the nop: placing one’s palms together, with fingertips pointing up, in front of the chest. The higher the hands are held indicates a higher level of respect. Lao are accustomed to using a handshake and, of course, in the U.S. have adopted such greetings, although women may be less likely to do so. Eye to eye contact may be considered disrespectful as may be touching the opposite sex. A kiss is an inappropriate greeting. Saying “no” may also be a sign of disrespect.

The head is the most sacred part of the body and it is inappropriate to touch another person’s head, including a child’s head. The feet are the least sacred and it is rude to use one’s feet to point or move something. Similarly, it is rude to put one’s feet on furniture. People remove their shoes when they enter a home or temple (wat).

Lao have a system to provide for newcomers to this county based on their cultural and religious traditions. When a new family arrives, it is housed by a settled family who teaches them where to shop and how to use American systems.

Emotional Support

Lao on public benefits are most likely to talk to a friend (40%) or relative (40%) about their personal or emotional problems. Buddhist monks are also important to help with these issues. However, 20% of them reported that they would talk to no one.

Clothing

Since Laos is a country of many cultures, traditional dress varies. However, common traditional dress for women is the sinh, a skirt wrapped around the waist with about two yards of silk brocade material. Another length of material is draped over the left shoulder and under the right arm. It is often worn with a belt of silver buckles or rings. Men might wear the traditional baggy pants, or sampot, at a wedding or ceremony.

Food

The food of Laos is as diverse as its peoples. To Lao, cooking is an art, and mealtime is important. The main staple is sticky rice. Other common dishes include fresh fish, vegetables and chopped or pounded spiced meat (lap). Lime juice, lemon grass, and coriander are used as condiments. Fish sauce, hot chilis, garlic, mint, peanuts, ginger and coconut milk are used for seasoning.

Religious Traditions and Holidays

Buddhism plays an important role in shaping Lao life. Buddhist men are expected to become monks at some point in their lives, usually before marriage, even if only for a few weeks. The temple, or wat, is the center of village life, serving to resolve disputes and provide social services as well as religious worship. In Santa Clara County, Lao share a temple with Thai and Cambodians.

Lao holidays generally revolve around Buddhist traditions. The major holiday of the year is the New Year, or Pi Mai, which is celebrated in mid April for three days. The New Year is a time of giving thanks and of seeking forgiveness. The elders are honored and asked to forgive the wrongs done by the younger people in the previous year.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

The greatest need identified by Lao on public benefits in Santa Clara County is health care, including dental care, eye care and general medical care. Other top concerns included housing, ESL and help with citizenship. The Lao focus group rated education as the number one concern, followed by health care, mental health services, lack of support within the Lao community, housing, and community education.

As solutions to these needs, the focus group urged health education, particularly in the areas of mental health, nutrition and preventative health care, and specifically for the elderly, the young and women. They suggested providing information on health insurance and the U.S. health care system. They stressed that these services must be culturally competent.

The focus group also suggested having a centralized resource center where Lao could network, get family support, and receive referral information. They envisioned programs for leadership training, mentoring, and services for low income Lao.

Discrimination

Lao on public benefits were most likely to feel discriminated against by police. When stopped by police, over 90% of the Lao on public benefits reported feeling scared and nearly half felt mistreated.

Barriers to Services, Benefits and Information

Lao on public benefits rated “not enough English” as the number one reason that Lao do not get services, benefits or information. Other major barriers include no affordable child care, no time, and scheduling problems.

Employment and Working Conditions

Occupational Data

The data collected from the survey of public assistance recipients indicates that the respondents were likely to change their occupations. The number one reason that Lao stated that they have a different job in the U.S. than they did in Laos is their lack of English.

Working Conditions

Most Lao on public benefits have no medical benefits, and half have no sick leave. Almost half work overtime or a swing shift and work on average 40 hours per week.

Small Businesses

Only a small number of the survey respondents reported having one family member being self-employed or having a small business. The respondents reported many barriers to starting a small business such as: lack of English skills, need for information about legal permits and requirements, not getting a loan, and not knowing what kind of a business idea might be successful.

Public Benefits in the Lao Community

Six of ten Lao on public benefits report knowing the requirements for SSI. Five of ten are knowledgeable about food stamps requirements and one-third know General Assistance requirements. Twenty-five percent know the requirements for the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI). Less than ten percent know the requirements for CalWORKs.

Lao on public benefits report that they are treated with respect by their eligibility workers for Medical, CalWORKs and food stamps and that the workers communicate well with them. While most Lao receiving public assistance report getting written information in a language they understand from their social workers or eligibility workers, they are less likely to understand the information they receive by telephone.

Educational Access

K-12 Education

Only 5% of Lao in the U.S. are college graduates. A relatively low percentage (26%) of Laotian Americans between 18 and 24 attended college in 1990. Also, the dropout rate of Laotian Americans is relatively high at 12%.

Eighty percent of Lao on public benefits have children in school and nearly half participate in a school or parent organization. Most Lao on public benefits would like their children educated both in English and in Laotian. To address the educational issues of their children, the Lao focus group suggested providing tutoring, mentoring, counseling, and classes in traditional values and culture, as well as after-school activities. Parents felt a lack of understanding of the educational system, which impedes their ability to help their children succeed in school.

The top need in the Lao community determined by the Lao focus group was educational opportunity for all ages. The group saw education as a threshold issue that could address many of the other needs discussed such as income and housing. They described the need for education to improve language and communication skills, to alleviate cultural barriers, to improve career opportunities, and to increase earning capacity.

ESL

Nearly all of the Lao on public benefits in the survey rated their English as “average” or “poor.” ESL ranked as a major concern for the survey respondents and the focus group participants. The Lao surveyed said that they would like to improve their English skills for daily living situations, to participate in their children’s education and to further their own education.

Citizenship

A majority of the Lao immigrants who responded to the survey reported being naturalized U.S. citizens.

Communication and Outreach in the Lao Community

Nearly all Lao on public benefits report having a telephone and a television. Over one-half have a radio and a VCR and under half have a computer and/or internet access.

Santa Clara County has no Lao radio, television or newspapers. However, these do exist in the greater Bay Area. Information directed specifically to the Lao community in Santa Clara County should be made available at the Buddhist Temple. The main sources of information for Lao on public benefits are first, through friends, and second, through family.

Lao in Action: Lao Lane Xang of Northern California

Lao in the U.S. have experienced bombing, war and refugee camps. American culture and systems can be difficult to navigate. Older Lao, who were respected without question in Laos, find that their extensive agricultural knowledge is not relevant in suburban California. The Lao community numbers less than 2% of the county population and the country is not well represented or reported in the U.S media.

In response to these needs, the Northern California Lao Lane Xang of Northern California was established in 1977. Five local chapters and 4,000 members make up the association including one in Santa Clara County.

The Santa Clara Chapter of the Lao Lane Xang Association is made up of 200 volunteers who offer services for adjustment, educational support, interpretation services, and social services. Lao Lane Xang Association also provides social events and networking opportunities.

Peter Chittavong leads the Santa Clara Chapter as its President during the time he is not working with Lao for the County Health Department. Lao Lane Xang Association promotes the well being of Lao in the U.S. and a better understanding of Lao to the non-Lao population.

Iran

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India
Iran
Laos
Mexico
Nicaragua
Philipines
Russia
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Vietnam

Iran

by Milina Jovanovic


Context for Iranian Immigration

History and Government

The region of today’s Iran was occupied by the Persians in the 1500s B.C. Persia fell to Alexander in 331 B.C. and a succession of other rulers. The Greek-speaking Parthians (247 B.C.-A.D. 226) and the Arab Muslims (in 641) ruled Persia until the mid 800s, when it became an international cultural center. In the 12th century it was under the Mongols. During the Safavid dynasty (1500-1700s) the dominant religion became Islam. The Safavid dynasty was replaced by the Qajar dynasty, 1794-1925. Russians and Turks fought for economic control during the Qajar dynasty rule. World War I brought Russian and British troops that made Iran a battlefield.

In 1921 there was a coup and Reza Kahn came into power. Four years later he became shah and changed his name to Shah Reza Pahlavi. He helped modernize the country. During World War II, an Anglo-Russian alliance occupied Iran. In 1953 Prime Minister Mossadegh was overthrown in a joint U.S. and British operation. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah’s son, was brought to power. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi established many westernization programs. After the U.S.-backed shah fled Iran in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini returned and established an Islamic theocracy.

The Iran-Iraq war lasted from 1980 to 1988 with the involvement of the U.S., the USSR and other countries. Today’s Iran is called an Islamic Republic. Mohammad Khatami is the elected president. Religious officials are led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Economy

In 1998 Iran had a Gross Domestic Product of $340 billion, with a per capita income of about $5,000 annually. According to UN data for the same year, there was total of 15.4 million people in the labor force, which was dominated by agriculture and manufacturing. Men were about four times better represented in the workforce than women. Iran has the world’s fifth largest oil and second largest natural gas reserves. The country is also very rich in minerals and an important producer of agricultural, horticultural and animal products.

Iranian Immigration

Between the 1950s and 1970s mostly students from the social elite and professional backgrounds immigrated to the U.S. The next wave of immigration came between 1970 and 1978. Immigrants came from similar but more diverse backgrounds. The third wave of immigration from Iran after the 1979 “Islamic Revolution” had many different reasons. The reasons usually mentioned by immigrants are personal and economic security, as well as educational opportunities. A significant number of Iranians found political or religious exile. Immigrants from this wave are more heterogeneous in terms of socioeconomic and educational background.

Of the Iranian public assistance recipients who responded to the Summit on Immigrant Needs survey, 55% indicated that the most important reason for their immigration to the U.S. was family reunification. However, they rarely selected a single reason for immigrating and most often emphasized a multiplicity of reasons for immigration. About 47% of respondents checked political problems as an important reason for immigration and 28% thought that the economic situation had an important influence on their decision to immigrate. Similarly, 28% of the respondents emphasized religious persecution. Also 24% of the respondents said that the war in their homeland was an important reason for immigration. The smallest number of respondents checked race and ethnic problems as important issues that influenced their decision to immigrate to the U.S. More than one fourth (27%) of the survey participants answered that they were hoping for better educational opportunities.

Globalization has a very important impact on immigration. Global economic inequalities, as well as geo-political interests in the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf provide the background for conflicts and economic and political insecurity. Islamic fundamentalists often state that their activities are responses to westernization and the destruction of national religious and cultural identities.

Social Characteristics of the Iranian People

Ethnic & Religious Diversity

Iran is a diverse society. Major ethnic groups are Persian 51%, Azerbaijani 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurds 7%, Arabs 3%, Lurs 2%, Balochs 2%, Turks 2%, others 1%. Major religions include: Shi’ite Muslim 89%, Sunni Muslim 10%, and Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha’i 1%. Even though Iran’s constitution is based upon Islamic teachings, all of these groups coexist.

Family Life

Iranians are very family oriented. They tend to see families and family life as a source of strength and support. This patriarchal society is based on and reinforced by the patriarchal family. Mothers and other female family members are more often expected to take on the role of care providers than male members. Male family members are mostly expected to be the protectors of the family. They are also more often expected to ensure economic support of the family and maintain communication with the outside world. Both children and senior family members can expect care and support. Children are expected to show respect for adults. Seniors are respected and their knowledge and experience are very much appreciated.

The survey of public assistance recipients documented similar patterns related to family life and child care. Mothers and fathers are the most likely to take care of their children, according to our respondents. In 24% of the cases grandparents care for their grandchildren. Only 2% of the children of the respondents are enrolled in child care centers. Additionally, respondents rarely choose institutional care for seniors and the disabled. Around 70% prefer in-home care for seniors or the disabled, to be carried out by family members, and 13% preferred in-home care by trained care providers.

However, it would be wrong to proclaim the Iranian family patriarchal and traditional without any modern elements. Especially young generations are likely to think about redefining gender roles.

