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In a new poll by Rasmussen Reports, 32% of likely voters polled expressed anger over “illegal immigration” whereas 39% said it was just another one of the issues.
However, only 12% of people blamed immigrants for coming here–an overwhelming 83% held the federal government responsible for inaction and being lobbied by ‘special interest groups.’ It is indeed true that the federal government is unlikely to make any new immigration laws until after elections–increasing border control, passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Agjobs and the DREAM Act–are issues that the government would much rather ignore than tackle effectively.
Survey questions revealed that 43% of Americans thought that the government allowed immigrants to retain the culture of their home country while 32% thought the government encouraged them to fully embrace American culture with 26% unsure. It is unclear whether this issue contributed to voter anger and dissatisfaction.
How can ‘illegal immigrants’ be encouraged to assimilate into American culture? The obvious answer is to stop driving them underground and encourage them to become a part of American society. And yet, the expectations of the American public with regards to assimilation disregard history and the processes of cultural change. A first generation of immigrants hardly assimilate or integrate, even though studies suggest that they are assimilating and integrating in larger numbers than the first wave of European immigrants in American. It is usually the second-generation that adopts American culture much more readily than the first.
Americans want immigrants to adopt American culture–and there is nothing wrong with that desire. However, cultural change is a process and not something that should be ‘forced’ upon people. In itself, culture is also not a fixed immutable object–it is open to change, much like American culture that is an amalgamation of immigrants from many walks of life and continues to change.
There are studies that suggest the harmful side-effects of ‘assimilation’ — adopting American habits and behaviours, especialy diet, is particularly degrading for immigrant health according to a Smith College-led study.
“Simply put: the longer an immigrant lives in the U.S., the heavier that immigrant becomes. Scholars theorize this weight gain as due, in part, to acculturation, the adoption of U.S. diet and physical activity habits,” said Park. “Although in the popular imagination, acculturation is thought to be a positive factor for immigrants, in many arenas of health, acculturation has been shown to have a negative effect.”
Surely, we must be welcoming towards immigrants and encourage everyone to speak English. But there is no harm in learning foreign languages and eating healthier foods–it wouldn’t make us less American or threaten our sovereignty. After all, we are a nation of immigrants and adopting parts of other cultures into our own is ultimately very American.