Is present U.S. immigration pressure any different from earlier waves?

Inspired by this post by LonesomePolecat, who contends it is, at least in scale and numbers, and therefore threatens to strain our economic and public infrastructure and “swamp the boat.” (In the same thread LP also warns of the danger of “Radically altering the nation’s racial and ethnic demographics with mass immigration,” but the less said of that the better.) In our history American has absorbed several massive waves of immigration – Germans, Irish, Jews, Italians, Poles – and while they often inspired resentment in those who had got here first, and there was some economic and social dislocation, and ethnic crime gangs, and competition for low-wage jobs driving down wages still further, we always managed to adapt and survive. The immigrants’ children became Americans in every sense, they contributed to our economy and society and made our culture richer and spicier. How is what we’re facing now any different?

It’s curious, BTW, that throughout the 19th Century and the early 20th, when immigration to the U.S. was practically unregulated, we got relatively few Mexicans or other Latin Americans.

Are the current immigrants’ children becoming American in every sense? I think if you read my posting history on this subject, you’ll agree that I’m quite liberal when it comes to immigration, but I think your premise that current Hispanic immigration is comparable to previous immigration waves is wrong.

Hispanic children aren’t assimilating into American culture, from what I can see (and I have a pretty good view). My wife teaches kindergarten in a Hispanic neighborhood, and we are pretty well connected with the Hispanic community here in Las Vegas. I live in a Hispanic neighborhood, myself.

Hispanics don’t show much inclination to become part of American culture. As a rule, few first or second generation Hispanics want to be called “American”, but would rather identify with their previous country. Hispanic families have an alarming tendency to under-value (or even be hostile to) their children speaking English. As far as I know, this trend wasn’t present in previous immigration waves.

Keep in mind I’m not making a value judgment here. I don’t have a problem with ethnic groups clinging to an identity separate from the rest of the country, but I don’t think any previous immigrant groups with these kinds of sheer numbers have clung so tightly to an exclusive identity to this degree before.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, most of the immigration from Mexico was seasonal agricultural immigration. People would cross the border, work in the fields, and go back after the crops were in.

Why did they not find the country attractive enough to stay here, I wonder?

Well it so tough crossing the border nowadays that nobody dares go back, for fear they could not get back in next season.

I maintain it only looks like hispanics (whatever that means) are not blending into the US as we always have lots of first-generation people to be afraid of, while the second-generation people blend it.

This post is 100% correct.

This also was a problem with turn of the 20th century immigration. Teddy Roosevelt gave a great speech (part of it here) that spoke specifically about the need for assimilation.

They had wives, kids, and families back in Mexico, and they loved their country. Like Paul in Saudi suggests, a lot of the illegal Mexican immigrants in the US now (who largely come without their families and send money home) would probably do likewise if crossing the border weren’t so dangerous and difficult.

That suggests that the perceived current level of immigration-to-stay pressure from Mexico and the rest of LA is greatly inflated from the real level.

Also, you can in most senses live a much more comfortable life in a village in Mexico on a typical lower-class American job than you can in the US. (“In most senses” in that you probably would have to pay more for high-speed Internet or whatever.)

Various quotations from TR are regularly trotted out by modern Nativists; Snopes has some details. Gosh, my father’s parents got here from East Galway in that same period. I’m told he was proud of being Irish-American, but don’t remember. I do have the flag he wore to his wake–Red, White & Blue. (He was a casualty of the Cold War, after surviving a B-17 crash in The Big One.)

TR had his moments, but was heading downhill fast when he made those pronouncements. They reek of Red Baiting & the xenophobia rampant during WWI. And he was dead wrong.

Houston has quite a few Mexicans, Chicanos & Mexican Americans. But I don’t see the problems that Mosier does. Perhaps Kindergarten is too early to judge someone’s Americanism?

In a 1916 speech quoted in that link, TR speaks of being “free from a taint of neutrality.” Which phrasing sounds either confused, or Orwellian. :confused:

The immigration debate can go on forever…But there is one aspect that I think separates this wave from previous waves: the prevalent use of Spanish in everyday life throughout America.

