The "American Dream" has been, and is now, a dream shared by millions of people around the globe. Many of these people seek to experience that dream right here in America. Our immigration system, however, is not designed to process and absorb the large number of immigrants. Consequently, our country hosts several million illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico.
This has led many to charge that our immigration system is broken.
It is not.
What is broken?
The countries from which these immigrants originate are broken.
And our border control is broken.
This has allowed about 12 million Mexicans to enter our country illegally.
What are we to make of the immigrants themselves?
On the one hand, we see ambitious, hard working people who have left their friends, families, and familiar cultural surrounding for honest work. They provide for themselves while living in the United States but also send money back to family members in their home countries. One would like to think that we host "the best" that those foreign countries have to offer. Yes, most of these immigrants do not possess higher education or select skills. For the most part, however, they bring with them a healthy work ethic.
One personal anecdote illustrates this. When a contractor arrived to install hardwood floors in our house, I asked him about his all Hispanic (and I assume all legal) work crew. He said he loved them. They worked hard and worked long and considered their jobs to be of high importance. He reflected on other non-Hispanic installation crews he employed in the past. He said they often called out of work, resisted longer hours (thus delaying completion of jobs), and too frequently placed personal affairs ahead of work.
On the other hand, the low wages most illegal immigrants earn from the employers who illegally hire them will not lift them out of poverty. Moreover, the cultural baggage that the immigrants bring across the border presents a host of problems. Mexicans marry younger than the average American and have more children. In addition, the out of wedlock birthrate for Hispanics is 53%, nearly twice the rate of whites. This has led to a high poverty rate among Hispanics and brings additional pressure on our welfare system. The low esteem that education holds among Hispanics does not bode well for their future.
The prospects for a a high degree of cultural assimilation are bleak as well. Historically, all immigrant groups attempt to preserve their culture. For example, most German immigrant communities in the 19th century attempted to insulate themselves from the surrounding American culture. They maintained German language newspapers and held their Lutheran worship services in German. As additional immigration from Germanic communities in Europe ceased, however, German immigrant communities proved unable to insulate themselves. While they preserved many cultural practices, German immigrants eventually became more Anglicized. They embraced the common language of their host country and many even Anglicized their names (Schmidt to Smith).
The continuing influx of Mexican immigrants, however, tends to reinforce immigrant cultural practices. Moreover, Spanish language television and radio help maintain at least some level of cultural insularity. Of course, governments at all levels provide Spanish language accommodations. Even American businesses have joined in:
This reduces pressures to embrace that most fundamental aspect of any nation's culture: language.
Without border control included as part of so-called comprehensive immigration reform, these problems face by both immigrants and American citizens will only grow worse.
As usual, Heather MacDonald has the facts.