It should also be noted that many westerners lack knowledge of Muslim religions and societies that place their emphasis on traditional values. Usually, they have difficulties understanding the complexity of social life in these countries. The traditional way of life and the Islamic “dress code” do not necessarily mean that women do not have a significant amount of power and independence.

Health Care Practices

Iranians accept both western medicine and their own health practices. Western medicine is usually used in combination with alternative methods. Herbal treatments are used both for prevention and for symptom management. Family care and support are crucial in times of illness. There is universal health care in Iran. However, there are differences between private and public health institutions. Private health centers tend to offer better services for those who can afford it. In general, immunizations have been effective, but the emphasis has not been on prevention in all medical areas and in all places.

Mental health and illness have been somewhat stigmatized. There are mental health institutions and a great number of mental health patients receive institutionalized care. The rest of the patients rely on the help of their families.

Educational System in Iran

Education is extremely important for the Iranian people. The educational system is highly competitive, especially at the college level. College entrance exams are often difficult. Private schools offer space for more students, but the tuition tends to be very expensive and few can afford to attend these schools. Girls study as often as boys and are likely to have greater academic success. However, after graduating they usually get trapped into a net of traditional gender roles. In general, after graduation, there are fewer jobs than graduates and the situation puts great pressure on young generations.

Iranians in Santa Clara County

Demographics

More women than men (58%: 42%) responded to the public benefits questionnaire. The average age of the respondents, who were all public assistance recipients, was 59. In 91% of the cases Farsi was most often used in communication. The average number of years living in Santa Clara County for the Iranian group was five years, and for living in the U.S. six years. Most Iranians who responded to our survey reside in San Jose (65%), Campbell, Santa Clara or Cupertino. Only 10% of the respondents live in other parts of the county. In regard to education, 33% of the survey respondents completed more than 12 years of schooling, and 15% completed more than 16 years of schooling.

The average number of people living in the households of Iranian public assistance recipients is three, and in 42% of the cases they had non-family members living in their households.

Only 6% of Iranians who participated in the survey reported that there was no one employed in the family. In most of the cases (44%) two family members were employed and in 16% of the cases even 3 or 4. However, only 7% of the respondents reported a total family income of $90,000 or more. In contrast, 22% reported family income of less than $10,000 and 46% between $10,000 and $30,000. About 20% of the respondents had family income between $30,000 and $50,000, and only 5% had income between $50,000 and $90,000.

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

Many Iranians are very cautious to disclose personal feelings and thoughts to non-intimate people. Sometimes, non-verbal communication is even more important than verbal communication. Iranians prefer to use their last name, especially at the first encounter. Seniors are greeted first as a sign of respect. With strangers, their tone of voice may be restrained to a degree.

Emotional Support

About 27% of Iranian public assistance recipients reported that when they have emotional problems they do not talk to anyone. When they talk to someone, they are most likely to confide in their spouses, relatives or friends. These Iranians rarely talk to doctors, teachers, community leaders or religious advisors.

Clothing

There are differences in clothing styles. However, with the “Islamic Revolution,” religious clothing has been enforced, including women wearing scarves. In rural areas people often wear traditional clothes. Iranian Americans usually wear more westernized clothes. When visiting their homeland, they have to comply with reinforced standards of clothing.

Food

Iranians prefer to eat accompanied by family members or other people. It is a common practice to serve tea after each meal. When snacks are eaten, they often consist of fruits and nuts. Rice is a common staple food. In general, foods are classified as cold and hot. Iranians believe that the balance of these two types of food is a key for being healthy. Many Iranian Americans do not value fast food and prefer home-made food. Like other strict Muslims, many Iranians do not eat pork. Beef, lamb, chicken and fish are the basis for many dishes. Rice and beans may be combined.

Religious Traditions and Holidays

Iranians and Iranian Americans celebrate the New Year on the first day of spring. This is connected to the belief that the world was created on the first day of spring, or Nourouz. Every family celebrates with the ceremonial table covered with a Persian rug and seven elements including sabzeh (sprouts symbolizing rebirth), samanu (a sweet pudding symbolizing the sophistication of Persian cooking), seeb (apple symbolizing health and beauty), and senjed (sweet dry fruit representing love). Other elements might be put on the ceremonial table, such as painted or colored eggs representing fertility, Persian flowers, mirrors, candles, the Koran or holy book, etc. The celebration lasts for ten days and usually includes a great number of people, even when Iranians live abroad. Very often, a part of the celebration includes open-air picnics. Every year, there is an all day event at Vasona Park in Los Gatos. Many Iranian Americans and members of the larger community enjoy these events and help promote the cultural heritage.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

The top five needs of Iranian public assistance recipients, as identified by the survey, were medical care (70%), ESL (69%), eye care (66%), dental care (66%), and housing (64%). Survey respondents also demonstrated a great need in the areas of citizenship (49%), immigration legal services, employment training and help finding jobs. The top 5 needs identified in the two focus groups (one mixed and one with women CalWORKs recipients) were similar. Immigration legal services, public assistance issues, employment related issues, low wages and housing were the needs most often mentioned. Focus group participants also emphasized the need for parent education and for overcoming discrimination based on religious and cultural misconceptions.

Solutions for these needs included building more affordable housing, emphasizing cooperation between the housing authority and low income programs, shared housing, help with filling out applications for housing or translation of these applications (including information about credit history), making banks more sensitive to immigrants when providing home loans, and directing Iranian women toward employment training programs and occupations that will not create tensions for more traditional family members. Iranians emphasized that information about public benefits and immigration legal services should be translated into Farsi. They argued that more immigrant and H-1B visas should be issued and that immigration laws should be changed so that more immigrant families can be united. Regarding employment issues, it was stressed that INS should be more effective in issuing work authorization, and workplaces should be encouraged to help immigrants get better training and upgrade their skills. They also advocated for raising the minimum wage.

Discrimination

Only 56% of the Iranian public assistance respondents who were stopped by the police reported that they felt respected. Another 56% felt scared; 33% reported a communication problem and felt mistreated when stopped by the police; another 33 % expressed a lack of knowledge about US laws; and 22% stated they did not know their rights.

When asked about perceived discrimination, Iranian respondents were most likely to feel discriminated against by landlords. Additionally, they were very likely to feel discriminated against by the police, the INS, criminal courts, social workers or eligibility workers, and teachers.

Iranian focus group participants advocated for better cultural proficiency training of public employees and the general public. They proposed media and public outreach campaigns in order to overcome the discrimination they felt. To improve the situation regarding food, they suggested community-based farming and community food distribution.

Barriers to Education, Services, and Benefits

Most often mentioned barriers are lack of English, lack of information, lack of time, and lack of child care. Additionally, IBC focus group participants talked about the lack of transportation options, lack of food delivery systems for seniors, and lack of advocacy on behalf of Iranians. Immigration status and discrimination were also mentioned as barriers to education, services and benefits.

Employment & Working Conditions

Occupational Data

Iranians who responded to the survey reported that they had a variety of occupations and professions. However, none of the respondents occupied a management position. Only 3% reported an occupation related to engineering. About 4% of the respondents were owners or self-employed. Many reported that they changed their original occupation or profession once they came to the U.S. Asked about the reasons, most saw the lack of English, the lack of a license or credential, and the lack of information about requirements as the most important reasons for working in a different area. One tenth of the respondents thought that they were discriminated against and that this was the reason they had to change their occupation. Only 13% of the respondents said that their current job was better than the job(s) they had in their homeland.

Working Conditions

Of the survey respondents, 93% reported that they work for just one employer. They often work for a small company with less than 25 employees (39%). On average, they work around 40 hour per week or less. None of the respondents reported that they worked for an immigrant employer. Iranians usually do not have paid vacation (62%), medical benefits (54%), or sick leave (46%). More than one quarter of the respondents were required to work swing, graveyard or weekend shifts. It should be noted that 8% of the respondents reported that they were injured in the workplace.

Small Businesses

About 55% of the survey respondents reported that none of their family members had a small business or were self-employed. On the other hand, 45% reported that they had family members who either started small business or were self-employed. According to the survey respondents, the most important barriers to start a small business were getting a loan (82%), not knowing how to get started (47%), lack of English (45%), lack of knowledge about what business idea might be successful (37%), and lack of information about legal requirements (34%).

Public Benefits in the Iranian Community

Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

Iranians on public assistance knew the requirements for food stamps and MediCal much better than for all other forms of assistance. Only 24% of public assistance recipients knew the requirements for CalWORKs and only 22% felt that they knew the requirements for CAPI . Most Iranians feel that aid levels are inadequate to live on. Only about one quarter felt CalWORKS was adequate; about 18% thought that the amount for SSI was adequate; only 17% said that the amount for food stamps was adequate. Many of the respondents shared this opinion regarding MediCal (45%). Of those CalWORKs recipients who responded to the question about the amount of time to become self-sufficient, 33% said that the 5-year limit is not adequate. They all stated that it is crucial to learn enough English before starting with job training.

Culturally Competent Services

Almost 46% of Iranian CalWORKs recipients said that they did not understand written materials, 90% said that they did not understand orientations, and 63% said they did not understand phone calls. Over 95% of the respondents said that they did not understand food stamp orientations, 90% did not understand phone calls and 92% did not understand written materials related to food stamps. With MediCal, 59% of the respondents did not understand phone calls or written materials, and 76% reported that they did not understand MediCal orientations.

About 75% of recipients thought that they were treated with respect by county workers regarding CalWORKs and food stamps, and 86% of the MediCal recipients felt they were respected. They thought that there was good communication regarding public benefits between eligibility workers and themselves. Questions about the respect of the culture of Iranian Americans were often answered positively. However, less than half of CalWORKs recipients thought that their culture was respected by their social worker or eligibility worker.

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K-12 Education

Almost half of the survey respondents had children under 18 in school. If they had options, these parents would prefer that school instruction were offered in both English and Farsi (61%). Only 17% of the respondents would like their children to be taught exclusively in English. These Iranian parents reported receiving various services at school. The most frequently used services were related to school lunch and breakfast programs, and after-school activities. Almost 28% said they participated in parent meetings and 11% said that they were using homework centers. Only 6 % of parents reported that they were getting information from their children’s school in a language they understand. As reported by the parents 11% of their children were using on-site child care.

Employment Training

Iranians who responded to the questionnaire said that they received vocational or professional training most often at community colleges (55%) and universities (9%). They were most often trained as receptionists or office workers. All other training was equally dispersed among many occupations and professions.

ESL

Most of the survey respondents evaluated their English skills as average (36%) or poor (29%). Only about 11% said that their English skills were good or excellent. Additionally, 24% of the respondents reported “no English skills”. According to participants in the survey, there are multiple needs for English. The greatest need was for every day situations (53%), followed by the need to fill out applications and other paperwork (44%), for employment (42%), and for community involvement (28%). For 23% of the respondents improving English skills was a precondition for continuing education.

Answering the question about the best ways to learn English more quickly, the surveyed Iranians said that having classes offered closer to their homes (53%) and having friends fluent in English (43%) were the most important factors. Also, a significant number of respondents thought that using TV for learning English (33%) and improvement of transportation options (36%) would be very helpful. Offering better schedules during the week would also be an important improvement for 31% of the respondents. One fifth of the respondents thought that tutoring would be the right solution for them. Other suggested options such as use of computers, audio materials, longer classes, weekend classes, job-related classes, on-site child care, and work-site classes were important for fewer of the respondents.

Citizenship

Three out of every 10 public assistance recipients reported that they were naturalized U.S. citizens. Of those who were not U.S. citizens, it was most often reported that they needed the following help: citizenship classes (46%), legal advice (43%), help with filling out the application (43%), disability waiver information (38%), English literacy classes in their own language (24%), and paying or waiving the $250 INS fee (22%).

Communication & Outreach in the Iranian Community

Most of the surveyed Iranian American public benefits recipients reported that they are best informed by listening to radio in Farsi (52%), reading a newspaper in Farsi (45%), and speaking to friends (42%) and family members (40%). However, they are also likely to get information from TV in English (42%), from the Internet and TV in Farsi (25%) and from radio in English (15%).

