Study weighs immigrant integration

The USC Center for the Study of Immigration Integration recently released a study rating the lives and progress of immigrants in different regions of California. Los Angeles County, home to nearly 3.5 million immigrants, scored eighth out of 10 regions in California in terms of integration for foreigners.

Santa Clara, East Bay, San Diego, Sacramento, Orange, San Francisco, Inland Empire, Los Angeles, San Joaquin and Fresno were all judged on their immigration integration. The study rated areas on the basis of four categories: economic status of immigrants, economic trajectory, warmth of welcome by the city itself and civic engagement. These categories were measured by analyzing annual income, home ownership, language gaps, cost of living and various other factors.

The study identified several areas of improvement that Los Angeles, such as its immigrant English-speaking ability, the education system and housing, according to the study.

Hugo Charcon, a culinary specialist who immigrated from Guatemala 25 years ago and now works at EVK Restaurant and Grill, said he understands why Los Angeles did not score higher.

“There’s not too much opportunity to study in this country. But, if you educate [yourself], you get a better job; no matter what, you can get a physical job, but if you get an education, you get a better rate than people without a diploma,” Charcon said. “I think for me this a main concern. If people don’t have education, they can’t integrate. There may be people that stay here 10 years that still don’t speak English.”

Sydney Ross, an L.A. native and a freshman majoring in critical studies, said she sees immigrants as an integral part of L.A. society.

“Most of the immigrants in the area aren’t too well-off, but they’re very family-oriented and hard-working,” Ross said. “They’re here to make a better life for themselves than the one they were destined to live back at home. They’re very much a part of the society here.”

USC itself has a similar composition as Los Angeles — about 12 percent of the undergraduate student body is international, according to the university.

Some students, such as sophomore engineering major Akshay Aggarwal, said Parkside International Residential College’s mix of international and local students and the several international clubs on campus demonstrate the university’s effort toward inclusion of immigrants.

“Specifically at USC, the immigrant population is treated as a part of the community and, besides for the increased tuition they are asked to pay, they do not face any other blatant prejudices or disadvantages,” Aggarwal said.

International student Anisha Veer, a junior business major from Hyderabad, India, however, did not agree.

“Older immigrants like grad students tend to stick more to their culture and don’t adapt or assimilate into American life as easily as younger immigrants or people who have been exposed to multiple cultures and have traveled extensively,” Veer said.