People often ask why today’s immigrants don’t assimilate to their new country as quickly as previous waves of immigrants. But this is yet another misconception when it comes to immigration.
Immigrant integration today is stronger than ever, as evidenced by numerous studies of language acquisition, naturalization rates, and home ownership.
Immigrants know that the key to success in this country is speaking English. That’s why so many immigrants learn English, and why English becomes the dominant language among their children and grandchildren.
More and more immigrants are also becoming U.S. citizens. The number of naturalizations has grown from an average of 120,000 per year in the 1950s and 1960s to 680,000 per year between 2000 and 2009. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, 694,193 immigrants were naturalized, while roughly 760,000 applied for naturalization.
Also contrary to popular belief, today’s immigrants are more diverse than ever. Less than one-third (29%) of immigrants in the U.S. are from Mexico. Another 28% are from Asia, with 24% coming from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean other than Mexico. A further 12% come from Europe and 4% come from Africa.
Finally, opponents of immigration reform often note that providing citizenship to anyone born in the United States has been an issue. Referred to in a negative sense as “anchor babies,” immigrants blame these citizens and their parents for many of the issues facing our country today.
However, eliminating birthright citizenship would mean tampering with the Fourteenth Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War to ensure that anyone born in the United States was a U.S. citizen, without regard to race or ethnicity. Attempting to pass a law that changed the rules of the game for children of undocumented immigrants would be unconstitutional, impractical, expensive, and complicated.
And it would do nothing to stop undocumented immigration. It would impose a significant burden on all Americans who would no longer have an easy and inexpensive way to prove their citizenship. All American parents—not just immigrants—would have to prove the citizenship of their children through a cumbersome process. Since children born to undocumented immigrants would then be presumed to be undocumented themselves, the size of the undocumented population would actually increase as a result of the new policy.
To sum up, immigration reform is a complex issue with many moving parts. There has been a lot of skepticism from opponents of immigration reform as to why we need to fix the system and if reform would even do anything.
Hopefully this series answered your questions and has made it clear why we need immigration reform now.