One of the most immediate effects of the overly high immigration level our country has today is the growth of groups of people who are not well assimilated into our larger national culture. This exacerbates ethnic separatism and related problems.
The civic involvement upon which our free society is founded is weakened:
"Inability to speak English impairs the capacity of a citizen to digest political speech, to serve on juries, to participate in judicial proceedings, to serve in the armed forces, and to participate in a military mobilization. From the viewpoint of society, the fact that some citizens will escape the obligations and miss the opportunities of America will only enhance the prospect for isolation and ethnic strife."1
Business and social transaction costs rise, as time, effort, and money are spent overcoming language and cultural barriers. Communication becomes difficult, often due to language barriers.2
"But as more and more commerce is fouled by fast-food clerks who mistake orders, taxicabs drivers who misunderstand directions and telemarketers who can't explain why they called, sociologists and consumer behaviorists detect a palpable, collective complaint that's evolved into one of the most politically incorrect questions of the '90s: Can't anyone here speak English? ...Poor English skills among foreign-born residents cost more than $175 billion a year in lost productivity, wages, tax revenue and unemployment compensation, says Ohio University economist Lowell Gallaway."3
Furthermore, in today's economy, notes Cornell University labor economist Vernon Briggs:
"it's accentuated because 80 percent of the workforce is employed in service jobs. A lot of these jobs are filled by immigrants. But by definition, service means communication. If workers can't communicate, it certainly effects quality of life."4
Language aside, cultural differences alone can create problems. In November 1996, an Iraqi immigrant was jailed in Nebraska for forcing his 13- and 14-year-old daughters to marry men more than twice their age, who were also jailed for statutory rape. The men explained that they were following the tradition of their country and did not understand our government's reaction.5
As a natural result of cultural conflict, ethnic strife and separatism grow:
"American secessions have rarely been viewed with alarm [but] in the 1990s...we are more inclined to consider them a serious threat to national unity, especially since that unity is being stretched to the breaking point by ethnic revanchiste movements fueled by Third World immigration. ... In any major city, the peace is disturbed by Latino, black, and Asian nationalist gangs, which in some cases are only the shock troops of ethnic movements seeking the racial dismemberment of the United States. In refusing to control immigration, the Federal Government is writing a script for ethnic civil war. Why?"6
Sometimes this ethnic separatism is clear and overt:
"A peaceful mass of people, hardworking, carries out slowly and patiently an unstoppable invasion, the most important in human history. ... The territory lost in the 19th century by Mexico ...seems to be restoring itself through a humble people who go on settling various zones that were once ours on the old maps. Land, under any concept of possession, ends up in the hands of those who deserve it."7
"Aztlan is a country with no borders and no government, but it has a militant student movement with big plans. Some of the activists dream of the day when they can "liberate" a large portion of the southwestern United States, which they consider to have been stolen by gringos, and raise their own flag over it."8
Sometimes separatism takes other forms, such as demands for ethnic representation, separatist studies, or special status and treatment:
"We submit the following measures:
- create a 100 mile free labor zone from the border;
- illegal aliens should have access to public health care and benefits that are culturally sensitive and respectful of language difference;
- legislation be enacted that mandates institutions of higher learning to incorporate into their curriculum courses which reflect and promote cultural diversity and give full credit for immigrant contributions to this nation.
- decrease the residency requirement for naturalization from five years to one year administer citizenship exams in the applicant's native language;
- increase in the visa quota for Mexico and Latin American countries pass legislation that will afford voting rights to all immigrants in certain nonfederal elections that affirmative action be used so that the INS staff at all levels reflects the service population;"9
Often, as in Canada, the strife begins with language issues:
"Scratch most nationalist movements and you find a linguistic grievance. ...Language is a convenient surrogate for monolinguistic claims that are often awkward to articulate, for they amount to a demand for more political and economic power.10
Demands for a recognition of a "distinct" nature of an area or people were the beginnings of the separatist movement in Canada. We need look no further than our northern neighbor to see the result of encouraging such tendencies:
"What the Quebecers and the Hispanic American communities have in common is a determination to preserve a way of life. Dominant languages seem a threat to that, a challenge to family, church, and historical memory, and so they are resisted. ...We are fooling ourselves if we fail to understand the lessons that Canada's experience holds for us. Racial and linguistic minorities are aggressively asserting their distinctiveness in New America. Even now we may anticipate that the demands of these groups for recognition of that distinctiveness may become requests for some sort of separate polity. Those Quebecers who aspire to sovereign control within their borders, combined with economic relationships with those around them, view such an arrangement as a successful formula for an independent state. That same formula political self-determination plus economic confederation will serve as a ready model for this nation's would-be separatists. Given the policies we are pursuing, there is no reason to believe that we are immune from that which has afflicted Canada."11
While there are many things that could be done to encourage assimilation in the United States, none can be effective as long as we continue to admit 900,000 immigrants a year. Only by reducing the level of immigration to more traditional levels (say, to below 350,000) can we stanch the contribution of immigration to ethnic separatism in the United States.
- Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, One Nation Indivisible: How Ethnic Separatism Threatens America, 1997. p. 170.
- In 1990, 14 million U.S. residents told the Census Bureau that they had limited or no English proficiency.
- "Can't Anyone Here Speak English?", USA Today, February 28, 1997.
- "Cultural Tradition and Law Collide in Middle America," New York Times, December 2, 1996.
- Thomas Fleming, "America's Crackup", National Review, July 28, 1997.
- Carlos Loret de Mola, "The Great Invasion: Mexico Recovers Its Own", Mexico City Excelsior, July 20, 1982.
- K.L. Billingsley, "Was There Ever an Aztlan?", Washington Times, October 24, 1993.
- Excerpts from El Plan de Riverside, an agenda agreed upon by 450 Hispanic group leaders on January 8, 1994.
- Robert D. King, "Should English be the Law?", Atlantic Monthly, April 1997.
- Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, One Nation Indivisible: How Ethnic Separatism Threatens America, 1997. p. 161, 191.
Updated October 2002