Thursday, March 23, 2006

"...how slowly the Mexicans assimilate, if at all"

The David Brooks column in today’s New York Times contains the following paragraph:

"In the field of immigration, Republican sentiment seems to be shifting away from the idea that the United States is a universal nation, where immigrants come from across the world to work, rise and join in the pursuit of happiness. Now Republican rhetoric emphasizes how alien immigrant culture is; how slowly the Mexicans assimilate, if at all; how much disorder and strain their presence creates."

Reading the entire article (which requires a subscription) makes it clear that these are not David Brooks’ views and he thinks it is a mistake for the Republican Party to be moving in this direction.

Locally when Mexican leaders raised the alarm that they were hearing similar sentiments about the undesirability of immigrants and Mexican immigrants in particular during the debate over the Triumph Food pork processing plant at least one blogger denied that such sentiments were being expressed. I hope no one now claims that David Brooks is slandering the Republican Party or that although people in other parts of the country may be saying such things the Quad Cities is an enlightened enclave free from such sentiment.

I hope that we can all agree that the idea that Mexicans are assimilating more slowly than previous waves of immigrants is an emotional reaction to large numbers of recent immigrants and not based on any objective reality. Third and fourth generation Mexican immigrant families are as completely American as anyone else. Our schools today are just as efficiently turning immigrant children into English speaking Americans as they ever did. Just like my great-grandparents who came to American from Schleswig-Holstein most immigrants who come to America as adults do not become fluent English speakers but those who come as small children and those who are born here learn English and prefer to speak it to everyone except their parents.

Racist statements ascribing negative traits to all people of a particular race or ethnicity are usually challenged and considered unacceptable by most Americans today. But there seems to be a blind spot about blanket negative statements about Mexican immigrants where the statements elicit no reaction and apparently are not even remembered.

If the Republican Party, as David Brooks fears, is going to be adopting an anti-immigrant posture this could be the chance for Democrats to win Florida and the Southwest if they can speak with unified voice about their support for all working people, including recent immigrants.

5 comments:

Infamous Scribbler said...

Though Brooks has done some brilliant work (he wrote "Bobos in Paradise") he's all over the map politically. I wouldn't say he speaks for Republicans. He's in favor of gay marriage, for example, and that's hardly a Republican Party plank.

I think the GOP welcomes immigrants. The issue is leagal vs. illegal immigration. President Bush has shown signs of wanting to offer some kind of deal to the folks who are already here, but obviously it's an explosive subject.

I don't think Mexicans assimilate any slower or quicker than anybody else. It was only in my generation (I'm 50) that some people I know in Cedar Rapids stopped forcing their kids to go to Czech school in the summer to learn the old lingo.

Hasta luego.

Santa Anna said...

While latinos may have integrated well in the quad cities several generations after their arrival primarily as rail workers, I think your observations about them assimilating so smoothly might not apply if you asked residents of border states or California where they appear to have no need nor desire to assimilate, as their numbers are so large.

It's truly as if the border with Mexico is simply moving northward.

I also think that much of the anti-Mexican sentiment out there can be firmly placed on the resentment many feel about the truly stageringly high government resources which are being used to both provide welfare, health care, and schooling to illegal and legal immigrants as well as to try to secure the border and prevent human smuggling and drug traffic.

The stories suggesting that the Mexican government is actively encouraging their citizens to flee to the U.S. by providing essentially "how-to" guides alsod doesn't help. I think taxpayers have a hard time figuring out why they should be essenially paying for Mexicans to flee their country due to economic reasons and feel that Mexicans should stay in their country and improve it rather than pouring over the border to take advantage of social services and a better economy.

When illegals put multi-million dollar strains on social services, schools, and health services and are given licenses, etc. I think a lot of people tend to start to think it's time for this to end.

Add to that the fact that millions of people who've lived here their entire lives are themselves facing terrific financial strain and need work themselves, and I think it shold be no mystery why people oppose rampant immigration, no matter what the nationality or ethnicity.

Dave Barrett said...

> '.. areas where they have no need or desire to assimilate'

But, if they are on the US side of the border their children go to US schools. To deny that our schools and our popular culture are turning all immigrant children, even in areas with a large percentage of recent immigrants, into little Americans is letting your fears and your ideology trump reality.
As for your concern about the amount of resources being spent to secure the border you need to talk to the Illinois Minutemen who claim that very little is being done to secure the border.
You claim that strain is being put on our schools but I don't think I have heard any education professionals complaining about it. Our schools love it when more students show up.
I don't know how to respond to some Americans resentment of the Mexican government helping their citizens emigrate to the US. The government of Mexico is so unable to take care of its own people that the best they can do about poor people unable to feed their families is to give them information about how to go to America to find a job. Here you are already in America, legal, speaking English, and you resent the Mexicans immigrants who can only get the most menial and low-paying jobs? You must be a glass half empty kind of guy.
(On reading this reply to my wife before posting it she suggested adding that someone who resents Mexicans working menial jobs at low pay must also be hard-hearted and miserly, also.)

Santa Anna said...

You guys are a trip.

Amazing how pompously you can read all those traits into someone just by their views of immigration issues.

Don't look down your nose too much or you'll go cross-eyed.

And someday, carrying your views to a logical conclusion, since the U.S. is the most prosperous nation on earth, why not just have the entire population of the globe move in? After all, to not welcome that would make us "hard-hearted and miserly."

Dave Barrett said...

santa anna,
On what other basis could we infer that you were a negative sort of guy, mean-spirited and miserly other than your views? We know nothing about you other than what you posted, it being an anonymous post. If you have some other information about yourself that you would like us to consider that might mitigate the impression your views on the immigration issue created we would be glad to consider it.