Most reported that they had modern appliances in their homes. For example, 99% of the respondents had a TV and a VCR, 97% a telephone, 88% a radio, and 66% a computer. Additionally 44% reported having Internet access and 25% had email accounts. They were least likely to have fax machines and newspaper subscriptions.

Iranian immigrants have established several TV and radio stations broadcasting programs in Farsi. However, TV programs are commercial. Community oriented TV is needed. A radio program was broadcast from San Mateo until recently. There are several newspapers published in Farsi: Andisheh Publications, Iran Today, Iranian Journal, and Pezhvak Publications – all based in San Jose.

Iran Community in Action

As a part of Immigrants Building Community (IBC), initiated as participatory action research by the Summit on Immigrant Needs, Iranian immigrants have been meeting regularly and the result of their engagement is the Iranian Community Services Resource Center. Iranian women and men work in the Center to share their professional knowledge and expertise for the improvement of the community as a whole. With the establishment of a community newsletter and information hotline, for the first time it is possible for Iranians to receive referrals and information from a single source, in Farsi.

The Center is a result of the community understanding of participatory action, mutual empowerment and shared understanding of the role of community activists and leaders. This assumes that leaders are multiple, not embodied in the figure of a single person. It also assumes that leaders work for the benefit of the community at large instead of self-interest.

Iranian public benefits recipients who responded to the questionnaire confirmed that they are very active. For example, 48% of the respondents stated that they are involved in a religious organization, 36% in a community organization, 12% in neighborhood organizations, and 12% in school or parent organizations. Over 15% reported that they were registered to vote. When asked what prevented them from voting all the time they were most likely to say that the English ballot was too difficult and that they did not understand the voting process. There were 4,599 registered voters born in Iran in the county in the year 2000. In addition, the number of actual voters increased four-fold between 1990 and 2000, from 312 to 1,215.

Other evidence also indicates that Iranians in Santa Clara County are very active. For example, they sponsored the “Spring Celebration along the Silk Road” on March 2,1997 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. They received Proclamations from Governor Wilson and the Board of Supervisors of Santa Clara County on March 18, 1997 for Iranian Heritage Day. They organize annual Iranian arts and cultural events. The Iranian Federated Women’s Club and Payvand Cultural School also organize cultural and art events.

The Iranian Federated Women’s Club is a local nonprofit educational and service organization that promotes and introduces the Iranian community to the Bay Area. Their local charitable endeavors include scholarships and projects such as Braille and audio books for the blind, the El Camino Bell Project of California, and service to the elderly. The Iranian Federated Women’s Club has adopted Payvand, an Iranian Cultural School located at De Anza College that fosters an interest in Iranian culture by teaching Iranian heritage, traditions and language.

Iranians also have the Yaraneh Resource and Support Network for Iranian Families and Communities, a nonprofit organization with the goal of helping Iranian and other immigrants coming from the Middle East. Professionals of Iranian origin established the Society of Iranian Professionals and the Persian Center based in Santa Clara.

In addition, the Niosha Dance Academy is attracting and training many young Iranian Americans in traditional and modern dance and music. As traditional Persian Music becomes more popular in the U.S. among Americans and Iranian Americans, Nejadís Music Academy in Campbell has become a very popular and important center for a number of both Americans and Iranian American students of all ages. SIREN (Services Immigrant Right and Education Network) is a nonprofit organization in Santa Clara County that provides free citizenship services, an Immigrant Q&A hotline, and Information and Referral in Farsi.

India

Bosnia
Cambodia
China
El Salvador
Ethiopia
India
Iran
Laos
Mexico
Nicaragua
Philipines
Russia
Somalia
South Korea
Taiwan
Vietnam

India

by Rani Chandran


Context for Indian Immigration

History and Government

India has one of the two oldest civilizations in the world. Excavations in the northwestern parts of India indicate the existence of a highly advanced urban civilization in the Indus Valley regions almost 5000 years ago. Seals discovered in these parts point to a flourishing trade with Sumeria and Mesopotamia. In around 1500 B.C. the Aryans entered from the northwest and merged with the local inhabitants to create what is termed classical Indian civilization. The Aryans introduced the Sanskrit language and the Vedic religion, the early form of Hinduism-Buddhism. Founded in the 6th century B.C., it became widely adopted under the rule of Ashoka (269 – 232 B.C.), one of India’s greatest rulers. However, Hinduism soon revived, and, during the rule of the Guptas (4th – 6th century A.D.), the religion, as well as science, literature and the arts flourished in what is termed the “golden age” of ancient India.

Intermittent Arab invasions from the 8th century began a series of Muslim invasions. In 1526, the great Mughal Empire was established and Delhi henceforth became the center of political power. The Mughal period saw the reemergence of an Indo-Muslim amalgam that manifested itself in all forms of art and culture. The discovery of the route to India by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 opened trade with the west. The English East India Company set up its first factory in 1621 and expanded its influence militarily. Its victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 laid the foundation of the British Empire in India. Administration of the Indian subcontinent formally passed to the British crown in 1858.

Indian nationalist aspirations rose steadily after World War I. Under the leadership of Mohandas K. Gandhi, ?later known as Mahatma Gandhi, nonviolent non-cooperation became the strategy of the Indian National Congress Party which spearheaded the freedom movement. Though India and Indian soldiers were part of the allied effort in World War II, the Indian demand for freedom was sustained. Failure to reach a political settlement led to the Quit India movement initiated by the Congress. Mass arrest of freedom fighters such as Gandhi and Nehru ensued. Gandhi’s release in 1944 was followed by protracted negotiations. With the entire sub-continent rising as one to demand the right to be free from the yoke of a foreign power, the British position in India became untenable. On August 15, 1947, India gained full independence. However, the subcontinent had been divided into two countries, the predominantly Muslim regions in the northwest and the east became a separate nation called Pakistan. The partition led to a massive migration of people across the two borders – a migration marked by bloody riots among the religious groups.

Jawaharlal Nehru became India’s first Prime Minister. The new nation was committed to a parliamentary democracy and in 1951 became a republic. Democracy, the federal structure of the Indian union, universal adult suffrage, equality for all and religious freedom are some of the features enshrined in the Indian constitution which was formed along the lines of the constitution of the United States. The current Prime Minister is Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Some of his most formidable challenges involve establishing peace in the subcontinent and battling poverty, illiteracy and corruption within the country.

Economy

While over 60 % of the population continues to be employed in agriculture and related fields, India has been rapidly expanding its industrial base. In the last decade the economy has been slowly liberalized. Its GDP is approximately $ 1,689 trillion, and it has a per capita income of $1,720. Its exports range from textiles and handicrafts to engineering goods, information technology, software and IT enabled services.

Indian Immigration

The first Asian Indians arrived in the middle of the 19th century and were mostly Sikhs from the western Indian state of Punjab. The majority of them were engaged in agricultural and construction activities in California. By 1920, Asian Indians owned 38,000 acres in Imperial Valley and 85,000 acres in Sacramento Valley. However, restrictive legislation in the U.S. ensured that Indian immigration was negligible until 1965. The Immigration Act of 1965 altered this situation. Opening immigration under family reunification and occupational categories, it allowed significant numbers of Indians to enter the country. The new entrants were overwhelmingly urban, professional and highly educated. They quickly entered professions such as engineering, medicine, and research or set up entrepreneurial ventures. In general they settled in the larger cities. California continued to be the state of choice for most.

The post 1990 years saw liberalization in the Indian economy. Globalization and the emergence of new markets ushered in paradigm shifts in the concepts of structural organization of business and trade The rise of massive transnational corporations, rapid knowledge transfer and capital flows saw the fledgling information technology industry and IT-enabled services in India expand rapidly, creating a large pool of technically trained professionals. The emergence of Silicon Valley created a sharp demand of IT professionals familiar with the English language. This led to the entry of large numbers of Indian software and hardware professionals on temporary work permit visas. San Jose is home to more Indians than any other U.S. city.

Social Characteristics of Indians

Ethnic and Religious Diversity

Diversity is inevitable in a land with a long and complex history. India’s many races, religions and languages have created a rich mosaic reflected in its traditions, cuisine, costumes and the performing arts. The ethnic diversity of India is reflected in the 16 different languages recognized by the constitution and 1,652 dialects. As far as India’s religions, Hindus form 82.6 % of the population, Muslims 11.3 %, Christians 2.4%, Sikhs 2 %, Buddhists 0.71 % and Jains 0.48 %.

Family Life

The extended family is India’s social and emotional anchor. An individual’s identity is often determined by the role he/she plays within the familial network. Except in pockets such as the southern state of Kerala, the patriarchal family model prevails. Respect for elders is a norm that helps sustain the framework of an extended family even if the members of the family are geographically dispersed. While Indian families continue to be male-dominated it must be pointed out that universal adult suffrage and free secondary education in public elementary and secondary schools have led to significant shifts in gender roles. These shifts both implicit and explicit are emerging in urban and to a lesser extent in rural regions where working women and homemakers from all strata of life have emerged as decision makers within the family.

Health Care Practices

Health care for low-income groups and the poor is free in government-owned hospitals in India. However, due to the vastness of the population and the budgetary constraints under which the government health care departments operate, there is an inadequate supply of hospitals, paramedical staff and drugs. Hence modern health care, even if affordable, is not always accessible, especially in rural areas. Awareness of public health issues is severely limited by the combination of illiteracy and poverty.

Indigenous health care systems, though, have a long tradition. Yoga, for instance, which regards health as a harmonious amalgam of the spirit, the mind and the body, has been widely acknowledged for its therapeutic role. Other indigenous medical systems such as Ayurveda and Siddha are being practiced. Research in the last few decades indicates the efficacy of these systems in the successful treatment of chronic diseases such as arthritis, ulcers and diabetes.

Educational System

The educational system is based on the British model. K-12 education concludes with a state or national level exit examination. Undergraduate programs are three-year courses for liberal arts and science majors. Engineering, medicine and law education undergraduate programs extend by one or two years. The emphasis on math and science and the proliferation of engineering colleges has created a large pool of technical professionals, both men and women. In contrast, the poverty-stricken strata reveal low literacy levels. Even though schooling is free, incidental expenses such as books and pencils are not affordable for these groups. Nearly half of all Indians remain illiterate.

Indians in Santa Clara County

Demographics

The average age of the respondents in the random survey was 42 years with 31% in the 25-34 age group and 32% in the 35-44 bracket. Of the respondents from the top five immigrant countries (Mexico, Vietnam, Philippines, China and India) who indicate that they had between 17-18 years of schooling, 53% were Indians. Given that a large number of the Indians in the country are IT professionals, this is not surprising. The average number of persons in an Indian household was 3.5. The maximum size in this category was listed as 10, suggesting that the Indian family in the U.S. is occasionally an extended multi-generational one. About 10% had non-family members living at home. The average length of stay in the U.S. for the Indian respondents was 13 years.

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

Warm, friendly and hospitable, most Indians see a natural progression from an acquaintanceship to friendship. Asking questions about personal and professional life is not considered intrusive. Rather it is regarded as a manifestation of the questioner’s concern and interest. The norm of “respecting elders” is so firmly embedded that a deferential tone of voice while conversing with an older person is automatically adopted. This is also the rationale behind why Indians may not look the speaker in they eye if the speaker is older.

Emotional Support

The strong ties between family and friends is reflected in the response to the random survey, where 66% stated that when faced with an emotional problem, they turn to their spouse to talk it over. Around 47% claim that friends are their confidants during troubled times. In homes with children under 12, the primary caretaker for the children was the mother in 56% of the cases; grandparents (20%) also play this role. Approximately 17% of the respondents used child care centers. There is a strongly rooted belief (49%) that seniors and disabled people must be cared for at home by family members. Only 2% believed that institutional care was the preferred option.

Clothing

Traditional attire within India constitutes an amazing range of style, texture and form. The most common garment for women is the sari, a six-yard piece of material, draped gracefully around the body. Its weave, design and texture are often indicative of the region of manufacture. Equally popular is the salwar-kameez, a long dress often intricately embroidered and worn over loose pants. A stole usually completes the look. Most women, especially married women, place a black or red dot on their forehead. This is considered a symbol of femininity. Men wear versions of the Kurta-pyjama, a long loose shirt worn over loose pants.

