The term second-generation immigrant has been widely used by the English press and, thus, seems to have firmly anchored in the minds of ordinary people.
* The Guardian wrote on 23 May 2001:
“Of all British nationals, young second-generation immigrants would seem the most likely to sympathise with the plight of asylum seekers.”
* Daily Mail wrote on 27 May 2012 (as always, full of drama and exaggeration):
“Second and third generation migrants struggle to understand even basic instructions in English.”
I, however, strongly believe that its usage is incorrect and misleading.
This term is normally used while talking about children born from parents who once came to the UK as immigrants. According to oxforddictionaries, immigrant is a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. Thus, how could we call a person who did not arrive from anywhere but was born and raised on English soil an IMMIGRANT?! Firstly, this does not make any sense. Secondly, it might be quite offensive to people who consider the country they were born and raised in their home. I think, this term belongs to the same derogatory and ignorat group as the question “Were are you REALLY from?”
(I have a friend who was born in England from the parents who had come their from the Caribbean in the 70’s. I am sure this would assault him deadly if you refer to him is a second-generation IMMIGRANT).
These people are FIRST GENARATION (first generation American, first generation British etc).They are unique as they grew up to be carrier of and medium between two cultures, both of which are important and dear to them. The usage of the term second-generation immigrant emphasizes, however, the belonging of these people to another, foreign culture. It labels them as a foreigners and puts them aside from the mainstream society. What is more, this term mostly carries quite a strong negative connotation with it.
I know, the integration is not an easy issue and there are enough people who do stay more connected to the culture of their parents BUT I believe that language is an instrument that shapes our reality. It influences the way we think, the way we perceive things and also react to them. Therefore it seems to me that it’s important to re-think the usage of the term second-generation immigrant and replace it by the term first generation.
Any thoughts on this?