We are all tired of hearing that "other (meaning non-Hispanic) earlier European" immigrants to the United States learned almost perfect English, quickly, and used it daily... well my dear readers, this is a big MYTH. According to American history these earlier immigrants learned only as much English as they could get by with in order to survive. They encouraged their offspring to speak only the mother tongue at home and shunned efforts to "assimilate" and change their cultures. These same earlier immigrants received United States government assistance in the form of cash payments to help them get "settled". Today this financial help would be called welfare. Just like today's immigrants they spoke their mother tongue almost exclusively, their children spoke both their parents language and English, and their grandchildren (third generation) spoke almost exclusively English. This same pattern of immigrant behavior is alive today not only with Hispanic immigrants but with immigrants from all nations.
In spite of the fact that most Americans are of immigrant origins research shows that not much has changed in anti-immigrant sentiment throughout our history. Benjamin Franklin argued that German immigrants would NEVER assimilate, or learn English. In the 1800's "Irish Need Not Apply" signs were prominent everywhere. In the 1920's Southern and Eastern Europeans immigration was restricted because they were thought to be the "wrong kind or inferior". Until very recently anti-Catholic sentiment was rampart throughout most of the country. Asians were virtually excluded from entering the United States until 1965. Throughout most of American history different immigrant groups have taken the blame for the nation's problems. Italians were blamed for the 1916 polio epidemic in New York. Jewish immigrants of the turn of the century were accused of diluting the nation's pioneer stock.
From 1870 to 1920 fifteen percent of the total population was foreign born. Today that figure is down to eight percent. Immigration may "feel" overwhelming because immigrants have always migrated in "streams" and settle where others are. In modern times most immigrants settle in four states: California, New York, Florida, and Texas. The tied has now changed and the Hispanic immigrant group is now under persecution. People will find even unimportant details to complain about. "Jesús" is a very popular name with Hispanics. Some complain that it is sacrilegious to name a child after the savior. These people show their ignorance when they fail to recognize that in biblical times there were many people with this name. It is like saying you shouldn't name your child Joshua. By the way, in the Hispanic world "Jesús" is the guy down the street, the savior is "Christ".
Throughout American history immigrant bashing as well as racism have been accepted as is today. Those already here feel threatened of their jobs, safety, and security by the new immigrants. Recent immigrants have many things in common with earlier immigrants; most were poor in their country and stay poor - by our standards - in America; most have experienced discrimination, most settle in ghetto like areas, most are feared by the nativists, most resist assimilation and try to hold onto their culture: traditions, heritage, language, food, and music.
Government documents show that most immigrants are here legally. Admission to the United States is based on family, work, and freedom. 80% of legal immigrants arrive to join their families. Priority is given to skilled workers when there are not enough qualified Americans to fill the job. And finally immigrants that can prove they are fleeing political persecution are allowed in.
Common sense should rule our minds as well as our hearts. Illegal immigration should not be condoned. All people including immigrants should obey the law of the land. Legal immigrants should be deported if they practice criminal behavior. Criminals should not be allowed to immigrate.
Times have not changed as much as we think. Regardless
of different opinions all immigrant do and should strive to learn English.
Assimilation comes with the passage of time. Pride in ones cultural heritage
should be promoted and encouraged.
What a dull place America would be if we were all exactly alike!