Immigration now vs in 1911: How It looks to me….

From my limited experience living in the southwest now, i would say that assimilation has changed. It seems to me that groups that have immigrated here from Mexico, Central America and South America do not tend to view assimilation the same way European and Asian immigrants have viewed it. I am thinking that may be because they can still drive back to their home countries. As a result, they do not necessarily feel the same urgent need to assimilate. As a matter of fact, assimilation seems to be a trigger word for many, and many say they do not plan to assimilate. Instead, they want the culture here to adapt and change for them. This is a far different view of assimilation than the Europeans had. I do not know which is the more successful path. It is too soon to say. However, lack of knowing the language in your new country, and lack of emphasis on education cannot be in their best interest. Understand that I say that from the viewpoint of an ancestor of European immigrants who insisted on assimilation. I do not know how we as a country can assimilate the immigrants that insist upon not assimilating. In that respect it is a worse situation than a century ago. Regarding legal vs illegal immigration, i do not know how the numbers stack up compared to a century ago.

Analogy wise i would compare it thusly: a century ago we had a melting pot; people came together and became asphalt. Now they come together like a bunch of river rocks or boulders. We can spread them out and they will surely look pretty. But they cannot form together as a serviceable road if none of them change an iota. They just make a bumpy rocky road. Anything that tries to go from here to there over said bumpy rocky road will get its axles blown out. It seems to me that that is often the situation today. I am not sure if there is a solution. Certainly people need to hang onto their traditions and their cultures to a certain extent. The question becomes what sort of commonality we can all live with and will that commonality encourage progress or just create conflicts and roadblocks…

you can link to my settlement house discussion that is related to this topic right here: https://believeanyway.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/settlement-houses/

About Kate Kresse

I love to write, I love to talk, I love to uplift people when I can. I am a woman in love with life. I am a wife, mom, tutor, writer, and I am a perennial optimist. (OK not every single minute but you get the point! :-)
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18 Responses to Immigration now vs in 1911: How It looks to me….

  1. I find two types of immigrant around here. There are the rebellious ones, usually on drugs, who think Texas is still theirs and are willing to do anything to make that known, hoping to take over by infiltration and playing ignorant, at first, and force of sheer numbers later.

    Then there are those whose lives have become so desparate, being shot trying to escape would be better than staying in Latin America.
    Drug lords have taken over so many of their cities. Those brave souls who resisted disappeared in the night, long ago, never to be seen again.
    Education is in worse shambles than ours, with teachers rioting drunk in the streets for higher wages, students having better attendance records than their teachers, and older students trying desperately to teach the younger just to read and write.

    They pay exorbitant rates ($60 or more–to what they don’t realize are other illegal immigrants) for a SS card, not realizing it is a forgery. They hire themselves out for a pittance because they have no papers. They live in frightening hovels. All in the name of freedom. They work hard, stay clean, try to learn one of the most difficult languages on earth, and hope for the day they can also bring their children over here, in spite of it all. They miss their homeland, but know if they go back it will not be the remembered homeland that they return to–that was stolen from them by druggies long ago.

    Still illegal is illegal. It hurts. It is hard and sad. They will likely pay dearly for their decisions, likely be deported, live in fear, do without the basics such as a means to cook food. The woman, espcially, suffers, as always, because she goes with her husband, trusting he knows what he’s doing when he really doesn’t, quite often living at home alone, no mom around, no neighbors who can speak to her, and if pregnant, no suegra (who normally delivers the baby in their culture).

    It’s just the same ol’ same ol’: sin. It’s everywhere. It hurts. Someone always pays.

    • Kate Kresse says:

      You are right . Someone always pays. In Phoenix they come to a community where the Spanish speaking immigrants take them in and nurture them. They fight the school districts so that every student is required to take Mexican studies as one of the HS history courses. They fight and sue until most courses are taught in their native language… at least in the school district where I live. Definitely there are houses around the area where :coyotes: (as they call the folks who rip off the illegal immigrants) hide about 40 or more people in a house with the promise that they will get them set up. Of course, there are no jobs for them. Eventually they get arrested and deported. (coyote houses are the minority of immigrants–illegal or legal). As soon as the deportees can they either pay someone to sneak them in again or they cross the desert by themselves and hope for the best. They contend they will continue to do this until they succeed.

