April 20, 2013


Hispanics, the New Italians (DAVID LEONHARDT, 4/20/13, NY Times)

THE German immigrants of the 19th century were so devoted to their native language that Americans wondered if the new arrivals would ever assimilate. The Irish who followed were said to be too devoted to a foreign pope to embrace American democracy.

Many Italians not only were Roman Catholic but also returned home for the winter, when construction work here slowed. The Chinese and Jews, skeptics argued, were of an entirely different race than many successful immigrants who came before them. [...]

They have advantages that previous immigrant waves did not, starting with a national culture less accepting of discrimination than in the past. But they also face new obstacles. Perhaps most important, earlier groups of immigrants were not breaking the law by living in this country.

For the myriad ways that the country accepts illegal immigrants as part of society, their status still brings enormous disadvantages that inhibit climbing the economic ladder. Parents without legal status are less willing to become involved in their children's schools. They are less willing than legal workers to ask for a raise or to leave one job for another that brings more opportunity. They are less easily able to start a business.

Whether you consider those costs too small or too large for people who enter the country without permission, the bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate last week would clearly reduce them. Long before they won citizenship -- which would take years -- many of today's 11 million illegal immigrants would be able to lawfully register as residents.

"The change would be very significant for them, and it would happen immediately after they register," said Doris M. Meissner, a former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service who is now at the Migration Policy Institute. "They would no longer be clandestine."

Posted by at April 20, 2013 7:24 PM

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