A common and popular theme in this blog and the entire Asian-Nation site concerns the issue of assimilation into American society. Many Asian Americans, along with other groups of color, still navigate the many forms, levels, and outcomes associated with what it means to become assimilated as “Americans” in this country.
With that in mind, Diverse Issues in Education reports on a new study of assimilation among various racial/ethnic groups that finds that immigrants today assimilate faster than earlier immigrants, but that some groups inevitably assimilate faster than others:
Newcomers of the past quarter-century have assimilated more rapidly than their counterparts of a century ago, according to a conservative think tank. However, the report from the Manhattan Institute indicates that Mexican immigrants are not assimilating as fast as other groups. . . .
In an article for The Boston Globe, [the study’s author Prof. Jacob] Vigdor said many Mexicans do not have much incentive to assimilate because they strongly expect to return home and they can function in Spanish-speaking populations in the United States. In addition, those without legal status lack a path to citizenship and better jobs.
This new report is not likely to sway many opinions when it comes to the issue of illegal immigration because both sides can legitimately claim that the results of the study support their own positions.
That is, critics of rights for illegal immigrants are likely to argue that since Mexican immigrants, particularly those who are here illegally, are less likely to assimilate, we should continue efforts to exclude them because ultimately, the results show that they aren’t interested in becoming American.
On the other hand, supporters of more rights for illegal immigrants will contend that there’s an important cause-and-effect issue here — many illegal immigrants can’t assimilate because they don’t have the resources or rights to do so. With that in mind, if we allow them to become citizens, they will eventually assimilate into the American mainstream.
As I’ve stated before, I belong to the latter group and favor giving illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship, although not at the expense of others who have been waiting for a immigration visa for years and even decades.
To alleviate this bottleneck, we need to expand the levels of immigration to the U.S., especially considering that immigrants produce many tangible benefits for American society and its economy. I realize that this is a controversial idea, but as a sociologist and an immigrant myself, I firmly believe it to be true.