Food

The numerous Indian restaurants in the county are testimony to the preference for native cuisine by the large Indian population here. Indians include a great deal of lentils, vegetables and spices in their diet. Rice and a variety of unleavened breads form the cereal component of the meals. Hindus generally avoid beef and the Muslims eschew pork. Most Indians in the U.S. opt for a traditional cooked meal at the end of the day. India’s vast size and diversity is reflected in significant differences in sub-cuisines. In addition, religious and social functions have certain traditional preparations that are specific to the occasions.

Religious Traditions and Holidays

The numerous socio-religious festivals are a time to bring families and communities together and to strengthen social anchors. Often the functions, though rooted in religious belief, are pan-Indian celebrations. The social celebrations associated with Christmas, for instance, would find participants from all religions. This is equally true of the Hindu festival of Holi, the festival of colors and the harbinger of spring. Families and friends congregate to spray colors on each other and round off the morning with dances and a special lunch. Diwali, the festival of lights, is another joyous occasion. To North Indians, it commemorates the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom after a voluntary exile in the forest. South Indians believe that it signifies the victory of Lord Krishna over a demon. Friends and relatives meet to exchange sweets and share in the religious poojas or prayers. Homes are illuminated at night with decorative lights and a glorious display of fireworks brings closure to a day of communal togetherness. For Muslims, Id-Ul-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a period of fasting and prayer. The mass prayers in the mosques are followed by social gatherings marked by goodwill, good food and beautiful clothes. For the Sikhs the birthday of Guru Nanak is a day of communal prayer. A communal meal prepared and served by volunteers is indicative of the strong spirit of devotion and community service that is a hallmark of this religion.

Weddings are elaborate affairs and can often stretch for several days. The practice of arranged marriages is common across all religions. However, increasingly one finds marriages of choice taking place.

India has a large number of holidays to accommodate the traditions of its diverse communities. In addition, the nation celebrates Independence Day and Republic Day.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

The top seven needs of this community as revealed by the data from the random sample group are citizenship help (20%), dental care (15%), housing (15%), medical care (14%), eye care (13%), help starting a business (13%) and help finding a job (12%). The data from the public benefits group survey reveals a slightly different picture. Here, the needs appear in the areas of eye care (78%), dental care (76%), medical care (70%), help in becoming a citizen (61%) and housing assistance (55%). A significant number of those who need help in these areas have not received it.

At the focus group discussion led by Ms. Matra Majmundar, the top needs identified were medical insurance coverage for seniors, help with the inordinate delay in processing H1-B visas, green card and citizenship applications, gender discrimination, the absence of child care centers at the workplace, and permission for H-4 visa holders to seek employment.

Discrimination

When questioned on how they felt when stopped by police, 58% claimed that they felt respected, but around 12% pointed out that they felt mistreated. With reference to the workplace 34% had experienced discrimination from their bosses, 24% at their job interviews and 23% from co-workers. Survey data reveals negligible discrimination at school.

Barriers to Education, Services & Benefits

While many immigrants wish to avail themselves of the opportunities for education, services and benefits provided in the county, there are very real problems of access. For 59% of the respondents, constraints of time were a barrier; 29% listed scheduling difficulties, and approximately 23% claimed that they lacked sufficient information on the opportunities.

Employment and Working Conditions

Occupational Data

From high-tech industry to construction, Indians span a range of occupations. Over 42% are in fields related to engineering, math or electronics; 9% are managers and around 1% hold positions as office assistants or receptionists. About 41% of the random sample respondents stated that their occupations were different in their home country. Of these, 18% listed different eligibility requirements in the U.S. as the reason for a shift in occupation and 13% lacked the credentials or licenses for U.S. practice. A significant number (37%) claimed that their current job was better than the one they held in India.

Working Conditions

About 40% of the respondents from the random sample have one working member in the house, and 43% have two. The average number of hours worked per week by Indians is 42. An overwhelming majority (94%) work for a single employer. About 26% have an immigrant employer; 23% enjoy no medical benefits; and 25% have no paid vacation. About 33% are expected to work overtime. Over 50% have completed a university education in India.

Small Businesses

Some 15% of the respondents are self-employed or have their own businesses. Most Indians (62%) perceive ignorance about what business idea will succeed as their chief obstacle in making the transition to entrepreneurship.

Public Benefits in the Indian Community

In the random sample, some 21% appear to know the requirements for receiving SSI but only 11% actually receive it. Of these, 58% consider it inadequate. Few appear to be on CalWORKs or food stamps. About 13% receive MediCal benefits. Of these, 86% feel that the county worker communicates well with them but 41% feel that he/she is not familiar with the cultural background of the recipient.

In the public benefits group, 49% know of the SSI requirements. About two thirds of those who received this benefit considered it adequate. CalWORKs requirements were known by 26%, food stamps by 33%, CAPI by 42%, and MediCal by 91%. Of those who availed themselves of MediCal and CAPI, 76% and 40% considered it adequate, respectively. The majority felt that county workers from CalWORKs, MediCal, and food stamps treated them with respect and communicated well with them.

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K-12 Education

About 53% of the respondents from the random sample had children under 18 in school. Almost half stated that they would like their children to be taught only in English. About 35% of the respondents had children in after-school activities; 40% had children in breakfast or lunch programs at school; 50% were satisfied that they were receiving information from school in a language that they understood; and 62% were attendees at parent meetings.

Employment Training

Almost half of those who had received training from the benefits group were trained in areas relating to health care. Community colleges seem to be the preferred place for receiving training.

ESL

Approximately 58% rated their English skills as excellent. They felt that English was vital for employment opportunities (85%), for daily living (73%), and for participating in their children’s school (51%). Interestingly 67% considered it a key skill to read literature. While 52% suggested that the best way to hone English skills was through the TV, 31% opted for weekend classes as a preferred option.

Citizenship & Voter Participation

Around 43% of the respondents in the random sample were naturalized U.S. citizens. About 13% would like legal advice on this issue and 25% desired special classes on citizenship. Of the 42% registered to vote, 61% of them did not exercise their franchise due to lack of time. As of December 2000 there were 8,416 registered voters from India in Santa Clara County. Actual voters increased from 982 in November 1990 to 2,421 in March 2000.

Communication & Outreach in the Indian Community

Essential sources of information were TV in English (83%), the San Jose Mercury News (77%), the internet (77%), friends (65%), and family (42%). Most Indians have a TV (99%) and a computer (94%) with internet access (90%). A number of newspapers and magazines targeted at Indians enjoy wide circulation in the county. Prominent among these are the newspapers India West and India Post. India Currents is a popular magazine. Equally popular are the Indian programs on the Bay Area channels during weekends and the cable channels devoted entirely to Indian programs.

Indians in Action: Kanwal Rekhi

His is the quintessential success story. Raconteurs will tell you that this resident of Los Gatos is the man who around 30 years ago arrived in the United States with $400 in his pocket and that, last year, his wealth was estimated at over $500 million. He is the first Indian American to become a CEO in Silicon Valley, and the first Indian American to take his company public in 1987.

These successes notwithstanding, Kanwal Rekhi is not the only Indian to achieve the American Dream. Why then is it that this engineer-turned-high-tech mogul has become, to Indians, an icon in a way others have not?

The answer lies in his ability to combine blunt speech with philanthropy, to blend mentoring of young professionals with community welfare. He does all this through the medium he is most familiar with: high-technology business. A former president of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs), the organization that helps aspiring entrepreneurs, he has been personally responsible for setting many Indians on the road to financial success. He also continues to contribute liberally to his alma maters in both India and the U.S. More recently, he has agreed to serve on the advisory board of Immigrant Support Network, a non-profit organization.

Frequently featured in the print and visual media, he possesses an impressive ability to connect with people. This quality and his wide range of business and humanitarian activities make him a role model for the immigrant community.

Ethiopia

Bosnia
Cambodia
China
El Salvador
Ethiopia
India
Iran
Laos
Mexico
Nicaragua
Philipines
Russia
Somalia
South Korea
Taiwan
Vietnam

Ethiopia

by Rebecca Taylor & Richard Hobbs


Context for Ethiopia Immigration

History and Government

The cradle of civilization rests within the borders of Ethiopia. Archeologists found the oldest known human remains in Ethiopia, Ardipithecus ramidus, believed to be 4.4 million years old. Dr. Donald C. Johnson, an American paleontologist, resurrected “Lucy” in 1974. Lucy’s remains are on display in the Ethiopian National Museum.

In the 10th century B.C. the Queen of Sheba (also known as Nigist Saba to the Amharic) traveled to Jerusalem to seek and test the wisdom of King Solomon. Their son Menelik I was the first in a lineage of rulers to reign over Ethiopia. Ethiopia emerged as a web of diverse kingdoms, ethnicities, and languages.

Modern Ethiopia emerged under Emperor Menelik II, who defeated the invading Italian army in 1896 at the “Battle of Adwa”, the first time an African army had defeated a European army. Menelik II’s death in 1913 led to a 4-year rule of his grandson and then the 13-year rule of his daughter Empress Zewditu, with Menelik II’s cousin Tafari Makonnen as regent and heir apparent.

In 1930 Tafari was crowned Emperor Haile Selassi I. Haile Selassie outlawed slavery, centralized his rule, and created a constitutional system, but remained all-powerful. He outlawed all political parties. After 56 years in power and following student demonstrations, strikes, an army mutiny, and devastating droughts in the 1970s that killed hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians, Haile Selassie was deposed in September 1974. Haile Selassie’s mysterious death in 1975 ended the 3000-year Solonomic dynasty.

Ethiopia suspended the constitution and proclaimed a socialist state under collective military leadership known as the Derg. U.S. aid ceased and Soviet and Cuban aid began under Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, who became head of state in 1977. Mengistu’s reign of 14 years included fighting Eritrean secessionists and Somali rebels, suppressing those who opposed land reform (some called this “red terror”), receiving international acclaim for addressing illiteracy, and accepting worldwide famine relief in 1984 after as many as one million Ethiopians died of starvation and disease.

In 1991 the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), an umbrella group of six rebel armies, seized the capital. The same year the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) gained control of the province of Eritrea. Both groups agreed that Eritrea should hold a referendum for independence, and in April 1993 Eritrea became the latest new African nation.

In May 1998 Eritrea initiated fighting regarding a border dispute. Eventually this conflict claimed the lives of 50,000 soldiers on both sides of the border and drained the ailing economies of both countries, with Ethiopia decisively retaining its border claims. About 400,000 Eritreans were displaced or evacuated from the border area. The two countries signed a UN-sponsored agreement in June 2000 to end hostilities.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has nine states. A recreated constitution in 1995 brought Ethiopia a legislature composed of the Federal Council and the Council of Peoples’ Representatives. The same year Ethiopia held its first multi-party general election, although its legitimacy was questioned by many opposition groups. The Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, is elected from among the members of the Council of Peoples’ Representatives. The head of state is President Negasso Gidada, who is elected for a six-year term.

Economy

Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest nations. In 1998 the GDP was estimated at $33 billion and the per capita income at $560 (about a dollar and a half per person per day). Economic crises and food shortages in the 1980s were brought on by drought and civil war. Only a small portion of the land is arable, but nearly four fifths of the population works in agriculture or animal husbandry. Leading exports are coffee, cereals, sugar, leather products, gold, and oilseed. In spite of a more stable environment since 1985, new investments are minimal. The gross national product is growing more slowly than the population.

Ethiopian Immigration

Nearly all Ethiopians in the U.S. are political refugees seeking entry into the U.S. because of their fear of persecution by the government of their home country. In reaction to the 1974-75 civil war, in 1976 the United States received the first Ethiopians, which included Eritreans as well. In the years to follow, from 1976 to 1994, over 33,195 Ethiopians were welcomed into the United States as refugees. Ethiopians are still fleeing their homeland and seek refuge in neighboring countries. The quota of African refugees for fiscal year 2001 is 20,000 for the entire continent of Africa.

