Immigration And Assimilation

Two weeks ago I was watching the Sunday morning political talk show hosted by Chris Mathews on NBC. Among his guests: the conservative David Brooks and the not-necessary-to-label Andrea Mitchell of NBC, a mainstream media liberal as well as Alan Greenspan’s wife. The topic was illegal immigration. Economics. Legalities. Security. Sovereign borders. The usual mix.

Mitchell waxed apoplectic when Brooks referenced a “culture of criminality” that permeated much of today’s immigrants — because they were illegal from the get-go. Mitchell accused Brooks of cheap-shotting Hispanics and said today’s immigrants were no less worthy than their counterparts from Europe a century prior.

There then followed a commercial break and a new topic.

That’s show biz.

But it’s hardly the last word on a very sensitive, very politically incorrect aspect of this country’s volatile immigration scenarios. We’re all too easily at odds with our own “homeless, tempest-tossed” immigration ideals. In short, today’s immigrants are different – and not just because they’re not from Europe.

Those “huddled masses” of yesterday were looking for economic opportunity, and they were looking to assimilate. Topping their agendas: becoming Americans and Americanizing their kids in this unique melting pot.

Now we have the salad bowl of diversity. Assimilation (for those arriving from south of the Rio Grande) is not a priority. Or a necessity. Or even, presumably, a particularly good idea. Witness “Mexafornia.”

Those coming from other continents and hemispheres — with educations and skills – often seem more absorbed in skimming the economic cream and retaining national and religious identities in self-contained sub-cultures. Opportunity trumped by opportunism. Allegiance is elsewhere.

Other than that and some border issues, not much has changed since the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886.

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