J.P., I didn’t mean to start a flame war between you and Kathy Shaidle, or to provoke a discussion of immigration politics. On the other hand, this sentence of yours is provocative:
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.
Assimilation has occurred historically under conditions much different than conditions that now exist in much of America. It seems obvious that, as a general rule, there would be less assimilation where the natives-to-immigrants ratio is lower, and where new arrivals are constantly replenishing the pool of the unassimilated.
If we are going to compare anecdotes, I’ll match your Vietnamese barber with my childhood friend Andy Marquez. Andy is Puerto Rican, but there was no “Puerto Rican community” in Douglas County, Ga., and so he was just another kid in our Scout troops and on our baseball teams. Nobody thought of Andy as any different than anyone else.
But what would the situation have been if one-third of the kids in our school had been Hispanic? Would there have been an undertow of group solidarity to inhibit Andy’s assimilation? Would the presence of a larger group of Hispanics have created more possibilities of ethnic conflict and friction?
Many people use “assimilation” in the same way that a magician uses “hocus pocus” — a ritual incantation of supposedly magical power. But assimilation doesn’t occur magically, and it seems to me that our current immigration policy tends to hinder, rather than encourage, assimilation. Adding amnesty and “guest workers” is a step in the wrong direction.