Most Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees and immigrants are from urban areas, unlike the majority of their compatriots. They have settled mostly on the east and west coasts in the U.S. and tend to be young and male. In Santa Clara County, when Ethiopian public assistance recipients were asked why they left their home country, the predominant reason was political problems and civil war in Ethiopia. An additional reason was to have better education.

Social Characteristics of the Ethiopian People

Ethnic & Religious Diversity

Ethiopia is an ethnically diverse nation with 90 ethnic groups. Of the total population, the largest groups are Oromo 29%, Amhara 28%, Tigrai 10%, Gurage and Somali, 4% each, and Sidama and Wolaita, 3% each. Ethiopians practice two major religions, Christian and Muslim. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was the official religion of the country from 1955 to 1974. In the 1960s there were over 17,000 churches in Ethiopia. In the period of the Derg (1974-1991) it was illegal to practice Christianity. The second major religion is Islam. Muslim mosques are increasing within the country. About 15-20% of Ethiopians practice animist religions.

Family Life

The father, oldest son or oldest daughter is typically responsible for making decisions in the family. The father is the main provider and is usually the spokesperson for the family, although in the U.S. the most acculturated person may take that role. Men are usually in charge of financial and funeral arrangements. Women are responsible for major caregiving. Women are expected to care for the sick, nurture and teach the children, and provide emotional support in crises. Elders are looked after and cared for by family members and not institutions. The extended family is important. In the U.S. many households include cousins and friends. In Santa Clara County, Ethiopian public benefits recipients report that children under 12 are most likely to be cared for by the mother (58%), father (25%) or grandparent (8%).

Health Care Practices

In heavily populated regions of Ethiopia, medical care is provided in hospitals and clinics. However, fewer than 40% of Ethiopians live within a two-hour walk of a modern health care facility. The ratio of doctors to patients is 77,000 per doctor. Main health problems in Ethiopia and causes of death are infectious and tropical diseases. The rate of infant mortality is among the highest in the world: out of 1,000 births, 116 die at birth.

Privacy and modesty are of great concern to Ethiopians. Personal information may need to come from a close family member. Individuals forego their personal rights to accommodate collective family concerns. A terminal or serious diagnosis should be told first to a family member; the family decides how and when to tell the patient. Similar to many immigrants from other parts of the world, Ethiopians have negative attitudes toward mental health counselors and psychiatry. Because of the stigma, symptoms such as depression and anxiety often go untreated. Mental illness is traditionally seen as the work of evil spirits, whereas physical illness may derive from naturalistic external forces or from God, social taboos, or magical sources.

Patients have a high pain threshold, have difficulty explaining degrees of pain, and avoid pain medication. Pregnancy is considered a dangerous state and the expectant mother is protected from physically or emotionally stressful situations. A midwife or older family member helps in delivery, except for urban Ethiopians who are used to hospital delivery. Traditionally, the father and male family members are not present during birthing, but this may be different with young fathers in the U.S. Childbirth is considered a joyous occasion, complete with food sharing and gifts. In Ethiopia, mothers are typically secluded with the baby for 40 days. Breastfeeding traditionally goes on for 23 months, and breastfeeding in public is accepted.

When a family member dies, close friends should be told first so that they will be there to provide emotional support to the family. A female family member should not be told first. Although emotions are generally restrained, at the death of a loved one it is common for family members to express grief through intermittent loud cries and the shedding of tears.

Educational System in Ethiopia

Even though education is compulsory from 6-13 years of age, only about one-third of the population is literate. Ethiopia possesses vocational schools and in-service training programs. The country also has several institutions of higher education, Addis Ababa University being the largest one. Teachers are highly respected.

About four out of every five Ethiopians living in the U.S. have some English skills, from fluency to basic understanding. Elderly Ethiopians typically have received minimal education in their home country and need translation and interpretation.

Ethiopians in Santa Clara County

Demographics

Of the Ethiopian public assistance recipients who answered the survey, 72% are female and 28% are male. Amharic is the language most often used by all of the respondents. The average age is 35. At the beginning of 2000 Ethiopians had lived in Santa Clara County and in the U.S. on average 3.5 years. Most Ethiopians live in San Jose, Santa Clara and Milpitas. Almost every Ethiopian public assistance recipient has completed between 10-12 years of school. Ethiopians live in households that average slightly over 4 members. It is common for households to include non-family members. Of those surveyed most household incomes produce annual incomes between $10,000 and $30,000, with many falling below $10,000 annually.

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

Hugging and kissing on cheeks are common among family and friends, for both genders. Handshakes are more acceptable with unfamiliar persons. When approaching an elder it is custom to bow out of respect. While there is usually little eye contact while dealing with authority figures, this varies according to educational level, age, gender, and the number of years in the U.S. Ethiopians are generally polite and reserved and look down upon loud interactions or shouting. They are often late for appointments and social events. Showing interest in an Ethiopian’s culture or in his or her personal background is a good ice breaker.

Emotional Support

Adjusting to a new culture is difficult for many. When asked whom they talk to for emotional support, Ethiopian public assistance recipients in Santa Clara County favored friends or relatives rather than seeking professional help. A family member often provides homebound senior citizens or disabled persons in-home care. The Ethiopian community is centered around the family in times of crisis or need.

Clothing

Modesty is an important trait in Ethiopian culture. Women wear colorful embroidered white dresses. Men often have tailored white shirts and are accustomed to wearing trousers. Many Ethiopians, especially those in the U.S. for a long time, dress like Americans.

Food

Spice is part of the life that lives in Ethiopia. Spice as in hot chili powder, cardamom, and white and black cumin are used daily in meals that are prepared the traditional Ethiopian way. Ethiopians have three meals a day: a light breakfast and substantial meals at lunch and dinner. Ethiopian food is usually eaten with fingers, but silverware is used for other types of food. The main diet consists of enjera, a type of bread or pancake eaten with meat, legume sauce, or stew (called wot). The stew is tasty and spicy using a variety of condiments. Chicken wot is prepared for special occasions and guests. Beef, lamb and goat meat is commonly used. However, no pork is used in Ethiopian dishes. Fruits and vegetables are usually eaten during religious fasting. The drink preferred by many is a mixture of coffee and spice tea with cinnamon.

Religious Traditions & Holidays

Christian and Moslem families may say prayers, read the Bible or Koran, and attend church or the mosque. Holidays that are celebrated within the Ethiopian community include Ethiopian Christmas and the Ethiopian New Year. Ethiopian Christmas generally is celebrated two weeks after Christmas in the U.S., on the 8th of January. This occurs because the lunar-based calendar year used in Ethiopia is three years prior and two weeks after the calendar used in the United States. Ringing in the Ethiopian New Year on September 11th is celebrated with great enthusiasm; Ethiopians dance, sing and celebrate. Since these holidays are based on the lunar calendar, the dates vary from year to year.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

Of Ethiopians receiving public assistance, the highest levels of need indicated were more ESL (73%), housing assistance (62%), help finding a job (58%), help with citizenship (50%), and job training (50%). Roughly one third of the respondents stated they need help with medical assistance, dental and eye care, child care, and food.

In a similar vein, the 11 participants in the Ethiopian focus group concluded that the key challenges facing the Ethiopian community in Santa Clara County are the following.

  1. The high cost of rent among Ethiopians leads to overcrowding, sharing kitchen and bathrooms, lack of privacy, overall demoralization, and unhealthy eating habits, “because they are compelled to work more than one job in order to pay their rent”.
  2. Lack of access to vocational training that would allow higher paying jobs could be alleviated if Ethiopians had grants available and had a better understanding of how financial aid operates.
  3. Employment issues affecting Ethiopians include the lack of jobs related to their training and experience, little information about employment rights, cultural and language barriers, narrow-minded attitudes of employers, low wages and job insecurity.
  4. Affordable child care is an issue not only because both parents must work to survive, but also because children who stay home with their parents and do not attend preschool are less prepared for kindergarten than their kindergarten peers. Many parents do not have the skill set to prepare their children for elementary school.
  5. Persecuted Ethiopian family members who would like to join their loved ones in Santa Clara County and overcome the family’s sense of isolation in the U.S. cannot do so because of the lack of affordable immigration attorneys in Santa Clara County.

The Ethiopian focus group stated that women feel isolated because of the traditional way of thinking that men should be the breadwinners and women should stay at home with the children. Single mothers suffer particularly from the lack of health insurance, increased health problems, the high cost of living, the lack of child care, little educational opportunity, and domestic violence.

The focus group participants recommended a fuller range of community-based programs such as literacy, a day center for the elderly and children, sports programs for youth, singles programs, guest speakers and workshops on a variety of issues, and programs than can provide an outlet for Ethiopian art and music. They felt that more county outreach to single parents and the elderly would be important; that ESL needs to be specially tailored to less literate mothers who must care for their children; that Ethiopians need to be employed in government agencies like social services, the DMV, EDD, hospitals, the INS, etc.; and that more information should be made available regarding social services, health programs, and employment rights.

Discrimination

Ethiopian public assistance recipients feel most discriminated against by landlords and employers. Of those ever stopped by police, most stated that they did not feel respected and didn’t know they were breaking the law. They have a desire to know their legal rights before situations occur and not after.

Barriers to Education, Services & Benefits

Over one-half of Ethiopian public assistance recipients indicated that “not enough English” is their biggest barrier to accessing education, services, and public benefits. About 4 in 10 of the respondents pointed out the following barriers: lack of information, lack of affordable child care, and lack of time.

Employment & Working Conditions

Occupational Data and Barriers

Of the Ethiopian public assistance recipients who work, most are engaged in service sector jobs such as office workers, child care providers, and security guards. Some work as machine operators and in other manufacturing jobs. Of those Ethiopian public assistance recipients who have a different occupation in the U.S. than they had in Ethiopia, the biggest obstacles to retaining their occupation here is limited English skills (71%), the high licensing requirements in the U.S. (29%), and the lack of licenses or credentials (29%).

Working Conditions

Ethiopian public assistance recipients average 40 hours of work per week. Most families have one or two wage earners, most of whom work for one employer only. Of these Ethiopians, 88% reported having no medical benefits, 75% no sick leave, 63% no paid vacations, and 63% no pension or retirement plan. Most Ethiopians surveyed stated they work swing or graveyard shift or weekends, and 38% are required to work overtime. Almost all hold non-union low-paid service sector jobs.

Small Businesses

No Ethiopian public assistance recipients in Santa Clara County report having a business in their immediate family. In order to start a business, 100% of those surveyed would need information on how to get started, and the vast majority would want to know who could help them, believe that getting a loan would be a barrier, need help with business ideas, don’t know legal and permit requirements, and see language access barriers (not only because of their own limited English but also because of the lack of translated materials.)

Public Benefits in the Ethiopian Community

Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits

Santa Clara County offers many services to supplement income and offer programs in promoting families to be self-sufficient. Of the Ethiopian public benefits recipients surveyed, roughly 9 of 10 stated that they are aware of the requirements to receive MediCal, and 7 of 10 know the food stamp requirements. Less than half stated they know the CalWORKS and CAPI requirements, and only 1 in 10 know the requirements to receive General Assistance or SSI. Most felt the benefit levels received were adequate. However, none of the CalWORKS recipients felt that the amount of time provided for training under CalWORKS was enough time to receive the training level needed for self-sufficiency.

Culturally Competent Services

Most of the Ethiopian recipients of CalWORKS, MediCal, and food stamps feel that they are treated with respect and that they communicate well with their county workers. They feel their worker knows their cultural background. At the same time, only about half of the participants in these three major benefits programs report that they receive written materials, phone calls, and orientations in a language they understand.

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K-12 Education

Two thirds of the Ethiopian public assistance recipients have children under the age of 18 who attend school. The vast majority prefer to have their children taught bilingually, while 33% stated they prefer their children to be taught in English only. The services their children have received in their school include school lunch (82%), Healthy Start (73%), homework centers (55%), and counseling, after school activities, tutoring, transportation, and on-site child care. Most parents attend parent meetings. Parents state emphatically that they do not receive information from their children’s school in a language they understand.

