Integration of Immigrants

I am not big on arguing the immigration issue from an integration perspective, any more than I like to argue about who will pick the lettuce.  Free movement around the globe and the ability to take a job by mutual consent of the two parties rather than based on their country of origin should drive immigraiton policy.

I live in the state with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants, and I have never gotten my head around why this was culturally bad.  I think the Hispanic culture here brings at least as much to the table as, say, the Irish do in Boston.  So I did not find this to be surprising (from the Manhattan Institute, via Reason)

In general, the longer an immigrant lives in the United States, the
more characteristics of native citizens he or she tends to take on,
said Jacob L. Vigdor, a professor at Duke University
and author of the study. During periods of intense immigration, such as
from 1870 to 1920, or during the immigration wave that began in the
1970s, new arrivals tend to drag down the average assimilation index of
the foreign-born population as a whole.

The report found,
however, that the speed with which new arrivals take on native-born
traits has increased since the 1990s. As a result, even though the
foreign population doubled during that period, the newcomers did not
drive down the overall assimilation index of the foreign-born
population. Instead, it held relatively steady from 1990 to 2006.

"This
is something unprecedented in U.S. history," Vigdor said. "It shows
that the nation's capacity to assimilate new immigrants is strong."

  • Nonesuch

    Too bad many immigrants (and, more importantly, their children) take on native traits like unwed motherhood and welfare dependency. Mexican immigrants and their children do not assimilate to traditional American rates of high-school graduation or competent participation in an industrial economy.

  • JohnF

    There is a cost benefit analysis to do here that you are not doing.

  • michael

    "This is something unprecedented in U.S. history," Vigdor said. "It shows that the nation's capacity to assimilate new immigrants is strong."

    Or it shows that they arrive somewhat pre-assimilated. We export modern culture like no other country, and so much more than we did in the periods he's comparing to the modern day.

  • Frederick Davies

    michael is probably onto something: with most of the World and its mother watching US soaps and films, it should not be too surprising that new immigrants to the US are more attuned to US culture than previous ones.

  • Corky Boyd

    I have several concerns with unlimited unregulated immigration. It involves what is being discussed here of how well and how fast the new immigrants can assimilate into our society. We have already taken in close to 20% of Mexico's population and there is almost no letup. Apply the same percentages to China or India and think about the consequences.

    The "look the other way" attitude on immigration laws has allowed employers to evade wage and hour laws, as well. Where there is no enforcement on one issue, there is none on the other. This is what is why illegals are so attractive to employers, especially in the agricultural sector. Employers can and do use intimidation tactics to keep employees docile with the implied threat of deportation.

    In Florida, the State Police can't enforce immigration status issues nor wage hour violations among ag workers. That is the exclusive domain of Florida's Agricultural Police. And they are ag business friendly.

    What we are doing is creating a new permanent underclass in this country. The folks hiring illegals have no interest in seeing illegals moving up the ladder. Indeed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill that went down in flames had a provision locking new legal immigrants into the sponsoring companies for a substantial period of time.

    The argument most used, especially in the ag industry, is they simply can't compete without them. I thought we threw that one out in 1865.

  • Dan

    If it weren't for the whole language issue, I doubt most people would care as much as they do. It's very visible, and language presents enough of a practical barrier that it overcomes any other kind of assimilation researches may be looking it.

    Let's say you have an immigrant community where they have the exact same culture as the nearby non-immigrant community, except the immigrants all speak a different language, so their business and education in that language. No one will recognize this as assimilation of any kind. If you reverse that, and you have an immigrant community with many cultural differences from the native population, but they speak the same language, so they can attend the same schools, go to the same stores, not require separate tax forms, I bet people will be much receptive.

    For the most part, I think people in America are very open to cultural differences. It's the isolation that comes from having a separate language that freaks people out.

  • mahtso

    “For the most part, I think people in America are very open to cultural differences. It's the isolation that comes from having a separate language that freaks people out.”

    The Hispanic culture is part of Arizona’s history and most people here are open to the differences. The language issue is a problem and Dan’s comment makes sense. But another and perhaps bigger problem is the enormous Court-ordered expense of providing “English learner” classes that are directed almost exclusively to Spanish speakers and which alienate many people.

  • Jason

    As long as presence in America confers a right to health care, food, shelter, education and police protection funded by taxpaying citizens, we can not afford a 'look the other way' policy on illegals. Either regulate immigration, or eliminate entitlements.

    A national language would also be helpful- sure is silly to pander to Spanish speaking people, but not Germans, Poles, Chinese, French, Urdu...

  • Anonymous

    "I live in the state with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants, and I have never gotten my head around why this was culturally bad."

    It is not a problem if they are using their own names and identifying number. The problem arises when they use some one else's identity. This has been the primary focus of the raids by immigration.

    Certainly we need workers in our society as the average age rises. There are plenty of people from Zimbabwe and elsewhere who should be admitted as well.

  • Les

    "I live in the state with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants, and I have never gotten my head around why this was culturally bad."

    I dunno, maybe it's bad because they are ILLEGAL Immigrants? Their first act in this country is to break the law, which has many doubting the quality of their character from the get-go. Now granted assuming all illegal immigrants are of poor morals is a gross over-generalization, but so is assuming everyone who is critical of illegal immigration is a racist (and I've seen that bandied about with depressing regularity, even among people who I'd assumed were smart enough to know better.)

    Every year millions of people who are NOT Mexican try to immigrate into this Legally and are stymied by our labyrinthine immigration system. Just shrugging-off the fact that so many people BREAK THE FUCKING LAW and allowing them de-facto legal status and immigration privileges because it's too inconvenient to enforce the law is a slap in the face to every perspective immigrant who jumped through the many myriad hoops our government placed before them.

    I personally am all for radical loosening of immigration restrictions, but anything that even remotely resembles 'amnesty' needs to just go to hell and burn and die a lot.

    Open Borders? Maybe..

    Giving all the people currently struggling to legally immigrate a hand by loosening restriction and regulation? Absolutely!

    Offering Open Arms to NEW Immigrants willing to do us the courtesy of observing the (now hopefully much less constrictive) laws? Definitely!

    Giving a pass to all the Illegal Immigrants currently in our borders beyond a 'get legal or get out' grace period? NEVER!!

  • Anonymous

    I hope you bring the issue of illegal immigration back to your blog.
    Check out
    http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081013/NEWS01/81013024

    reported 10/13/08