This third and final installment about immigration will cover two other, somewhat unrelated, topics: assimilation and integration of immigrants, and the current (March 2017) flap concerning the Trump Administration’s Executive Orders, temporarily restricting immigration from six nations. After this post, we will leave immigration and move on to other issues.
“E Pluribus Unum”, out of many, one nation, is above the eagle on our national seal. We are a nation of the descendants of immigrants from many lands, religions, and cultures. Although the newest wave of immigrants has not always been welcomed with open arms, most groups were assimilated into America, although sometimes it took more than one generation. The resulting mixture has created a vibrant culture of our own, different from that of any one of the nations our ancestors hailed from. It has been the genius of our nation to allow and encourage all to participate.
Assimilation and integration was often difficult. It required determination and hard work on the part of the immigrant. But most came here wanting a better life, wanting to be part of the nation that could provide it, and knowing hard work would be necessary. First and foremost, they learned the English language. They learned our customs and mores, our ways of work and life, and enough of our history to pass required citizenship knowledge. But the key to all, was learning to speak the English language.
Well meaning people have seen the difficulty, and passed legislation to make government documents readily available in multiple languages. Leaders of various ethnicities have pushed for this as an issue to gain prominence within their own community. Bilingual education became a vogue. However, it is not clear that this has helped newcomers integrate into our society. It is easier to speak only your native tongue, easier to speak only with those who speak it too, and easier therefore to segregate into ethnic enclaves, and resist assimilation and integration.
Easier, yes, but less successful, for both the immigrant and society at large. We would be far better off subsidizing English-as-a-second-language classes for immigrants, than spending the same money translating and publishing documents in multiple languages. Ethnic leaders who do not support the necessity of learning English are like the politicians who curry favor and votes with ethnic blocs by segregating them, telling them they are victimized, and offering to “help” them. Fears of their culture of origin will disappear are exaggerated; they will survive.
This does not absolve our native-born from treating immigrants and their children as fairly and equitably as they would anyone from their own background. I realize this is an unrealistic goal for 100% of our people, or of any people. Nonetheless, while the burden to assimilate needs fall upon the immigrant, the rest of us have an obligation to shun prejudice.
On the second issue, President Trump’s Executive Order(s) concerning the suspension of travel here from six (or seven) nations where there is a substantial chance of importing a terrorist, a hot emotional issue has arisen. Right now, it is ablaze, but in the total scheme of things, it will seem unimportant as time passes. It doesn’t help at all with the larger potential of terror attacks, those by people who are already here, radicalized over the internet, or through other contacts already here (Major Nidal, the Tsarnaev brothers, the San Bernardino killers, the Oklahoma City bomber).
The Commander-in-Chief should have substantial control over immigration, especially on a temporary basis, when there is a threat to our national security. Having said that, the initial Executive Order was poorly thought out, amateur, and implemented too quickly without coordination of the involved agencies. It also singles out Muslim nations (of course they are the nations with chaotic and dissolved states with lawless areas and lack of government control) when we need friends among other Muslim nations to help eradicate Islamic jihadists in the MidEast region and in the world. Symbolically it was important for the Administration to fulfill a campaign pledge and to appear strong on national security, but some less spectacular action, better thought out and implemented was clearly possible. However it resolves, it is temporary in nature and will prove to be less important than the other immigration issues discussed, in the long run.