Employment Training

Ethiopian public assistance recipients have received employment training primarily from adult education (67%) and to a much lesser extent from community colleges and community agencies. Clerical, secretarial, health care, and transportation are key areas of training received.

ESL

About 77% of Ethiopian public assistance recipients reported their English skills as “average” or “poor”. Only 15% said their English was “good”, while 8% said they had “no English skills”. The most important needs for English (83%) are for continuing education and for employment purposes. The best ways for these Ethiopians to learn English, they indicated, were by having English-speaking friends and by learning on TV. Also important to improve their English skills were having better ESL class schedules during the week, having classes closer to home, and learning from audio cassette tapes. Significantly helpful would be better transportation to ESL classes, computer learning, and ESL classes related to the job.

Citizenship

About 2 in 10 Ethiopian public assistance recipients are naturalized U.S. citizens. The greatest needs were for citizenship classes, help with the INS fee amount, and help with INS inquiries. Legal advice and literacy classes in Amharic would also be useful.

Communication & Outreach in the Ethiopian Community

Ethiopian public assistance recipients rely primarily upon TV in English to obtain important information. They also rely upon radio in English, friends, and family, and to a lesser extent the San Jose Mercury News and church sources. They do not rely upon means of communication in their own language, community organizations, or government communications. Of this group, 100% have TVs and telephones, the vast majority have radios and VCRs, less than half are equipped with computers and internet access, and none reported having fax machines or any newspaper subscriptions.

Although means of communication in Amharic are lacking, one radio program is available. Ethiopians can tune their radio to 90.5 KSJS every Sunday afternoon from 1-2 PM and listen to “Radio Ethiopia”. The formatted programming includes human rights, Ethiopian culture, and current affairs.

Ethiopians In Action: Dr. Birku Melese

Ethiopians have made many valuable contributions in Santa Clara County. Ethiopians participate actively in religious organizations and to a lesser extent in parent organizations at their children’s schools. Many Ethiopians have been in the U.S. for less than five years, are not yet eligible for U.S. citizenship, and cannot yet vote. As of December 2000 there were 1,088 registered voters in Santa Clara County who were born in the continent of Africa, and 412 voted in the March 2000 elections. Many were Ethiopians.

One Ethiopian who has contributed greatly to the community is Dr. Birku Melese. Dr. Melese was selected as the first Executive Director of Ethiopian Community Services (ECS) in 1992, the year after it was founded. ECS is a multi-service organization that assists Ethiopians in their adjustment and integration into American society. Key services include counseling, community orientation, job search, citizenship, interpretation, translation, client representation at agencies, and referrals. The office has grown from one to three full time staff members and serves hundreds of Ethiopian and Eritrean children, youth, adults, and seniors each year.

Dr. Melese began his university studies in Addis Ababa. He received a scholarship to Beirut, Lebanon. When Lebanon’s civil war forced all foreigners to leave in 1977, Dr. Melese continued his studies in the Philippines. There he received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Pacific Union College and a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Administration from the University of San Tomas.

Upon his return to Ethiopia, Dr. Melese worked at Ethiopia Airlines and was trained in many departments before being offered the position of Director of Personnel in 1987. He was told that as a condition of the offer he had to join the Derg (the Communist Party). As a Christian, Dr. Melese could not accept this condition. He asked for a lower position that did not require party membership, but he was denied. “I was the only one out of 3,000 people with a Ph.D. and they wanted me.”

When the opportunity came to attend his cousin’s wedding in Napa Valley, he jumped at the chance. Once in the United States, he applied for and received political asylum. His wife, Siraye Dessie, later entered the U.S. and studied nursing. Together they have an 11-year-old daughter, Selam (“peace” in Amharic).

Cambodia

Bosnia
Cambodia
China
El Salvador
Ethiopia
India
Iran
Laos
Mexico
Nicaragua
Philipines
Russia
Somalia
South Korea
Taiwan
Vietnam

Cambodia

by Nadine Fujimoto


Context for Cambodian Immigration

History and Government

Cambodia has been a monarchy for most of its history. Various ancient kingdoms ruled from about 100 A.D. to the 700s. From the 6th to the 15th centuries, the Khmer controlled a great empire with Angkor as its capital. The region was subject to attacks by neighboring Vietnam and Siam (Thailand), and in 1863, Cambodia became a French protectorate.

Japanese forces occupied Cambodia during World War II. During the 1940s, an anti-French independence movement grew, and France recognized Cambodia’s independence in 1953. In 1955, King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated in favor of his parents. He took the title of prince, becoming head of state in 1960.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Cambodia declared itself neutral as the U.S-Vietnam conflict became regionalized. The U.S. and South Vietnam charged that North Vietnamese troops were stationed in Cambodia for use in the Vietnam War. In 1969, the U.S. began carpet-bombing the Cambodian countryside, dropping over 100,000 tons of bombs. In 1970, General Lon Nol staged a coup against Prince Sihanouk, with U.S. support. U.S. and South Vietnamese troops invaded eastern Cambodia. Sihanouk allied with the Communist Khmer Rouge, whom he formerly persecuted, to oppose the new government. Civil war broke out, and despite substantial aid from the U.S., the Lon Nol government fell in 1975. Prince Sihanouk was installed as head of state, but was removed in 1976.

From 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge, headed by Pol Pot, controlled the country. Populations in towns and cities were removed to forced labor camps in the countryside, where many perished from starvation, disease, and maltreatment. Large numbers were executed; educational, religious, medical, and cultural institutions destroyed; and severe food shortages led to famine. An estimated 1 to 2 million people perished, and many others fled to Thailand or other countries.

In 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and created the People’s Republic of Kampuchea. An anti-Vietnamese resistance movement developed, headed by Prince Sihanouk. Vietnam withdrew its troops in 1989, but civil war continued as coalition forces opposed the government installed by Vietnam, led by Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). In 1991, a cease-fire was implemented and a peace treaty signed, ending 13 years of civil war.

A U.N. Transitional Authority administered the country in conjunction with a national council comprised of representatives from the warring factions. The U.N. administered general elections in 1993. The Khmer Rouge boycotted the elections and opposed the new government, but was eventually defeated. The United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia (FUNCINPEC) won the elections, led by Prince Ranariddh, Sihanouk’s son. The monarchy was re-established, with Sihanouk as king, and Ranariddh and Hun Sen as prime ministers. In 1997, Hun Sen forced Ranariddh from office, as tension between FUNCINPEC and Hun Sen’s CPP heightened to include military clashes.

Hun Sen and the CPP led the 1998 elections. FUNCINPEC and the CPP reached an accord, whereby Hun Sen became sole prime minister with Ranariddh as president of the National Assembly. The CPP retained control over key finance and foreign affairs ministry, while FUNCINPEC agreed to reintegrate its troops into the government army.

The current government is a constitutional monarchy. The executive branch consists of King Norodom Sihanouk as king, chosen by the Royal Throne Council, and a Council of Ministers appointed by the monarch. Prime Minister Hun Sen is head of government. A bicameral legislature with Senate and National Assembly constitutes the elected legislative branch. There are 20 provinces and three municipalities.

Economy

Approximately 80% of the labor force is employed in agriculture. Most Cambodians live in villages of 100 to 400 people, and work in nearby rice fields. In 1997, 36% of the population was below the poverty line, with a per capita income of $700 annually. Cambodia has an estimated $829 million external debt, with an additional $470 million pledged in grants and concessional loans for the year 2000. Exports exceed imports, with Southeast Asian and East Asian countries and the U.S. as major trading partners.

Cambodian Immigration

Prior to 1970, only a few hundred Cambodians lived in the U.S. In 1975, well-educated professionals affiliated with the U.S. government evacuated prior to the Khmer Rouge takeover. Additional professionals escaped on their own, but total numbers were not large. From 1980 to 1985, significant numbers arrived when the U.S. refugee program began accepting immigrants from camps in Thailand. The majority of refugees were subsistence farmers from small, poor

villages – pre-literate – who lacked skills necessary for U.S. life. Many were widows and orphans. Most arrivals since 1985 have been sponsored by Cambodians who are now citizens.

Social Characteristics of the Cambodian People

Ethnic & Religious Diversity

About 90% of Cambodians are Khmer. Vietnamese comprise 5% of the population, Chinese 1%, and 4% are other ethnicities, including Cham Muslims. Ninety-five percent of Cambodians follow Theravada Buddhism. The Khmer practice a blend of Buddhism and animism.

Family Life

Family is extremely important. Many have lost family members in Cambodia, and a significant number of households are headed by females due to the civil war. Extended family structures are the norm, with large numbers of children. Grandparents head the family, followed by parents, aunts and uncles. Families are patriarchal, with men as providers and women in traditional roles, their position reinforced by culture, religion, and gender. Children are taught respect and deference to adults and authority figures.

Health Care Practices

Life expectancy at birth is 56 years. It is 54 for males and 59 for females. There are no health clinics in Cambodia. The majority do not have access to potable water, and have no access to hospitals, which are located only in cities.

Good health is seen as being in equilibrium: being individually maintained, but influenced by family and community members. Many Cambodians believe that inappropriate deeds by others or misdeeds in a past life can result in illness. Traditional healers, or koh, use massage, herbal medicines and “coining” (rubbing chest vigorously with a coin to diagnose and treat, or heated and applied to acupuncture pressure points). Grandmothers and midwives provide prenatal care and delivery, with an oral tradition of training.

There are no mental health institutions or services in Cambodia. Individuals with problems are isolated from others, and many believe that events in prior lives (reincarnation) may be the cause. There is a great stigma attached to emotional and mental problems, which are often characterized as physical complaints. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders and “Pol Pot Syndrome,” which includes insomnia, difficulty in breathing, loss of appetite, and pains in various parts of the body. When help is sought, families will first approach a local monk, extended family members, or close friends.

Educational System in Cambodia

The majority is not literate, with a national literacy rate of 35%. Prior to 1975, monks provided education in the countryside at pagodas, which housed libraries and other written documentation. Public schools in the cities were modeled on the French educational system. Proverbs were an important means to educate the young, and used in all public school teaching materials and curriculum. From 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge destroyed the educational system and pagodas. Today, a French modeled system with Khmer as the language of instruction is in place in both the countryside and cities. Except for the wealthy, few attend college.

Cambodians in Santa Clara County

Demographics

Most Cambodians live in San Jose. On average they have resided in the U.S. for 12 to 13 years. Most families are low-income and large, with many children being the norm. A significant number of families are female-headed due to civil war in Cambodia. Khmer (Cambodian) is the language most often used; few speak English.

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

Silence is welcomed and viewed as more appropriate than meaningless chatter. A high value is placed on courtesy. Cambodians will avoid direct confrontation; it is considered impolite to disagree. Women are taught to be shy. Service providers should include family members as interpreters when discussing medical conditions, and use a translator of the same gender for sensitive issues. Cambodians simultaneously use western and traditional healing practices, but feel uncomfortable discussing the latter.

Handshakes are not commonly used, except for those who are acculturated. Cambodians use sompeah, a gesture of both palms together with fingers pointed upward. Eye contact is acceptable, but “polite” women lower eyes somewhat. Cambodians have small personal space. It is inappropriate to touch heads without permission, since some believe the soul is in the head. Written consents create discomfort for middle aged and older Khmer since signed life histories were required by Khmer Rouge prior to execution.

Emotional Support

Cambodians maintain strong extended family relations, and an individual’s behavior reflects on the family. Child care is provided by the mother in most families, and to a much lesser extent the father or other relatives. It is common for couples to be married by a Buddhist priest but not to have a U.S. marriage license. Children from the same family often have different last names. Problems are considered personal or family matters and are rarely discussed with outsiders. When surveyed, the majority preferred to have home-bound seniors or the disabled cared for in the home by family members. They turn to a spouse, relatives, friends, or a priest for emotional problems, often characterized as physical ailments (see “Health Practices”).

