Reasonably Ascertainable Reality

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Location: South Jersey, United States

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interesting perspective on the Immigration debate

One of the points I keep hearing being raised in discussions with people over immigration is that they are afraid that our "way of life" will change should we keep allowing all of this immigration. My point was always that we need to do something about illegal immigration, but that it was silly to think our way of life would change. I always figured that common sense would say that within one or two generations, those immigrant's children and grandchildren would be just as Americanized as you or I. Now, there is proof.

Immigrants of the past quarter-century have been assimilating in the United States at a notably faster rate than did previous generations, according to a study released today.

The study, sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, a New York think tank, used census and other data to devise an assimilation index to measure the degree of similarity between the United States' foreign-born and native-born populations. These included civic factors, such as rates of U.S. citizenship and service in the military; economic factors, such as earnings and rates of homeownership; and cultural factors, such as English ability and degree of intermarriage with U.S. citizens. The higher the number on a 100-point index, the more an immigrant resembled a U.S. citizen.

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."

I don't think that there is any denying that something must be done about illegal immigration. But the sentiment that we should stop immigration, particularly from Mexico, because somehow our way of life is threatened, seems to be to more fueled by the color of the immigrant's skin rather than whether our way of life is actually threatened.


Blogger Dave Justus said...

I happen to agree with the sentiments, but I am always hesitant to say that a particular study 'proves' something. Without a lot of research into the methodology, it is hard to say that.

It is pretty easy to construct a study that will say what you want it to. I am not saying that that was done here, but without a whole lot of vigorous research I can't say it wasn't either.

I also don't think it is useful to simply dismiss immigration foes as racist. First off, just because you have concluded that their isn't a real threat to their 'way of life' doesn't mean that they have reached that same conclusion. Jumping up and calling them racist because you disagree with them will make it pretty tough to convince them that you are an unbiased source of information.

Rising nativist impulses have always gone along with large immigration fluxes, but this isn't exactly racism. These people do genuinely fear change and have real concerns about what effects this sort of thing will have on society. Feelings of economic uncertainty also feed upon this.

I am as big a fan of immigration as anyone. I'm all for it, and the more the better, but I think it is far better to understand the fears of those who oppose it and attempt to dispell those fears then to unleash perjoratives on them.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Katinula said...

Agreed, it certainly doesn't prove it, but I think it does provide perspective on immigration.
I wasn't dismissing immigration foes as racist, but unfortunately, many of the concerns about illegal immigration do stem from a latent racism in people. And refraining from calling it so does not help the process. I certainly don't think legitimate concerns regarding immigration fit that bill, but I also don't think you can deny that much of the fuel of this debate stems from a racist view. I don't think this would be the issue it is today if we were referring to the same number of immigrants who were white and/or who spoke English. I've heard people fret, in all seriousness, at one day being a minority rather than a majority in this country. I have my own concerns regarding illegal immigration and I certainly don't think that reforming immigration isn't an important thing to do. But not acknowledging the racism in the arguement is blinders, I think.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

Some immigration folks are racist. More though are 'nativists' which isn't exactly the same thing.

When the majority of immigrants were white, at the turn of the century, another period of high immigration, their were the exact same arguments we are hearing now.

Racism is focused on innate characteristics (usually skin color) while nativism is focused more on learned behavior (culture.) I think it is misguided because it undervalues the strength and desirability of the American culture, but I don't disagree that the 'American culture' (including the diversity and melting pot nature of our society, as well as the freedoms and social institutions we share) is extremely valuable and superior to that found most places in the world.

Like many causes though, the extreme is certainly present and disproportionately loud. On the left we see anti-war protests being lead by Marxists, on the right we see anti-immigration being lead by Racists. The majority are no where near that extreme, and understanding their positions is important.

If they are all just racists who hate anyone who looks different (or Marxists who hate everything America represents) we can't really have much discussion with them or find any common ground. If we realize though that the loud banner carriers don't represent the majority, and that the majority have values that are not all that different from our own, sometimes progress can be made.

8:55 AM  

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