Immigrant assimilation


In the early 20th century, U.S immigrants were expected to assimilate faster into the mainstream of the America since it was easier for the immigrants to blend into the American culture for them to be easily accepted by the Protestants of the white Anglo-Saxon. Ethnic groups were encouraged to do away with their languages, religious practices, their norms, their values, their customs extra. This is because the Protestants believed that it was not possible for immigrants coming from the same ethnic group to easily assimilate into the dominating society while still believing in their way of living and surviving. Assimilation meant that the immigrant had to do it willingly as well as be able to conform and let go of their ethnic and cultural foundation.

Peter Salins argue that immigrants would only be considered full members of the American family once they agree to follow three simple precepts like; immigrants were expected to accept the national language to be English, immigrants were expected to live their life according to the Protestant work ethic that is to be self-reliant and hardworking, and finally immigrants were expected to be proud of their new American identity as well as believe in the principles of egalitarian and the liberal democracy of the America.

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With these three points, Salins was apparently opposed to the designation of English as the official American language. As much as he never elaborates his point of English language, Salins seemed to have had more in mind than just the percent of immigrants having to learn to speak English which is a focus for most Americans. Perhaps he understood that a person could speak English and nevertheless remain attached emotionally to their second language. Therefore from the several pieces of evidence, it is almost clear that an immigrant acquiring English language will not necessarily give the expected positive outcomes hence the resistance to assimilation.

As for the second percept of Salins about Protestant work ethic involving self-reliance, rectitude of morals and hardworking, there is some evidence where immigrants did adopt it. For instance, immigrants from Korea, Japan, and China enter U.S with low wages, but over time they reach the parity with those born natively whereas immigrants from Mexico enter U.S with relatively low wages but they experience a wage gap persistently compared to those born natively even with the difference in education. It is not clear as to why immigrants from Mexico experience a gap persistence.  Therefore, there is no known reason why Mexican immigrant does fare worse compared to others hence the reason for resistance to assimilation.

Lastly, Salins percept on taking pride in the American identity and having a belief in America’s liberal democratic as well as values of egalitarian is evidently has proven difficult for any immigrant satisfaction where the problem was not with the immigrants but rather with the perception of the Americans born natively. With Salins three precepts, three overarching points regarding assimilation arises that ;( a) assimilation is a multidimensional subject, assimilation is not irreversible, and lastly assimilation is mostly associated with conflicts that are tension-fraught as well as competition.

The current America is believed to be a nation with no ethnicity. Before 20th century America was a state with the political mentality, language, and ethnicity that was definite. Americans spoke English, and they believed democratic government virtues. Therefore, all Americans cannot fit the mold and even if they did fit it is not guaranteed that their children would inevitably. One of the reason against immigrant’s resistance for assimilation is that multiculturalists would greatly discourage American immigrants from knowing the aspect of savoir-faire which would allow them to become happy successfully, and true Americans.

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  1. Senad, Agic(2004). Immigration & Assimilation. Ohio & Michigan, U.S.A: Wyndham Hall Press.
  2. Shaw-Taylor, Yoku(2011). Immigration, Assimilation and Border Security. London, United Kingdom: Government Institutes Publisher.
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