Clothing

In Cambodia, men wear traditional silk sarongs or short pants, and women wear cotton sarongs. In the U.S., older adults wear traditional clothing at home, but western clothing in public. For special occasions such as weddings, holidays, etc. older women dress traditionally but older men wear western clothing. Middle-aged adults wear both. Children wear western clothing for all occasions and at home.

Food

Cambodians eat rice with every meal and use sauce, fish paste, and noodles. Little seafood is eaten; fresh water fish is preferred. Many Cambodians are lactose intolerant, and prefer tea or water. Older adults and recent immigrants drink coffee only with breakfast, and not after meals. Individuals use their own bowls or plates with rice, and take from communal bowls placed in the center of a group.

Religious Traditions & Holidays

Numerous Buddhist holidays and traditions are recognized throughout the year. Key traditions include the Buddhist April 13th New Year celebration and the September 17th memorial commemoration for ancestors and loved ones.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

Most of the educated population was killed in Cambodia. The majority of Cambodians were subsistence farmers from very poor, small, rural villages. They face great survival and adjustment challenges to an industrial society, such as being in a car for the first time. The community infrastructure is not well developed due to the recent nature of its immigration. Many support the idea of a community center to address the challenges facing Cambodians.

Through surveys and interviews, lack of affordable housing was identified as the top need. Focus group participants felt the government should offer housing assistance such as Section 8 housing as a solution.

Communication barriers are the second most cited challenge. Most Cambodians are not literate in their native language, and speak little to no English. No translation services are available. The community proposes funding for culturally appropriate ESL classes as a solution.

Generational conflicts with youth have developed as they learn English and acculturate to U.S. society, while their parents do not. Some youth have adjusted well and are top scholars; others have not been able to adjust and have fallen prey to drugs, gangs, and truancy problems. After-school tutoring and other services are inadequate, and families cannot afford the cost of school uniforms. Solutions include improvement of school services, financial assistance for uniforms, and linguistically and culturally appropriate outreach and education for parents.

For women, minimum wage jobs do not cover the cost of child care. CalWORKs benefit levels are also inadequate. Focus group participants proposed government assistance with child care and increased levels of CalWORKs assistance.

Cambodians need education about American customs and law. Physical discipline of children is acceptable in Cambodia. Child abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and other issues are seen as personal, family matters, not for government purview. Many do not understand U.S. laws on these issues. Linguistically and culturally appropriate community education can address these issues. Educating schools and government service providers can also help. For example, “coining” leaves bruise marks, which can be misunderstood by medical or school personnel (see “Health Practices”).

Discrimination

Cambodians have limited contact with those outside their own community due to language barriers, so they tend not to recognize discriminatory treatment. They may attribute the behavior to other causes due to their lack of experience. Many greatly fear and mistrust police, since their experience is limited to their home country where police were corrupt and not looked upon in a favorable way. When stopped, many have communication problems and don’t know the law or their legal rights. Education is needed regarding legal rights and U.S. police and legal systems.

Barriers to Education, Services & Benefits

Lack of information and English skills are major barriers to accessing education, services and benefits for Cambodians. Great stigma is associated with domestic violence and mental health, and these issues are considered personal, family matters. Service providers and agency personnel should not use the words “domestic violence” or “mental health” in individual services or community outreach.

Employment & Working Conditions

Occupational Data & Barriers

Most Cambodians receive CalWORKs benefits or are employed in low-skilled jobs. Women are often primary care providers for children, making employment outside the home difficult and limited to the informal economy, such as baby-sitting. The majority need education and skills training to transition from subsistence agriculture to wage labor work. Lack of English, literacy, job skills, and employment training create significant barriers to employment. For those employed, only low skilled positions are available, such as baby-sitting and electronics assembly.

Working Conditions

The majority of families have a single wage earner. Most Cambodians are employed in low paying jobs, with income often insufficient to support large families. Those who work in donut shops receive low pay and no benefits. Those employed in electronics assembly jobs fare somewhat better, since benefits are provided.

Small Businesses

Few own small businesses, with the exception of some donut shops. First wave, more educated immigrants purchased the shops, and have hired other Cambodians or family members as employees. Knowledge of the donut business has been passed on to others through employment. Other Cambodian businesses are part of the informal economy and cash based, such as cooking for community events and selling clothing or handicrafts. Lack of information about how to receive help, English skills and literacy are major barriers to establishing businesses. The majority is unfamiliar with U.S. legal practices such as licenses, permits, etc. since businesses are not highly regulated in Cambodia. Those with many years of experience are unable to access loans because the cash-based nature of their businesses create documentation problems for income and other requirements.

Public Benefits in the Cambodian Community

Knowledge & Adequacy of Benefits

Most public assistance recipients are familiar with the requirements for food stamps and CalWORKs, but find the benefit amounts inadequate. These Cambodians are less familiar with SSI and MediCal, and tend not to be familiar with requirements for General Assistance or CAPI. They feel that the length of time for CalWORKs job training is inadequate due to their need to learn English and the lack of culturally appropriate instruction (see “ESL”).

Culturally Competent Services

Cambodians tend to access services through community based organizations that have bilingual staff. For those who receive benefits, most feel treated with respect, have good communication with providers, and feel their cultural backgrounds are understood.

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K – 12 Education

Most families have children under 18 years old in school. When surveyed, most preferred that their children be taught in both English and their native language. The majority of parents are not educated, so they have no experience dealing with educational institutions. They have difficulty obtaining information in a language they understand. Except for school breakfast and lunch programs, most do not access school services. School uniforms are difficult to afford for many families. Parents need education on how U.S. school systems work, the services and programs available, and mainstream child rearing practices. For example, physical discipline is acceptable in Cambodia, which often conflicts with U.S. school authorities.

Employment Training

Few Cambodians are able to access employment training programs due to their lack of English language skills. Education is needed on wage labor in an industrial society, since most Cambodians were formerly engaged in subsistence agriculture. Paychecks, timesheets, benefits, sick leave, unemployment compensation, etc. were nonexistent for the majority in Cambodia.

ESL

Most Cambodians have very poor or no English skills. Cambodians need these skills most for daily living situations, employment, completing paperwork, and participating in their children’s school. Children need tutoring, and adults need survival English. Small classes with significant one-on-one time with the instructor are preferred. The favored curriculum is culturally sensitive and involves interaction, not merely lecture. The time necessary to learn is significant, since the learning process can be slowed by post traumatic stress syndrome, age, and literacy issues. Conducting children’s tutoring and adult classes simultaneously can motivate adult attendance. Providing financial incentives such as school supplies for children and creating rituals can make the experience meaningful.

Citizenship & Voter Participation

Most Cambodians receiving public assistance are not yet naturalized citizens. They need help with filling out applications, interviews, legal assistance, assistance with INS inquiries, and citizenship classes. Few vote or participate in the electoral process. Most have language and literacy difficulties with the ballots, do not understanding the voting process, and have had negative experiences with the government in their homeland.

For all Cambodians, voter turnout has tripled in Santa Clara County, from 68 in the November 1990 election to 273 in the March 2000 election. As of December 2000, there were 1,199 registered Cambodian voters in the county.

Communication & Outreach in the Cambodian Community

Many families own radios, TVs and telephones. Older adults limit TV use to videotapes dubbed in Cambodian, and listen to Cambodian language radio. Middle-aged adults have mixed use of TV and radio, depending on English ability. Children watch TV. Very few families own computers, fax machines, or subscribe to newspapers. Families get important information most often from friends and family members. There is no custom of authenticating information due to low rates of literacy and a strong oral tradition among Cambodians.

Bosnia

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Bosnia

by Milina Jovanovic


Context for Bosnian Immigration

History and Government

All parts of the former Yugoslavia were under the Roman Empire during the first centuries of the Christian era. By the 7th century Slavs formed a number of countries and duchies in the Balkan region. Around 1200 Bosnia gained its independence from the Roman Empire. In the 14th century, the Ottoman Turks conquered most of the Balkans. The Ottoman rule continued throughout the end of 19th century. After five centuries, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria gained full independence. Subsequently Bosnia was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until World War I.

The first Yugoslavia was the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and existed between 1918 and 1941. The second (usually referred to as former) Yugoslavia was a socialist federal republic (SFRY). It was formed right after the World War II and consisted of six republics and two autonomous provinces (Kosovo and Vojvodina, parts of Serbia). After president Tito’s death (1980) there was a collective presidency with a president from all republics and autonomous provinces, rotating every year.

The Yugoslav crisis and wars started in 1990. Slovenia was the first to proclaim independence in 1991, followed by Croatia. War conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina continued through the first part of the decade (1991-1995). The most recent conflicts (1999-present) include the war around Kosovo, and the destabilization of Macedonia. The Dayton Agreement, signed in 1995, created a Bosnian government composed of the Bosniak and Croat Federation and the Bosnian Republika Srpska (Serb Republic). The Chief of State is Alija Izetbegovic.

Economy

The former Yugoslavia was a country with significant economic growth, receiving economic support from both East and West. In 1985, for example, Yugoslavia’s gross domestic product was similar to that of Hungary and Portugal. Until the 1980s, the standard of living in the former Yugoslavia was the highest in all of Eastern Europe. However, the war and economic crisis negatively affected all parts of the former Yugoslavia. High inflation occurred in the early 1990s. Also, for example, UN data for the income per capita in Bosnia-Herzegovina of $938 from 1997 shows the impact of war and its impact on the economy and living standards. Questions related to the international debt of the former Yugoslavia are still unresolved among the former Yugoslav republics.

Immigration from the Former Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina

There have been many waves of so-called “old immigration” from the former Yugoslav republics. Serbs and Croats have been coming to the U.S. since the 1820s; other groups continued immigrating throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In the past decade “new immigration” from Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia came to Santa Clara County mostly as “economic immigrants”, seeking better economic opportunities. Significant numbers of them, including Bosnians, are computer specialists and their families. Populations of Bosnia-Herzegovina came to Santa Clara County almost exclusively as refugees, and to a lesser degree as asylees.

Politicians emphasize political and ethnic conflicts inside the former Yugoslavia to explain the wars and immigration. On the other hand, social scientists often focus on the actual process of disintegration of the larger country, the role of international forces, and geo-political interests in the Balkan region. Global economic inequalities, international loans, and policies of the IMF and the World Bank are some of the most important elements for the economic context for immigration.

The majority of the Bosnian public assistance survey respondents replied that the war was the most important reason for their immigration to the U.S. However, 42% of respondents also checked economic problems, and 48% political conflicts, while 37% emphasized ethnic problems. A smaller cited family reunification and educational opportunities. This is understandable because the Bosnian community is new and just recently established in Santa Clara County. The first Bosnian refugees started coming to Santa Clara County in 1993. Most Bosnian immigrants first found refuge in European countries, such as Germany and Austria.

Social Characteristics of the Bosnian and Yugoslav People

Ethnic & Religious Diversity

The population of the former Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina is very diverse. More than 25 national and ethnic groups have been living in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. According to their self-identification the largest groups include Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, Macedonians, Slovenians, Albanians, Slovaks, Romanies, Hungarians, Romanians, and others. A very substantial number of people living in the former Yugoslavia identify themselves as Yugoslavs. According to a 1998 UN estimate made after the war, the following national groups lived in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Serbs 40%, Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks): 38%, and Croatians 22%. Major religions were Slavic Muslim (44%), Orthodox Christian (31%), Catholic (15%), Protestant (4%) and others (6%).

Before the war, it was very common in Bosnia-Herzegovina to have a single street where Muslims, Serbs, Croats, and others lived together. Typical Bosnian towns had mosques, Catholic and orthodox churches, and synagogues next to one another. In general, the socialist Yugoslavia was a secularized society. However, throughout the socialist period, it was not uncommon for all groups to celebrate their religious holidays in religiously and ethnically mixed circles that shared traditions and joy. During the 1990s the revival of all types of religious influences was observed throughout the region.