In America’s many waves of immigration, the newcomers naturally banded together in enclaves, where entire neighborhoods would be non-English speaking. In those locations, life was conducted in a foreign language. But the wider American culture never tried, and never wanted, to be bi-lingual. Italian, Polish, Yiddish, etc. were never as widespread then as Spanish is today.
This was partly due to the sad fact that blatent racism was socially acceptable back then.
But it is also a sign that this wave of immigration is different, and is changing American culture more than previous waves.

He means that, since he’s such a vocal advocate of the US joining the Allies, no one will accuse him of being pro-German because he’s making the comments he’s making today (in which he praises Imperial Germany for the loyalty and social responsibility it promotes in its citizenry).

I think the waves of refugees that came into the U.S. in the 70s and 80s was a much more serious problem. Cubans, Haitians, Vietnamese, and Central Americans came to this country in droves. Before 1980 there was no comprehensive legislation dealing with the admittance of refugees and no aslyum provision in the law. Their sheer numbers made the government essentially throw up its hands and say “We’re not going to bother evaluating each and every person as an immigrant, we’re just going to give them resident status and leave it at that.” Most of these people were fleeing war-torn areas with little or no property, no English language skills, and no job prospects, not to mention the fact that they were arriving in the middle of a recession.

Illegal immigration from Mexico is certainly a problem, but I think there’s more of an adaption to their presence now. They seem to fill several niches in the economy, and there’s so many of them that the language barrier isn’t so big a deal.

But, leaving aside the assimilation question, LonesomePolecat’s point was about unprecedented projected numbers of immigrants:

Are these figures really (1) reliable, (2) unprecedented proportional to the general native population of the U.S., and/or (3) something to worry about?

I don’t think the number of Mexican illegals that could conceivably make their way into the U.S. can be divorced from labor demand. They can’t ALL find jobs here, nor can welfare systems accomodate them all.

I wonder about the future, as the USA ceases to be a manufacturing country. I don’t see the USA economy as capable of providing jobs, excepet for those at the low end (landscaping, dishwashers, simple construction), and at the high end (professional jobs). So, can mass immigration of unskilled populations be tolerated? The other issue is the “underground economy”-can this society handle large numbers of people who do not pay income taxes or SS taxes? I think we have made a bad bargain-by allowing illegal immigration, we are setting ourselves up for a big problem, 10-20 years down the road.

I know your post was meant to be snarky, but you might actually have a valid point. The current wave of Hispanic immigration might be too new to really study in historical terms. There are so many first generation Hispanic immigrants that it’s impossible to get any real data about the “Americanism” of second generation immigrants.

Also, Texas is quite different politically in lots of ways besides immigration. To get a better look at current Hispanic immigrant tendencies you’ll have to look at places like Phoenix, Vegas, Tucson, Los Angeles, which represent a much more cohesive “Hispanic” community. In Texas, I’ll definitely agree with you that Hispanics have a higher tendency to become part of Texan or American culture.

I think this is probably accurate. The real level of immigration “to stay” is probably much lower than the perceived level.

In direct response to the OP, there’s almost no way to know unless you restrict yourself to discussing only the waves of immigration in the 20th century. We didn’t really start counting until the 20th century, and the evidence for the earlier waves is pretty sketchy since we had no formal immigration system.

But as a general thought, I am reminded of the town of Hazelton in Pennsylvania. In response to an increase in illegal immigration and the perceived negative effects, the town implemented a whole host of laws designed to keep illegal immigrants out of the city. But in the lawsuits that followed, it was reveled that the wave of immigration was actually helping the city: because of the economic boon of cheap labor, among other factors, crime was down and city finances were better than ever.

Sadly, perception has a lot more pull than facts in the immigration debate. Demonizing immigrants is an easy political maneuver. The the people most likely to vote against you because of it (immigrants, legal and otherwise) are the ones least likely to vote. So just by simple game theory it is a good strategy.