Mex­i­cans, Cen­tral Amer­i­cans slower to as­sim­i­late in U.S.

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Im­mi­grants over­all do rather well at as­sim­i­lat­ing into the U.S., but there are ma­jor dif­fer­ences — par­tic­u­larly for poor Mex­i­can and Cen­tral Amer­i­can im­mi­grants, whose fam­i­lies lag be­hind the kind of in­te­gra­tion the U.S. has prided it­self on for decades, the Na­tional Academies of Sciences, En­gi­neer­ing and Medicine said in a re­port Mon­day.

Im­mi­grants are health­ier than the na­tive­born, have longer life-ex­pectan­cies, and have lower crime rates, the aca­demics con­cluded. And more than a quar­ter of im­mi­grants have a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion, giv­ing them a head start, and their chil­dren “do ex­cep­tion­ally well” in in­te­grat­ing.

But Mex­i­cans and Cen­tral Amer­i­cans av­er­age less than 10 years of school­ing, and while their chil­dren end up bet­ter-off than the par­ents, they still re­main be­hind the na­tive-born, sug­gest­ing a per­sis­tent prob­lem with as­sim­i­la­tion.

Black im­mi­grants’ chil­dren also have prob­lems in­te­grat­ing, the re­port said, cit­ing lower work em­ploy­ment and a “trou­bling” rise in poverty lev­els com­pared to their par­ents.

Most im­mi­grants are also learn­ing English at about the same rate as pre­vi­ous waves — but that’s not true for Span­ish-speak­ing mi­grants, who “ap­pear to be ac­quir­ing English and los­ing Span­ish more slowly than other im­mi­grant groups,” the aca­demics said. And 1 in 11 stu­dents in pri­mary and sec­ondary school­ing is get­ting re­me­dial English help.

And even though the U.S. grants birthright cit­i­zen­ship — a rar­ity among ma­jor economies — im­mi­grants here lag be­hind other coun­tries in earn­ing cit­i­zen­ship. The aca­demics said just 50 per­cent of im­mi­grants who’ve been in the U.S. 10 years or more have be­come cit­i­zens, and even ex­clud­ing illegal im­mi­grants the rate is still “well be­low” Aus­tralia, Canada and ma­jor Euro­pean coun­tries.

The aca­demics were stumped as to the rea­sons.

“Mod­er­ate lev­els of nat­u­ral­iza­tion in the United States ap­pear to stem not from im­mi­grants’ lack of in­ter­est or even pri­mar­ily from the bu­reau­cratic process of ap­ply­ing for cit­i­zen­ship but from some­where in the process by which in­di­vid­u­als trans­late their mo­ti­va­tion to nat­u­ral­ize into ac­tion,” the re­searchers said. “Fur­ther re­search is needed to clearly iden­tify the bar­ri­ers to nat­u­ral­iza­tion.”

The 442-page re­port was funded in part by gov­ern­ment grants, and was edited by Mary C. Wa­ters and Marisa Gerstein Pineau.

It comes at a time when immigration is a hot po­lit­i­cal topic, and has be­come en­meshed with the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Repub­li­can can­di­dates have called for a get-tough ap­proach to illegal immigration and some have pro­posed lim­it­ing le­gal immigration as well, ar­gu­ing it is hav­ing an ad­verse ef­fect on na­tive-born work­ers.

Democrats, mean­while, have pro­posed more le­nient poli­cies in­clud­ing halt­ing de­por­ta­tions and le­gal­iz­ing most illegal im­mi­grants.

Pres­i­dent Obama over­saw a ma­jor spike in de­por­ta­tions through 2012, but has since cut the num­ber nearly in half, and has carved most rank-and-file illegal im­mi­grants — those that have been in the U.S. for a cou­ple of years or more and have kept rel­a­tively free of tan­gles with the law — out from any dan­ger of de­por­ta­tion.

But the legacy of those record de­por­ta­tions re­mains, and the Ur­ban In­sti­tute and Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute, in two new re­ports Mon­day, said de­por­ta­tions are tak­ing a toll on U.S.-citizen chil­dren whose par­ents are de­tained and even­tu­ally kicked out of the coun­try.

The two think tanks said illegal im­mi­grant par­ents have about 5.3 mil­lion chil­dren liv­ing with them in the U.S., and 85 per­cent of those are cit­i­zens, mean­ing they ben­e­fited from the birthright cit­i­zen­ship pol­icy.

And that very pol­icy serves as an en­tice­ment for illegal immigration, the think tanks said, find­ing that par­ents who are de­ported usu­ally leave their chil­dren here, and try to sneak back into the U.S. il­le­gally to be with them and their spouses, rather than take the chil­dren back home with them.

“Most fam­i­lies chose to stay in the United States af­ter a par­ent, typ­i­cally the fa­ther, was de­ported. The loss of the fa­ther, of­ten the bread­win­ner, caused sub­stan­tial fi­nan­cial hard­ship,” the think tanks con­cluded.

The Na­tional Academies re­searches said the cur­rent level of illegal im­mi­grants in the U.S. is “un­prece­dented” — chiefly be­cause dur­ing the last ma­jor wave of im­mi­grants, at the turn of the 20th cen­tury, there were few le­gal bar­ri­ers so al­most all im­mi­grants were le­gal.

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