By Roy Beck, NumbersUSA:
A big poll of Americans of Latin American background
finds that most first and second generations don't think of themselves first as Americans.
But they don't think of themselves as Latinos or Hispanics either. They are most likely -- even immigrants' kids born in the U.S. -- to consider themselves Mexicans, Salvadorans, Peruvians, Bolivians, etc. -- identifying with their family's home country, rather than the country in which they live or with the U.S. minority group known as Latino or Hispanic.
The report released Friday by the Pew Hispanic Center includes detailed analysis of government data on Hispanics ages 16 to 25 -- a generation often referred to as "millennials" -- as well as a survey of more than 2,000 respondents.
"If you want to understand what America will be like in the 21st century, you need to have an understanding of how today's young Latinos, most of whom are not immigrants, are growing up," said Paul Taylor, executive director of the Pew Hispanic Center.
Hispanics already make up one out of five school-age children and one out of four newborns in the nation, Taylor said. -- Washington Post, 12DEC09
Only about a quarter of the millenials born abroad consider themselves first as an American of this country.
. . . even among the second generation (born in the U.S.) only 41 percent said that "American" was the first term they generally use to describe themselves. -- Washington Post
Not even a quarter of the first generation consider themselves Hispanic or Latino. The majority retain their identity with their home country in Latin America.
And of the second generation of U.S.-born . . .
Twenty-one percent preferred the terms "Hispanic" or "Latino," while one-third referred to their family's country of origin, calling themselves "Mexican" or "Salvadoran," for instance. -- Washington Post
The Pew study finds that young Hispanics don't hear a lot of talk from their parents about pride in the United States, compared with their pride in their home countries.
42 percent of Hispanic millennials surveyed said their parents have often spoken to them of pride in their family's country of origin, compared with 29 percent whose parents spoke of their pride in being American. Similarly, 60 percent said their parents encouraged them to speak Spanish, compared with 22 percent whose parents stressed the need to speak English. -- Washington PostThe Post and Pew wanted to make sure that we don't read anything negative into the poll results, and that is where they get way off track:
The report's authors also cautioned against concluding that today's Hispanic immigrants are assimilating at a slower rate than earlier immigrants. Foreign-language newspapers and theater proliferated in immigrant communities during the early 1900s and "no one ever did a poll asking people if they considered themselves American first," Taylor said. -- Washington Post
This is the most typical fatal error of logic made by newspaper people and academics.
First, I agree that the Germans, for example, who absolutely flooded cities across America a hundred years ago, were very similar to today's Latin Americans in creating churches, schools, news media, political blocs, etc. in their own language and culture while failing to assimilate well.
Lack of assimilation was true for nearly all immigrant groups during the First Great Wave of Immigration (1880-1914)
Most Americans don't understand that because they hear so much about how well that Great Wave of Europeans assimilated. What most Americans, most journalists and most think tankers and scholars fail to notice is that the assimilation happened in earnest AFTER immigration numbers were reduced by half to three-quarters.
I DON'T BLAME THE LATIN AMERICAN IMMIGRANTS FOR LACK OF IDENTIFICATION WITH U.S.
I told a California reporter asking about this poll that I do not blame the Latin American "millennials" for their lack of identification with the U.S. and their signs of lack of assimilation.
I don't blame their parents either. I blame Congress!
The Latin American immigrants are acting like almost all immigrants do in any country that allows giant waves of a particular ethnicity, culture or national origin over a sustained period of time. It is very, very difficult to truly assimilate and identify with the country of your residence when that country continues to pour more giant waves of your home countrymen into your communities.
The Germans, Italians, Balkans, etc. couldn't truly assimilate a century ago until Congress dramatically reduced the flow of new immigration from their countries.
That is going to be even more true today when immigrants have constant access to their old language and culture through TV networks, other entertainment and cheap, safe, easy transportation back and forth to their old countries.
The fact that most of these young immigrant-stock members of our society don't identify more strongly as fellow Americans is cause for some alarm. It was cause for great alarm a century ago. But shortly after a century ago, Congress passed laws to bring immigration numbers back down to a constructive level.
Until Congress does the same thing again, I'm afraid we are going to see a larger and larger proportion of our population failing to fully identify with our country. ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
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