May 16, 2008


Keep the Immigrants, Deport the Multiculturalists (JASON L. RILEY, May 15, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California, calls it the "Peter Pan Fallacy." "Many of us assume, unwittingly, that immigrants are like Peter Pan," says Mr. Myers, "forever frozen in their status as newcomers, never aging, never advancing economically, and never assimilating." In this naïve view, he says, "the mounting numbers of foreign-born residents imply that our nation is becoming dominated by growing numbers of people who perpetually resemble newcomers."

The reality, however, is that the longitudinal studies show real socio-economic progress by Latinos. Progress is slower in some areas, such as the education level of adult immigrants, and faster in others, such as income and homeownership rates. But there is no doubt that both assimilation and upward mobility are occurring over time.

With respect to linguistic assimilation, which is one of the more important measures because it amounts to a job skill that can increase earnings, the historical pattern is as follows: The first generation learns enough English to get by but prefers the mother tongue. The children of immigrants born here grow up in homes where they understand the mother tongue to some extent and may speak it, but they prefer English. When those children become adults, they establish homes where English is the dominant language.

There's every indication that Latinos are following this pattern. According to 2005 Census data, just one-third of Latino immigrants in the country for less than a decade speak English well. But that proportion climbs to 75% for those here 30 years or more. There may be more bilingualism today among their children, but there's no evidence that Spanish is the dominant language in the second generation. The 2000 Census found that 91% of the children of immigrants, and 97% of the grandchildren, spoke English well.

If American culture is under assault today, it's not from immigrants who aren't assimilating but from liberal elites who reject the concept of assimilation. For multiculturalists, and particularly those in the academy, assimilation is a dirty word. A values-neutral belief system is embraced by some to avoid having to judge one culture as superior or inferior to another. Others reject the assimilationist paradigm outright on the grounds that the U.S. hasn't always lived up to its ideals. America slaughtered Indians and enslaved blacks, goes the argument, and this wicked history means we have no right to impose a value system on others.

But social conservatives who want to seal the border in response to these left-wing elites are directing their wrath at the wrong people. The problem isn't the immigrants. The problem is the militant multiculturalists who want to turn America into some loose federation of ethnic and racial groups. The political right should continue to push back against bilingual education advocates, anti-American Chicano Studies professors, Spanish-language ballots, ethnically gerrymandered voting districts, La Raza's big-government agenda and all the rest. But these problems weren't created by the women burping our babies and changing linen at our hotels, or by the men picking lettuce in Yuma and building homes in Iowa City.

Keep the immigrants. Deport the Columbia faculty.

It is also, as implied here, under assault by the nativists who want to deport these immigrant monoculturalists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 16, 2008 3:08 PM

The Target near my house has a lot of recent Mexican immigrant families who shop there. The signage is bilingual. However, I've noticed that, even when the parents speak Spanish to the kids, the kids speak perfect English to eachother. This inspite, not because, of muliculti schools.

We have Italian and German grandparents great grandparents in our family and know it was the same with them and their kids from speaking to older generations on both sides. OJ is completely right about this from all that I have observed.

What is different is that it's easier to travel to the old country and consume Spanish language media on satellite TV and the web than it was in the old days when you might have a small paper. But people still want to get a job and learning english is worth a few bucks an hour.

Posted by: JAB at May 16, 2008 7:00 PM

If McCain could swing an amnesty which exchanged the faculty of Columbia and a few choice others in exchange for the unwashed masses, he might even win over the far, far right.

Posted by: Jorge Curioso at May 16, 2008 9:16 PM

That's it. Ditto Polish to that observation about Italian and German forebears.

Multiculturalism is folk-enmity and culture-treason. People come here to become Americans, not to make America into the place they got away from.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 17, 2008 3:58 AM

Why keep the far Right? They're just as unAmerican as the far Left.

Posted by: oj at May 17, 2008 6:34 AM
Keep the immigrants. Deport the Columbia faculty.

I've been telling this to people for years! The whackos are the problem, not the immigrants.

Keep immigrants and their kids away from poisonous grievance-mongers of all stripes and they'll be as American as any of us.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 18, 2008 12:06 PM