      My point, though is this. i cannot see how they can ever make any headway if they insist on NOT learning english and insist on NOT changing their culture to match the host culture.. (The caps are for emphasis, not for screaming ;-)). I have had multiple conversations with highly educated people who provide services to immigrants (legal and illegal). They contend that it is insulting to the hispanic culture to ask or expect them to assimilate and to change their language. It is that key difference between how European immigrants in the 1st half of the 20th century chose to deal with being in a new country, and how many of the hispanics out here are dealing with it. My main resource is a woman who is a mover and shaker in the community. She herself came here from Puerto Rico. She gets extremely upset at the idea of assimilation. She states that it is essential to provide a dual non-assimilated culture, and that the host culture needs to adapt and change to make the host culture match the guest culture. That difference is the key difference. It changes the emphasis from melting pot to something we haven’t tried in this country before. There are many in her sphere of influence who insist they will never even try to learn English, and that the country needs to be bilingual. As you know, almost every company you call these days that has automated voice answering—one of the first questions they ask is something like “para espanol, marque ocho”. That of course is essential for hispanics that don’t know the language. But it is a shift. If native-born people out here cannot get jobs at a call center unless they are able to speak Spanish, I think that speaks volumes. If they speak Spanish but not English, they can get work, but not the other way around.
      My question, though is whether this shift is because their homeland is not an ocean away, so there is a different feeling and a different variety of commitment. It is a shift I hadn’t expected or seen. perhaps it is only in the southwest.

  2. aRVee says:

    Interesting post. Thanks for sharing

  3. auntyuta says:

    What both you, dear Kate, and Katherine have to say on the as similation problem the way you see it, is a real eye opener to me. It reminds me of some of my ancestors who migrated from Germany to the Lodz area in Poland in the early part of the 19th century. They were all skilled tradesman and they settled their on the invitation of the government, who wanted the industry in the area to develop. This part of Poland was ruled by Russia at the time. So my ancestors soon learned Russian as well as Polish. But their first language remained German for generations to come. In border areas people are often bi-lingual, for instance in countries where people live close to the German or French border, people would naturally grow. up bi-lingual. Here in Australia you find a lot of people who speak several languages. The official language here is English. Every newcomer, who wants a job here, is expected to learn English. Children are all tqught Englich at school. However these days there is ample opportunity to learn a number of other languages besides English. I think being bi-lingual is not a problem. But it is a problem if people aren’t given ample educational opportunities.On the other hand I’ve heard stories about migrants who came to America in the 19th century and learned only very basic English, but were none the less extremely successful in making a living in your country, maybe even becoming miilionaires!

    • Kate Kresse says:

      I would love it if the schools taught multiple languages—as that way folks could be multi-lingual. My main objection is when people refuse to learn English and state that everything should be taught to them in their language and provided to them in their language. Those who are taking that stance state that to learn English means they are denying their heritage and culture. Children are given the opportunity to learn English in school—and are provided the chance to take other languages as well. Yes, a number of those who came to America in the 19th century did only learn elementary English because it is difficult to learn another language as an adult. However, they insisted that their children become fluent in English and learn the ways of the new culture. That is the key difference in the early part of the 21st century. Many encourage their children to hang onto their own language and insist that the school provide their lessons in their native language and say they shouldn’t have to learn English at all. It is that stance that is so vastly different from my ancestors. We are a multi-cultural nation, that is true. But since we are, there is hesitation on trying to convince people of the importance of becoming fluent in English. I am wondering if that hesitancy and the stance of the non-assimilators will hurt the immigrants and their children in the long run. I didn’t mean that it was wrong at all to be multi-lingual.

  4. auntyuta says:

    Typing mistakes tend to creep in. For instance: They settled there . . . .!

  5. auntyuta says:

    Yes, of course, nobody would say that being multi-lingual is a disadvantage. I think what the problem seems to be, is, which language should be their first language of choice. I can understand that you would like it to be English. You then may come up with the situation that the children do not speak their mother’s language anymore once they have picked up enough English at school. Which means if the mother says something to them in her language, the children tend to answer back in English! In this case the children would most likely not grow up being multi-lingual. I admit, the children may have some difficulty learning enough English if most of their peers come from a non-English speaking background. What do you think, could it help if enough funding was made available for properly trained multi-lingual infant-teachers? I mean how can very poor migrant families be able to help their children with English studies?. On the other hand to get adequate teacher funding would be very difficult, right? So I think it is not just a question of these new-comers not wanting to assimilate.
    Here in Australia for a long time children were discouraged from speaking any other language apart from English. With the great influx of migrants from Asian and African countries this has changed a lot,.Nobody seems to mind if they speak their own language in public places like trains or busses or talking into their mobile phones. However a great number of them seem to be doing extremely well at schools and universities with the first language in those places being English of course.

