US Immigration and Assimilation

How important is assimilation in the process of US immigration? Today one of the main issues involving US immigrants is the matter of cultural diversity. It’s become an issue in part because the majority of immigrants are now from non-Anglo regions in the world like South America, Asia, and Africa. Facts and figures from early US immigration show that long-term assimilation happened over time. This provided several economic benefits of the immigrant’s children in terms of their school and labor market.

During the 2016 US presidential campaign Trump proposed the construction of a US/Mexico border and argued that Mexicans immigrants were likely to commit serious crimes. Then after terrorist attacks in cities like Paris and Orlando Trump called for a Muslim ban. He stated that there was no assimilation among second/third generation Muslims to the US.

Studies show that voters’ attitudes are greatly affected by worries about the issue of cultural diversity instead of their own economic situation, and whether or not they would benefit from in-migration.

It’s interesting that the anti-immigration US politics from a century ago was similar in that it argued that immigration was resulting immigrants who don’t assimilate well and would have a negative effect on the US labor market. The comments were made by Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge in 1891.

During the early 1900s, 15% of the total US population was born in foreign countries. However, the US border was open to almost all immigration except for Japanese and Chinese immigrants.

There was a group of anti-immigration politicians who argued that the US should close its border. They argued that immigrants were unable to assimilate. In 1921 very strict quotas for immigration were passed after the US President vetoed it.

However, it’s important to point out that there doesn’t seem to be any evidence about how fast certain immigrant groups assimilate culturally into US society. In the past, new immigrants traveled to the US from Southern/Eastern Europe to join earlier groups from England, Ireland, and Germany. Today’s immigrants from regions like Latin America and Asia are making the country even more diverse.

In the Age of Mass Migration of the years 1850 to 1913, the 30 million migrants relocated from the continent of Europe to the US. The names of the children are a good sign of how fast the families assimilated in the US. The study shows that newer immigrants named their kids with foreign names than long-term immigrants. This shows that assimilation is related to the amount of time in the US.

There are some immigrants who arrive in the US with a strong hope of assimilating in US culture. However, they might be uncertain about how they can do that. For example, they might not know which names are popular in the US. However, others might begin with a strong cultural identity but it weakens over time.

The shift from foreign names over time lived in the US could be driven by a mix of learning about American culture, deciding to remain in the US, and a hope to integrate more in US society.