When my father came from
Germany as a 19-year old the very first thing he did was to enroll in a
class taught at a local public school to learn English. My aunt told me
that he became proficient in English in only six weeks. He wanted to be
an American and to do so he had to learn the language. Of course, he
retained his German heritage. However, assimilation was important to
him, as it was to most immigrants.
For years America has
drifted away from assimilation, which has become an unspeakable word
among the cultural elite. Instead, we are told that we must recognize
and celebrate the diversity of various groups without demanding any
compromise from them. This has hurt immigrants more than anyone else
because many have become isolated in cultural ghettos without a proper
command of English, the American political and legal systems or
American history and culture. That said, it also has fractured
For the past several years pro-illegal immigration groups have rallied at the beginning of May to demand
citizenship opportunities for the estimated twelve million illegal
immigrants in the United States and an end to raids on and deportations
of these immigrants.
This year was no different. There were protests in California,
Michigan, Florida, Texas, Illinois and other places. One slight
change, however, was the attendance: this year the protests were
markedly smaller than before. In 2006, the first these immigration
rallies were held, the attendance was around one million people. This
year crowds were down to between 300 and 500 per rally.
Many activists were
quoted as saying that the drop in attendance was due to fear of
government reprisal and deportation among the illegal immigrants
themselves. This is highly implausible. Since 2006 the Federal
Government has made little progress in enforcing our borders and
deporting illegal immigrants.
What worries me is that
all three of the remaining presidential candidates – Senators John S.
McCain III (R-AZ), Barack H. Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Rodham Clinton
(D-NY) – support a general amnesty for illegal immigrants. And this
amnesty is without any prior successful closure of the U.S.-Mexican
Border that would halt further waves of immigrants. McCain pays
lip-service to border security and assimilation on his campaign
website. He states, “A
secure border will contribute to addressing our immigration problem
most effectively if we also: recognize the importance of a flexible
labor market to keep employers in business and our economy on top, and
recognize the importance of assimilation of our immigrant population,
which includes learning English, American history and civics, and
respecting the values of a democratic society.” Obama’s website is
similar, listing border security as his main priority, followed by
“bring[ing] people out of the shadows” to become citizens. Clinton
uses much more flowery language but essentially posits the same message.
should be noted that illegal immigrants do not live in the shadows.
They attend American schools, use our hospital emergency rooms as
though they were a general practitioner’s office and work in specific
businesses. If the federal government wanted to enforce our current
immigration laws, which are sufficient to solve the problem, it could.
But there is no willpower to do so.
suspect that the reason for the drop in attendance at the rallies is
not a new burst of patriotism for America among prior attendees but
because the issue is not as pressing. What we need to do is return the
debate to the topic of assimilation, of learning to speak English, of
the value of becoming a citizen, and of pride in a country that
provides immigrants from around the world with more opportunities for
success than any other country on earth. The latter will be the most
difficult. Immigrants need to assimilate to American culture but if we
are to demand that they do we must first restore a proper sense of
patriotism among American citizens. How can we demand that foreigners
respect our country when our own elites so vehemently criticize and
disdain everything connected to American history, culture, ideals,
governance and traditions?
to assimilation and a coherent culture will not begin until we put our
own house in order. We cannot expect others to respect us when many
Americans themselves are ashamed of their country.