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Again, my point isn’t about whether or not everyone speaks their own language in public places or in the home. The point is that many of the immigrants (in this part of the country anyway) are taught by people in positions of trust and guidance that to learn the language of this country is wrong and threatens their culture. The parents and their children are taught this consistently and repeatedly. They begin to view the country they have moved to as an enemy to be suspicious of. This draws lines in the sand that I feel are inappropriate and not in their best interest. I guess it is like someone saying they want to move in with you because they desperately need shelter. After they arrive they yell at you all the time, won’t discuss anything, call you the enemy and insist that you learn their language without making any attempt to return the favor. Meanwhile you are trying to create opportunities for them so they have an easier time once they can manage their own home. You go to some meetings with them and hear the organizers telling the attendees (who are living with other families you know) exactly how to throw their hosts out and take over the home. Now, that is a poor analogy because they aren’t trying to overthrow the government or the town or whatever. However, it concerns me that people in guidance positions are repeatedlly telling people specifically NOT to learn english. Not because I think they should forget their own language. But rather, because it denies them opportunity. If I immigrated to another country I would make every attempt possible to learn their language no matter how difficult it is. I would consider it highly suspect if someone told me that to learn the new country’s language was a danger to my own culture.It is that stance (by people in positions of guidance and authority who thus carry some weight with the people they guide) that concerns me. The people who follow their advice think they are doing the right thing because of their innate trust in the guiders.

      Funding has been given in our district from pre-K through 12th grade to give ALL instruction in ALL subjects in Spanish. (but certainly not in any other foreign language so non-spanish speaking immigrants are out of luck). Thus, one can make it through high school not knowing a lick of English. They have established a separate but equal culture in that sense. Many of them want to go to college. It is a rude awakening for many of them to discover that college will not re-define its culture to match theirs. What is to become of them then? Yes I know colleges have folks from many many countries. But they are expected to absorb the material that is taught in English (just as they’d be expected to absorb material in French if attending the Sorbonne). In Australia I assume from what you say that courses are taught in English all the way through school. In my part of the US, as I say that has changed. And Arizona is I believe 49th out of 50 states in academic achievement and it probably leads the country in HS dropout rates. So this experiment is less than a raging success. The Hispanic culture, I am told, to a great extent highly values physical labor but doesn’t value education. They see the direct connection between physical labor and economic survival. They don’t necessarily make the connection between economic success and education. How can they? Where they came from they didn’t have that. They can only teach what they have known. It should be up to the guiders to help them make that new connection. It isn’t working. It upsets me because they could have it SO much better. I do not want to see the suffering that often comes from this—and as a matter of fact is coming from it.

  6. auntyuta says:

    I am not sure, but going by what you tell me, I get the impression the main problem is perhaps that these immigrants come over the border illegally. For instance why isn’t it compulsary for the children of these people to attend a government run school where English is the first language? Is it because if the government sees them as ‘illegals’ they cannot enforce their laws on them? What about the people who are recognised as American citicens? Would those people also refuse to let their children being taught some English? Of course I agree with you totally that
    everyone who wants to work and stay in the USA should definitely make an effort to learn English! The new-comers don’t seem to be able to understand this. But the so called ‘guiders’ don’t seem to understand much either. Do they perhaps profit from it if the new-comers have to stay in low paid laboring jobs? Sadly there are just too many people all over the world who are desparate to escape poverty in their home country. A lot of them are constantly in danger and fear for their lives. All of them want a better life for their children in a better country. The move of people these days is overwhelming. I think here in Australia the problem is not that asylum seekers refuse to learn English. The problem is that many asylum seekers have to wait for many years in detention centres before they are allowed into the community. It’s very sad that some people just don’t seem to have a place anywhere in this world. In Australis it’s the boat people, who are put into detention centres as soon as they arrive. Anyone who comes in by plane with papers intact can just go anywhere!

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Part of the problem is the illegal immigrants. But the schools are not permitted to inquire about citizenship status. They must educate all who come. They are sending them to school. I am pretty sure that it was decided that it would be discriminatory and unconstitutional to enforce English as the first language. In Arizona we did pass a law to enforce the federal immigration statutes but the federal government has sued AZ and said they don’t have the right to do that. We shall see what the Supreme court says about that. I do not know which of the ones that are refusing to learn English are here legally and which ones are here illegally. You are right, the newcomers don’t understand the importance of learning English. They and their guiders see the necessity of learning English as an insult and threat and denial of their rights to “be Hispanic”. I don’t think the guiders are profiting from the fact that the Hispanic non-English learners are staying in low paid jobs. Believe me, there are many in the US who aren’t immigrants that are also desperate to escape poverty. The world is in a big economic mess. I hate to see anyones options limited. Those who have been here illegally for decades have raised families here and now have grandchildren here. They often operate with fake ids and identity theft, Fake social security numbers etc. Their kids have gone to the same public schools (government run) as those who are here legally (US born citizens and legal immigrants). I don’t think we have the detention centers. The ones who come in illegally just walk or drive in. Sometimes they are snuck in and housed en masse in houses (often 50-100 people). The ones who sneak them in often just abandon them. The police sometimes catch the ones hiding and deport them. As soon as they are back in their home countries they try to sneak in again. They vow they will continue to do so until they succeed in sneaking in.

