October 26, 2007
Written by C.N.
This particular post focuses specifically on Latino immigrants, but I think the main points can also be applied to Asian immigrants as well.
Many opponents of immigration (legal or illegal) like to argue that immigrants (Latino, Asian, or otherwise) are less likely to think of themselves as American, are not interested in assimilating into American culture, and would rather go back to their birth country than stay in the U.S.
However, a new study on Latino immigrants by the respected non-partisan Pew Research Center suggests a different picture — most Latino immigrants want to be as American as anybody else:
Only one-in-ten (9%) of all Latino immigrants send remittances, make phone calls at least once a week and have traveled back to their country of origin in the past two years. Meanwhile, nearly three-in-ten (28%) do not engage in any of these activities. . . .
The share making trips in the recent past is higher among immigrants with long tenure than among the recent arrivals. Acquiring U.S. citizenship, which is more common among those with more years of residence, is associated with higher levels of recent travel. . . .
Two-thirds of Latino immigrants (66%) say they plan to stay in the U.S. for good, but this intention varies significantly depending on how long an individual has been in this country. Among those here for fewer than 10 years, 51% say they plan to stay, a view shared by 85% of those who have already been here more than 30 years.
To summarize, while many might expect virtually all Latino immigrants to have deep levels of attachment to their birth countries, a significant number of them (28%) do not engage in any of the three identified “attachment” behaviors at all. Also, the longer a Latino immigrant lives in the U.S. or if s/he has U.S. citizenship, the more likely s/he is to travel back and forth between the U.S. and his/her birth country, again contrary to conventional expectations. And even among recent immigrants, more than half plan to stay permanently in the U.S.
The take-home message from this study seems to be: in contrast to criticisms that they aren’t interested in assimilating, overwhelmingly, Latino immigrants (legal and illegal) want to become Americans. Like I said, I am pretty sure the same can be said of Asian immigrants as well.
With that in mind, their critics can still argue over whether they — particularly those who are here illegally — should be allowed to become American citizens, but their argument that Latino immigrants themselves don’t want to become Americans now appears to be significantly weakened.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Latino Immigrant Attachment to U.S." Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/10/latino-immigrant-attachment-to-us/> ().
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