Opinion

Immigrants, English And Assimilation

Lies we’ve all been told:  The check is in the mail; if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor…We took a forty-year “pause” in immigration so immigrants could assimilate and become more American.

Today, we hear that “pause” position from immigration restrictionists like “Center for Immigration Studies” (CIS) and the “Federation for American Immigration Reform” (FAIR) and “NumbersUSA.” These groups front the anti-Hispanic immigrant movement founded by Michigan’s Dr. John Tanton.

Dr. Tanton came out of Zero Population Growth (ZPG) and Planned Parenthood; he tried a turbulent albeit unsuccessful takeover of the national Sierra Club. The Southern Poverty Law Center labels Dr. Tanton with:

“John Tanton is the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

The immigration “pause” refrain was the basic argument in 1924 when the all-male, all-white (exception, one Black Chicago Republican) United States Congress passed the “Johnson-Reed Act” otherwise known as the “Immigration Act of 1924” into law.

The direct effect it had was to slam the door shut on Jews from Eastern Europe (Poland and Russia) and Italians. Between 1900 and 1910 Italian immigrants averaged 200,000 per year. After the Act went into effect, that number dropped to 4,000 a year. Entries shifted back to White Protestant Northern Europeans, no more Jews and Catholics. Of the 155,000 immigrants allowed in 1925, 86 percent of designated entrants were mostly from Great Britain, Germany and (Northern Protestant) Ireland.

The primary supporters of the immigration shutdown used words like “inferior stock” and “socially inadequate” to define Eastern Europeans (Jews) and Italians. Their context was of the nascent racial-purity “eugenics” movement led by Princeton University’s Harry Laughlin. He and Congressman Albert Johnson, who sponsored the 1924 Act, believed that the rising tide of immigration of “intellectually and morally defective” immigrants from Eastern (Jews) and Southern Europe (Italians, Spaniards and Greeks) “polluted the American gene pool.” (Quotes from Paul Lombardo)

Laughlin’s “proof” of “inferior stock” and “socially inadequate” immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe came from his “study” of jail, prison and reformatory inmates. Irish Americans are lucky he didn’t study inmates in the 1850-1860 decade when Irish immigrants filled our prisons (50 percent) and committed more than 2/3rds of Eastern Seaboard crimes.

The “Johnson-Reed Act” limited future immigration to two (2) percent of national groups counted in 1890 when there were but a handful of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe in the U.S.

Slam the door shut! The Act restricted Africans from immigrating here, prohibited Arabs and Asians from coming and immigration from Italy shrunk 90 percent. The “American gene pool” was protected.

President Calvin Coolidge signed the Act into law with: “America must remain American.”

The assimilation argument is with us again.

As the largest group of immigrants since 1924 is Mexican, the assimilation argument comes up in any discussion of immigration, legal and illegal. Mexicans are all around us in all 50 states.

Many complain that Mexicans do not wish to become American, that they congregate only with Mexicans, publish Spanish language newspapers/television/radio, and that they monopolize workers in agricultural, construction and hospitality industries. Worse, the complainers accuse Mexican immigrants of refusing to learn English. True?

The most respected study of Mexican immigrants is the 1986 Rand Corporation study by Kevin McCarthy and R. Burciega Valdez. Their views are as valid today as in 1986.

There are three Mexican immigrant groups. The Permanent, the Cyclical and the Short Termers. 25 percent of short termers speak working English; 40 percent are monolingual Spanish speakers. “Nearly half of the Permanent people speak good English; less than a quarter are monolingual in Spanish.” Most first generation children are bilingual with 90 percent “being proficient in English; among the second generation, more than half are monolingual in English.” That’s English-only.

Speaking English, McCarthy and Burciega say, is “the essential step toward full participation in U.S society.”

The Mexican American has evolved since 1950 when their average education was eight grades. Today, 1,119,109 California Hispanics are enrolled in the University of California (23% on ten campuses), Cal-State University (the world’s largest public university, 36.9% on 23 campuses) and 113 community colleges (42.4%). In six-decades Mexican immigrants and their off-spring have surpassed previous immigrants; e.g., the English-speaking Irish that took a hundred years to reach national education and economic levels.

Complainers notwithstanding, the only Mexicans that aren’t assimilated in  America appear to be the ones that arrived last night, the real short-termers.

Raoul Lowery-Contreras is the author of THE MEXICAN BORDER: IMMIGRATION, WAR AND A TRILLION DOLLARS IN TRADE and MURDER IN THE MOUNTAINS: WAR CRIME IN KHOJALY bot by Floricanto Press; he formerly wrote for the New America News Service of the New York Times Syndicate