Looking over Stacy’s post, I clicked through to Kathy Shaidle’s page, and found myself confronted by my own ambiguity on immigration. I don’t think the skeptical position is a bad one, and I certainly think that characterizing immigration skeptics as racist is a ridiculous venture (see also my review of Geraldo Rivera’s HisPanic). But there’s a simplicity of argument in the paragraphs below I found jarring.
The well-documented (if largely ignored) phenomenon of present-day Hispanic aliens’ disinclination to assimilate is something patriotic Americans should condemn, not embrace.
Karl Rove’s ill-fated strategy of courting the Latino vote didn’t help Republicans much in the last two elections. For every illegal alien cum “future GOP donor/voter”, there are dozens of non-Latino, law-abiding, tax paying citizens sick of having to “press ONE for English.”
Does this mean ignoring the Latino vote? They are generally socially conservative, and become small business owners given the opportunity. There’s something wrong with offering government aid to those who circumvent the law, certainly, but that has more to do with the way government aid is distributed (if you offer it, they will come).
I haven’t read Shaidle, and I’m sure her opinions on this are well-documented (and probably well-substantiated). I don’t much care to refer to Hispanic immigrants as “aliens,” if only because “immigrants” is the more common word for legal immigrants, and “aliens” is a legal status. As for whether they’re disinclined to assimilate, I do see this as different from the Italians, whose home country was not as close to their new home as their old one. Living in ethnic neighborhoods and cloistering, though, was entirely common, and just as much a result of the negativity they faced from nativists as it was a desire to be around their own.
When I hear “assimilation,” and then I hear that old Andy Rooney bit about pressing one for English, it seems more like people are annoyed that people are coming to this country with a bad grasp of English. That’s not what immigration skeptics are concerned about though — it can’t be, because of the way that people have historically assimilated in the U.S. and that first generations always have trouble leaning the language. (See also my kind Vietnamese barber.) Pressing “one” is not driving people to the voting booths.
What is, I think, is a concern that America is being redefined as having a trill on the “r” and an accent on the “i.” That the following generations will remain within their own groups, leading to severe cultural segregation rather than blending. Arguments that fall short of making this case tend to sound simplistic, and worse, racist, when they’re handed down from a time that the language needn’t have been so scrutinized.
I guess I’m saying that I’d like to hear someone argue about immigration without sounding contemptuous of hispanics writ large, or sounding like an undue burden has been placed on white people whose calls are handled by machines. I don’t think they are racists, but they’re using a lexicon that worked better in the 80s or 90s.