Family Life

Throughout the former Yugoslavia, mixed marriages were common. According to a 1990 estimate, in most urban centers in Bosnia-Herzegovina over 1/3 of all marriages were those between spouses of different ethnic and religious origins. The mix between traditional patriarchal and modern elements was generally observed in most families. However, in big urban centers modern families were very likely to be predominant. In general, modern laws and socialist ideology changed many gender roles throughout the former Yugoslavia. Many women were likely to be economically independent, to pursue non-traditional careers and to participate in the political life, including at the highest political levels. High percentages of educated population significantly influenced the process of redefining gender roles.

Health Care Practices

The health care system was efficient throughout the former Yugoslavia. Universal health care existed for everyone. During the socialist period, medications were available at no cost. A small number of people believed in alternative medicine. In general, many Yugoslav people developed a certain level of pain tolerance and would rarely take pills for minor health problems.

Mothers gave birth in medical facilities, most often without fathers being present. Most mothers believed in natural process of birthing and would not take pain relievers. Younger generations were more likely to take pregnancy classes and birth preparation classes. All mothers and fathers were entitled to a year-long, paid maternity leave.

Mental health patients were treated in special mental health facilities. In urban settings many people worked on de-stigmatizing mental health and mental illness.

Educational System

In the former Yugoslavia education was free of charge, including colleges and elite schools. All schools were public. One of the main characteristics of the school system was solidarity among students. Collective values predominated even though individual success was valued. Competition existed, but was not emphasized. Students’ achievements and grades were public information. Overall achievements, rather than test grades, determined students’ opportunities for further education. Students were required to study foreign languages, starting in primary grades and sometimes in preschools or kindergartens. Besides mathematics, native languages, history and social studies, elementary school education included daily courses of geography, biology, chemistry, physics and European and world history. In high schools students typically took advanced levels of all courses taught in elementary schools. In addition, they studied philosophy, logic, sociology, psychology and Latin. It was emphasized that every intellectual should speak at least a couple of foreign languages.

Significant numbers of people in the former Yugoslavia were college educated. At the same time, illiteracy did not disappear. In the 1989/90 school year there were 261,161 university students enrolled in many programs. There was almost an equal number of male and female students, and female students were slightly more likely to graduate than their male counterparts. Women obtained their bachelor’s and master’s degrees and specializations at almost the same rate as men, according to statistical data for the former Yugoslavia in 1990. The only area where women were somewhat disadvantaged in comparison to Yugoslav men was the doctorate level. Women were very likely to get educated in the medical, legal and economic fields.

 

Bosnians in Santa Clara County

Demographics

The survey respondents were all public assistance recipients. Their average age was 39.5 years, and in 98% of the cases they used Bosnian, Croatian or Serbian in their communication. Differences between these languages are minor – similar to distinctions between British and American English. On average they lived two years in Santa Clara County. Nine out of ten reside in San Jose and Santa Clara. About 18% of the survey respondents completed more than 15 years of schooling, 35% more than 12 years of schooling and 92% more than 10 years of schooling. The average number of people living in the households of Bosnian immigrants was four. In 54% of the cases 2 family members were employed, and in 18% of the cases 3 or 4. However, none of them reported a total family income of $90,000 or more. On average, our survey respondents worked around 41 hours per week. Still, 31% of them reported earning less than $10,000 and 44% earned between $10,000 and $30,000. Thirteen percent had a family income between $30,000 and $50,000, and the same percentage earned $50,000 to $90,000 per year.

 

Social Customs

Interpersonal Communication

People coming from Bosnia-Herzegovina are open and friendly. The level of openness varies and is definitely influenced by experiences shaped by the horrors of war. In general, Bosnian as well as other Yugoslav people are proud, hospitable and family oriented. There is a significant level of “westernization” that took place in the former Yugoslavia and many former Yugoslavs communicate more like Western Europeans than the stereotype created in the media and public discourse about people coming from the Balkans. At the same time, most Bosnians and former Yugoslavs tend to be direct and sincere, and do not necessarily follow the patterns of politeness and rules of conversation created in the Anglo-Saxon world. Among Yugoslavs, it is common to have direct eye contact, to shake hands firmly, and to hug and kiss in public.

Emotional Support

According to our survey respondents, they talk to spouses, friends or relatives if they have emotional problems. Only 7% of the respondents talk to no one. They rarely talk to doctors, teachers, community leaders and religious advisors.

Mothers and fathers are most likely to take care of their children. Many of them experience difficulties with preserving parental authority, since they often depend on their children’s better English skills. About 21% of our respondents reported that older children took care of their younger siblings. Only 16% of them reported that grandparents were child care providers. Because of immigration extended families, neighbors and old ties are less likely to exist. However, friends are still likely to help with child care. Only 7% reported their children being enrolled in child care centers. However, 26% of the survey respondents would prefer institutional care for seniors and the disabled. Around 55% of them prefer in-home care by family members or trained care providers for seniors and the disabled.

Clothing

It would be hard to say that there are dominant clothing styles. However, many people follow fashion trends. Being close to Rome and Paris as “fashion capitals,” especially urban population from the former Yugoslavia was often recognized in Europe as “well dressed.” Even the war and economic hardships did not influence a lot of people to change their attitude toward emphasizing the importance of clothing and following fashion trends.

Food

Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian and other cuisines from the region are products of many cultural influences. Turkish, Islamic and Mediterranean influence are clearly recognized. Also, many Hungarian, Austrian and German foods became transformed into typical Yugoslav foods. Many Yugoslavs and Bosnians are used to drinking a lot of coffee. In most parts of the former Yugoslavia, it was considered rude to have a visitor and not offer any food or drink. For example, many athletes and visitors of the Winter Olympic Games organized in Sarajevo (1984) still remember their Bosnian hosts and their hospitality. Coming to Santa Clara County, many Bosnians and Yugoslavs preserved some elements of the original cuisines and eating habits. Even though only a few restaurants in the area serve the foods from the region, many families produce dishes, such as boureks or kebobs, with the taste from their homeland.

Religious Traditions and Holidays

In Santa Clara County, Bosnian immigrants organize large picnics and invite members of the community at large to these events. The goal is to emphasize more original cultural values and traditions than religious ones. At the same time, many Bosnian Americans are connected with a number of religious institutions in the area, and are greatly contributing to cultural and religious life.

In general, Bosnian people celebrate a number of religious and secular holidays. Especially in the cities, where intermarriage is very common, families might celebrate many holidays such as New Year’s and Orthodox or Catholic Christmas. Muslim festivities center on Ramadan, the month of ritual fasting associated with the lunar calendar. Exchanging household visits and small gifts is a particular feature of the three days at the end of Ramadan (called Bajram). Eastern Orthodox Christian families also celebrate the Slava, or the family patron saint.

Challenges in Santa Clara County

The top five needs of Bosnian Americans, as identified by the survey of public assistance recipients, were citizenship (69%), immigration legal services (67%), medical care (59%), ESL (56%) and dental care (55%). The focus group participants added housing, wages, transportation and dependent care. Solutions for all of these needs included a lottery for getting some land and building a house, rent control, easier procedures and requirements for verification of foreign degrees, organized help with transportation, providing better health coverage and less expensive medical services, and a community center with both child and senior care services that would be linguistically and culturally appropriate.

Participants of IBC thought that public transportation could be better utilized, or special funds for transportation expenses given to existing organizations. They also proposed special ESL classes for elderly people, and hoped for more medical doctors and nurses who speak native languages. IBC participants also emphasized that it would be good for the existing organizations to establish a “job-line” and outreach to the community with information about employee and employer rights.

Discrimination

Only half of the respondents who were stopped by the police reported feeling respected. About 60% of them felt scared, 40% had communication problems, 30% did not know their rights, and 20% expressed lack of knowledge about laws. Also, 20% of the respondents reported being mistreated by the police. The survey respondents felt discriminated against mostly by social or eligibility workers, co-workers and school officials.

Barriers to Education, Services and Benefits

The most often mentioned barriers were lack of time, lack of English, lack of information, lack of affordable child care, and scheduling ng public assistance. About 67% of the respondents thought that the amount for CalWORKs was not adequate, and 40% of respondents shared this opinion regarding food stamps. They knew the requirements for food stamps and MediCal much better than for all other forms of assistance. Only 32% of public assistance recipients indicated they knew the requirements for CalWORKs; 9% for CAPI, and 9% for General Assistance. More than 80% of the respondents felt respected by county workers. The majority of respondents thought that their culture was respected as well. Fifty-three percent of the CalWORKs recipients said that they did not understand written materials well, and 90% did not understand phone calls or orientations. All of respondents said that they did not understand food stamps orientations, while 79% did not understand phone calls and 56% did not understand written materials. Regarding MediCal, 53% of the respondents did not understand phone calls, 63% did not understand written materials and 79% did not understand orientations.

Educational Access in Santa Clara County

K-12 Education

Seventy-five percent of the survey respondents have children under 18 in school. Over 70% of these parents would prefer school instruction offered in both English and their native language, while fewer respondents prefer their children to be taught exclusively in English. The most frequently used services at school were lunch and breakfast programs and parent meetings. About one quarter of the respondents said they were using counseling services or after school activities and 39% tutoring programs. Only 19% of parents reported getting information from their children’s schools in a language they understand. About 14% reported that their children were using on-site child care.

Employment Training

About 33% of the Bosnian Americans who responded to our questionnaire received vocational or professional training in the U.S. Most often they took ESL, GED or training for assemblers, technicians and transportation workers. Smaller numbers of them reported receiving training in the area of education. When asked about where they received their training, they responded that it was in institutions for adult education (30%), private businesses or institutes (25%) and community colleges (15%).

ESL

Forty-six percent of the survey respondents evaluated their English skills as poor and 32% as average. About 21% said that their English skills were good or excellent and 2% of them reported “no English skills.” However, it should be noted that in the former Yugoslavia, modesty was promoted as a value in connection with self-evaluations. The greatest number (87%) of respondents reported that English was needed for everyday situations, 75% said that they needed English for employment, 57% for filling out applications and for participating in their children’s schools, and 55% emphasized the importance of English to be able to read literature and continue education. It seems that having friends fluent in English was perceived as the most important factor to learn English quickly. Also, 46% of the respondents thought that using TV for English classes was important.

Citizenship

Only 2% of the survey respondents reported that they were naturalized U.S. citizens. Most Bosnian Americans are permanent residents. Those who were not U.S. citizens reported that they needed the following help: legal advice (45%), disability waiver information, (36%), citizenship classes (32%), help with filling out the application or paying or waiving the $250 INS fee (23%), and English literacy classes in their own language (21%).

Communication and Outreach in the Bosnian Community

Most of the survey respondents reported that they are best informed by talking to friends (63%). They are also very likely to get information from TV in English (44%), the Internet, and radio in their native language (40%). Other important ways to get information are through the San Jose Mercury News, family members, radio programs in English, and newspapers in the primary language (in order of priority). Most of the surveyed public assistance recipients reported that they had modern appliances in their homes. For example, 98% of them had a TV, 93% a radio, 91% a telephone and 61% had a computer at home. In addition, 50% of them reported having both Internet access and email accounts, and 46% of them had a VCR.

Bosnian communities have a need for dialog, circulation of information and community response. However, some infrastructure already exists. The EMINA Publishing Company publishes the newsletter called NASE SAD (translated – Our USA, Our “Now”, or Our Presence) and the entertainment magazine OSMIJEH (Smile), in the native language. In addition, every Sunday evening the Eastern European Services Agency (EESA) broadcasts in Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, including various music selections from the homeland.

Knowledge of Immigrant Nationalities (KIN)

Over a two-year period, Santa Clara County conducted the most extensive assessment of the human needs of immigrants of any County in the United States. The Board of Supervisors committed $500,000 from July 1999 to June 2001 to a comprehensive study involving over 500 individuals: researchers, community members, university professors, social workers, non-profit agencies, county experts and activists. The study was summarized in two publications: Bridging Borders in Silicon Valley and KIN: Knowledge of Immigrant Nationalities.


Bosnia
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