Social Theories of Immigration: Functionalism, Conflict, and Interactionism

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About this sample


Words: 1128 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Jul 10, 2019

Words: 1128|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Jul 10, 2019

A social problem defines itself as being an activity that serves more damage than good, to families, countries and the world overall. Immigration falls into the category of a social problem across the world but specifically in the united states. Immigration has been subject of many controversies as well as a cause of division on wether immigration’s impact is minor or severe in the long run. immigration can be defined as the act of a foreign person or group entering a country’s border in where they are not natives. Immigration is important be looked into because people have a misconception of what immigration really is and fail to realize the economic growth it brings and fuel it gives the economy. Immigration being ignored can cause exploitation as well as other problems such as separation of families. i’s captivating exploring immigration in sociology as we dig in deeper into how Functionalism, Conflict Theory, and Symbolic Interactionism all can relate to immigration and get a clearer picture on why its such an issue in todays world.

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Symbolic interaction is the theory that focuses on the relationships and interactions amongst individuals within a society. The theory uses communication which is in this case is the exchange of meaning through symbols and one-to-one interactions. Individuals attach meaning to their own actions or doings and those of others. We tend to act towards someone or something based on the meaning we interpret from them. Immigration can be attached to symbolic interaction because it contributes to the main idea of it, which are that symbols play a big part of communication. In this case Symbols and words used for the social problem contribute to the perception what people have against the issue. For example, humans have attached a meaning to the word “immigrant” when a person hears the word immigrant they tend to attach the word with words such as brown, uneducated, Mexican, “wet back” and they take them as people who only came to the U.S to give money to their family who are poor.

People don't tend to think of the many other immigrants that come to the united states such as college educated people who come for a specific Job or for the people that are refugees and are running from the deaths and political views in their country. In high school I be friended someone who happened to be an immigrant there was multiple occasions where she was constantly stereotyped as a poor, dumb hispanic who only spoke Spanish, while also with the perception that her parents were either Gardners or a house keeper. This one on on interation she encountered had a change of course over one word , the perceptive of the word immigrant. A simple word can have so much meaning behind it enough to get others to connect to it and have the same meaning behind it. With changing the word of immigrant to “an undocumented immigrant” instead of an “illegal immigrant” we don’t find ourselves having the same connection as before, stereotyping becomes less apprehensive. Symbolic interactions helps us magnify hows peoples perception of certain issues contributes to their attitudes on the problem. It is important to know their views as it can be more easily addressed and focused on.

Another theory that helps us magnify the social issue of immigration is the social conflict theory. Social conflict focusses on the sociologic perspective that views society as a constant fight for power and resources. The main idea behind social conflict is the struggle between the working class and the upper class, how the lower class work for cheap labor while the upper class society enjoys the gains of the labor. One of the biggest conflicts behind immigration today is the notion that the more immigrants migrating to the united states the fewer jobs for the citizens there is. Competition In jobs results in more immigrant workers getting the position as it would cost way less to hire than a person with a degree or qualification. It’s easy to see how capitalism and dedication to producing massive gains creates a gateway for lower wages being offered and how the people in need are willing to work in horrible conditions because they are desperate and in need of money.

Citizens can receive so many benefits where as people who are undocumented are unaware of befits or ways to protect them they tend to always get the short end of the stick. Social conflict digs into the big problem of how the rich stay rich while the poor stay poor, it has been happening for many years and it is something that is specifically happening in immigration. For instance my cousin who happens to be very intelligent mechanic who studied t=and went to school in his country is treated different in the united states, as he isn’t qualified enough simply because he was not born here. Since he is undocumented he finds himself having to work long hours with very little compensation for people whoo profit so much more out of his work. The superior people know that without undocumented people there would be less people who would put the same amount of work and accept such little pay.

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Social functionalism can be looked at like the human body, the human body is made of many different body parts helping other parts function. Social functionalism can be seen the same way, it is the studying of how a social activity or event can affect the society as a whole. We learn how social insertions such as religion, the government, education and more help contribute and meet the needs of society. Immigration is believed as a driving force in our society. Immigration as we learned with conflict theory deals with many immigrant works being paid lower wages than native people with creditals. Now we think on how that affects it as a whole, functionalist believe that the more immigrants accepting cheap labor in many businesses helps the government as they are able to collect taxes without having to pay them social security. Functionalism believes that a social problem like immigration has to be functioning otherwise the problem would no longer exist.


  1. Smith, A. D. (2010). The Concept of Social Change (Routledge Revivals): A Critique of the Functionalist Theory of Social Change. Routledge. (
  2. Jeon, Y. H. (2004). The application of grounded theory and symbolic interactionism. Scandinavian journal of caring sciences, 18(3), 249-256. (
  3. Carter, M. J., & Fuller, C. (2016). Symbols, meaning, and action: The past, present, and future of symbolic interactionism. Current sociology, 64(6), 931-961. (
  4. Portes, A. (1997). Immigration theory for a new century: Some problems and opportunities. International migration review, 31(4), 799-825. (
  5. Ceobanu, A. M., & Escandell, X. (2010). Comparative analyses of public attitudes toward immigrants and immigration using multinational survey data: A review of theories and research. Annual review of sociology, 36, 309-328. (
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Social Theories of Immigration: Functionalism, Conflict, and Interactionism. (2023, February 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
“Social Theories of Immigration: Functionalism, Conflict, and Interactionism.” GradesFixer, 28 Feb. 2023,
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