      Regardless, my contact tells me that they generally have no intention of learning English. They simply demand dual track courses—and they get them. All the legal forms (including voter registration and voting ballots) are available in English and Spanish. It is difficult for them to believe there is a need to learn English.

      My great grandmother spent most of her adult life helping immigrants learn how to increase their options and possibilities through education and learning the culture. She and her friends never minimized the cultures of the immigrants. Rather, she often compared it to marrying into a family and becoming part of that new family and celebrating the traditions in the new family. Regardless, the immigrants then knew it was essential to learn english. there was no vacillating about it and they didn’t see it as an insult. I still wonder if the difference is because the immigrants then were a lengthy ocean voyage away from home. the ones from Mexico, Central and South America can ostensibly drive back to see their extended families. Is that some of the reason that they see no reason to change? It is the only thing I can come up with. because europeans that came here back then were every bit as desperate as these guys are. discrimination existed then and now (eg signs everywhere that said ‘No Irish Need Apply’. ) I am making too long of an answer….i wish you were here!!!

  7. auntyuta says:

    Dear Kate,

    I thank you very much for your long answer. I am sorry that it upsets you so much the way things are going in your state. I am upset about our detention centres here. I think they are evil. People are being treated as though they were all criminals. Government agencies take on average many years to determine if someone is a threat to Australia or just a “queue jumper”. They call them queue jumpers, that means they have no right to be in Australia. They have to be sent back to their home country if that is at all possible. Some people got sent back to Afghanistan, where they had been persecuted before and where they would be persecuted again and maybe killed. Australia dos not want to give the impression that it is easy to just come to Australia and live here. The slogan is: “We want to determine who’s allowed into our country. ”
    Yes, those detention centres upset me. All this is to scare the boat people away. But they come anyway. In leaky boats! The government says, if they would speed up the processing of asylum seekers, we would get an immense increase of boat people arriving here. Do we want that? Certainly not. But I still think that gives us no right to keep those poor people in detention centres for years on end. And it is very costly too to keep them under lock and key like prisoners!
    In our Federal Parliament are continuous fights going on about the issue how those asylum seekers should be processed!
    I hope I did not take up too much of your time. But I was very interested to hear what problems you have over there as compared with the problems we have here. I have a feeling because of that long southern border of yours the immigration problem is much worse in your part of the world. I pray that somehow a right balance can be achieved without any fighting and wars! I mean talking and discussing and mediating is all right. But I hate violence. Maybe it’s our task to see to it that people aren’t driven into violent behaviour. After all there should really be a place for everyone on this earth.

    • Kate Kresse says:

      i totally agree. as a matter of fact i permanentl parted ways with the peace movement of my youth when the protests turned violent. i could see then that the movement had become about the egos of the leaders and no longer about their principles. there has to be a solution to the immigration situation worldwide. i do not know what it is. i do not know what the best way is….if i have learned anything in life it is that i do not know what the heck the solution is. i try very hard to seek counsel and to pray for answers and wisdom. i pray for wise, gentle, kind words. being part irish american i can get a little mouthy and very, very wordy. very. maybe you have noticed that–LOL! sometimes it takes mea lot of words and writing in order to figure out what my own point is. I am so glad you are enjoying my blog. i enjoy yours as well. i have fallen behind tis week in reading peoples’ blogs. i have been playing some catch up around the house. i am beginning to feel like a spinning top!!!
      i had no idea all that was going on in Australia. I am completely stunned. completely. Thank you so very much for sharing it. keep me posted!!

  8. auntyuta says:

    Here is a link to a blog about immigration by Lew Bornmann which I think might interest you!

    http://lewbornmann.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/illegal-immigration/

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Thanks! I will take a look later this evening 🙂

    • Kate Kresse says:

      @auntyuta: I read it and he has some valid points, no doubt about it. I believe that here in AZ they do not inquire (and are not allowed to by Federal law) about immigration status before providing the state funded Medicaid (which is free medical care for the poor—it is called something like AHCSS here), food stamps, unemployment, etc. They already provide free schooling (through high school—to everyone here)—and i am quite sure that is nationwide. Furthermore, I believe that the us congress is working on a bill providing social security benefits to all future retirees—again, without proving whether or not someone is here legally or illegally. I believe the bill basically said it would be unconstitutional to use immigration status to discriminate against someone in order to prevent them from getting Medicaid or Social Security or unemployment payments. As far as enforcing border security and keeping out illegal drugs—both have been miserable failures here–he is absolutely correct. The entire so-called War on Drugs has been just as much a failure as President Johnson’s (President 1963-1968) War on Poverty. I appreciate you sending the link. He has a lot to say on all kinds of things! Very interesting guy—I will have to check back with his blog again. Thanks! I appreciate his insights—and you for letting me know.

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