Immigrants must assimilate. Immigrants must speak English. We’ve all heard those arguments made about the immigration issue. But what do those sentences really mean? Does assimilation mean speaking English and being Christian-centered? Or does assimilation mean believing in the ideal of a free and open democracy? Or, is it the economic belief that a free market economy is the key to success? Is speaking English really an immigration issue, or is it the result of another agenda based on skin color?
Let us explore the notion that immigrants should assimilate. Ask anyone what assimilation looks like and you will get various answers. There is no agreed upon definition of what an assimilated immigrant looks like, especially in the United States.
I believe that the argument of assimilation is a catch-all argument designed to discourage further discussion about open immigration policies. Since no one can agree upon the common definition of an assimilated immigrant then we can’t possibly discuss open immigration policies.
I am an assimilated immigrant under most definitions. I look and dress like a US citizen. I wear pants, shorts and shirts. I don’t walk around wearing a sombrero or open cotton shirts. I haven’t worn actual huaraches in decades. I speak and write English. I am an entrepreneur. I am more educated than most. As a matter of fact, almost anywhere in the United States, those around me are more likely to assume I am a US citizen, than not. Many have assumed I am a US citizen, until I tell them that I am not. Oh, and I live legally in the US, although I am not a US citizen. As such, there can be no question that I am an assimilated immigrant under most definitions of the term.
With all those facts, I am still told to “go back to your country” or I am told that I “should be grateful for the opportunity to live” in the US. That is usually followed with something along the lines about not writing about US politics if I’m not writing about Mexican politics. For some, writing about open immigration policies makes me an “unassimilated” immigrant because I don’t “understand” the reasons for the negativity about immigration.
This begs the question, who is an assimilated immigrant?
Is it an immigrant that never says (writes) anything negative about the US? Is it an immigrant that believes that immigrants are detrimental to the country? Or is the issue of assimilation just a code word for looking and acting white? Obviously, I can’t answer that because I believe in a fair and open discussion about the merits of immigration. I believe that multiculturalism is beneficial to everyone.
However, none of these things are quantifiable and we still need to address the questions.
First, let’s look at the issue of speaking Spanish.
The Spanish Language
As I have written numerous times before that the issue of making English the official language is not an issue of immigration. Lost in the English-only rhetoric is the fact that immigrants can’t vote and as such they do not make public policy. As if that wasn’t enough, the fact remains that Spanish was first spoken in the vast majority of the United States before the US became a country. As such, it isn’t Spanish that is creeping but rather, it is English that is attempting to encroach upon the native Spanish speakers.
According to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2015, about 13.3% of the population in the United States, over the age of 5, speaks Spanish at home. Over 29% of the populations of California and Texas, speak Spanish. Maine has the least amount of Spanish speakers with a rate of less than one percent.
Unfortunately Spanish is not the only issue those opposed to immigration argue with. We must address an uncomfortable element of the assimilated immigrant, skin color.
Contrary to some of the political rhetoric, Hispanics or Latinos belong to the White race and thus many of those who consider themselves white are of the Hispanic heritage. The US Census Bureau offers a data tool for its American Community Survey data set. One of the metrics it has available for rankings by state are those residents who marked themselves as “Who are White Alone, Not Hispanic, or Latino.” As this is voluntary data that is collected by the US Census, it stands to reason that those who designate themselves in this category, do not consider themselves to be Hispanic, or Latino in heritage.
Those that identify themselves to the US Census Bureau as “white,” “not Hispanic,” or “Latino” comprised 61.5% of the population of the United States in 2015. Maine has the highest concentration at 93.6% of the population. Hawaii is ranked last at 22.8%. Those in California reported themselves at 37.8% of the population.
Does this metric address the issue of racism in the immigration debate? I do not believe so because the argument for assimilation does not emanate from non-Hispanics only, or mostly. Many Hispanics, or Latinos, argue this same point. As I have stated before, the issue of assimilation and speaking English has more to do with cultural diversity than it has to do with racism. I believe that it has to do with the multiculturalism that is asserting itself across the world.
I am not aware of any metric that can quantify multiculturalism and therefore I will not attempt to.
I appreciate your patience as we delved into the detailed metrics this week. Next week, I am going to bring all of my data points together and hopefully answer the question; are immigrants beneficial or detrimental to the country.