|Immigration: The Family Factor
What happens when an entire family immigrates together? What kinds of challenges do they face? Let's take a closer look:
Sending for kids. Sometimes, parents choose to move first, leaving their kids behind with a relative. They're hoping that once they find work and housing and save up some money, they can send for their children to join them. As you can imagine, this sort of separation can cause lots stress for everyone.
Chain immigration. Entire extended families often move to a new country, little by little, in what is called "chain immigration." Once a few people establish themselves in a new place, they can help their uncles, cousins, grandparents, and even neighbors move there too. In some cities in the U.S., there are whole communities made up of people who used to live in the same village in Central America or Mexico!
Kids as translators. When families move to new countries, adults can have trouble adjusting, especially if they don't speak the language. Often, immigrant kids become fluent in the new language before their parents do, since they're the ones going to school. Kids can then end up serving as interpreters and translators for the older members of their family and take on added responsibility, like going with them to doctor's visits or handling the bills. Young people often feel proud that they can be this helpful, but it can also make them grow up too fast and take time and energy away from their schoolwork and social lives.
Sibling differences. Older and younger kids can have very different experiences with immigrating, even within the same family. People who move to a new country in their tweens or teens will still have many ties to their old home, like strong friendships and cultural traditions. They may have a tough time seeing themselves as true citizens of their new nation, and will often move back to their original country as grown-ups. Kids that immigrate younger, on the other hand, will remember less about where they came from and may have an easier time "fitting in" to the new place. These differences can be even more obvious if some children in a family were born in the old country and their younger sibs were born in the new.
Next up: Living Undocumented