Saturday, January 7

Assimilation: Finding a healthy middle ground

I was exploring TownHall.com today, and just discovered some of Linda Chavez's work and the Center for Equal Opportunity. One their home page, they have a statement on immigration that I really liked.
With the United States admitting high numbers of immigrants, America's ability to accept newcomers will increasingly depend upon finding a pro-assimilation middle-ground between nativists who say that today's immigrants cannot assimilate and multiculturalists who say that they should not.

CEO promotes the assimilation of immigrants into our society and research on their economic and social impact on the United States.
The Center for Equal Opportunity web site has a paper written by Chavez, titled "Immigration Is Not About Race" that is worth reading. In it she comments on a book by Forbes senior editor Peter Brimelow called Alien Nation.
[Brimelow] confirms the worst fears about what immigrants are doing to America. According to Brimelow, the United States is in danger of becoming, literally, an alien nation, overrun by millions of brown-skinned immigrants from Latin America and Asia.

Brimelow, an immigrant from Great Britain himself, is exercised by what he sees as the racial transformation of the U.S. population. "Race and ethnicity are destiny in American politics," he warns ominously.
Chavez shows the racial focus of the argument.
Brimelow's argument, however, is less about the economic impact of the new immigrants than the racial impact. "Americans have a legitimate interest in their countries racial balance...(and) a right to insist that their government stop shifting it." This type of racial argument was used before, beginning in 1882 with the first Asian exclusion laws and most recently in 1924 to keep out "undesirable" southern and eastern Europeans. In the 1920s, immigration restrictionists warned of the "mongrelization" of America in books like Madison Grant's The Passing of the Great Race. Nativists were then worried about Italians, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs and others. Sen. J. Thomas Heflin of Alabama claimed in 1920 these immigrants were an "alien power" who posed "the greatest evil that has confronted us in a century."

These words sound truly bizarre today when viewing the descendants of 18 million immigrants who came from 1900-1924. But current talk of a new "alien nation" is no less fantastic. Assimilation, not race, is the issue and deserves more attention and reinforcement than it currently receives in the public policy debate.
This is one of my big fears: that the nativist will foster a spirit of racism and distract from the truly important issues that relate to immigration. Our nation cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of our past in the treatment of immigrants. We must be a nation of law and order, and as such, control the influx of immigration in our borders. But to make arguments against immigration on nativist or racist ideals is just incorrect, and immoral. This statement is worth repeating:
With the United States admitting high numbers of immigrants, America's ability to accept newcomers will increasingly depend upon finding a pro-assimilation middle-ground between nativists who say that today's immigrants cannot assimilate and multiculturalists who say that they should not.
The key word here is assimilation.