From Newcomers To Americans: An Integration Policy For A Nation Of Immigrants

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat May 5 13:46:30 UTC 2007


 From Newcomers To Americans: An Integration Policy For A Nation Of
Immigrants *by Tomás R. Jiménez for the Immigration Policy Center
<http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#bio>*

The United States long has been a nation of immigrants, but its policies are
out of step with this reality. Public policies with regard to the
foreign-born must go beyond regulating who is admitted and under what
circumstances. The nation needs an immigrant-integration policy that
effectively addresses the challenges and harnesses the opportunities created
by today's large immigrant population. It is not in the best interests of
the United States to make integration a more difficult, uncertain, or
lengthy process than it need be. Facilitating the successful and rapid
integration of immigrants into U.S. society minimizes conflicts and tensions
between newcomers and the native-born, and enables immigrants to more
quickly secure better jobs, earn higher incomes, and thus more fully
contribute to the U.S. economy.

Among the findings of this report:

   - Today's newcomers are integrating into U.S. society in ways
   reminiscent of immigrants from previous eras, with the children and
   grandchildren of immigrants mastering English, improving their educational
   status, and joining the U.S. workforce.
   - According to the 2000 census, 91.1 percent of the children and
97.0percent of the grandchildren of Mexican immigrants spoke English
well.
   - In 2004, the share of Mexican immigrants without a high-school
   diploma was 58.0 percent, but only 16.9 percent of their children
   lacked a diploma.
   - The federal government must take the lead in facilitating the
   integration of immigrants. But rather than dictate policy, the federal
   government should partner with state and local governments, NGOs, and the
   private sector in carrying out the business of integration.
   - The future prosperity of the United States depends on the success of
   today's newcomers given that immigrants who have arrived in the United
   States since 1960 make up almost one in ten individuals in the country,
   while the children of these immigrants comprise more than 10 percent of the
   total population.
   - An active approach to integration is apparent in U.S. refugee
   policy. refugees to the United States are greeted by an expansive web of
   government agencies and NGOs tasked with facilitating their integration into
   U.S. society.
   - Civic integration of immigrants is essential and must involve
   opportunities to participate in civil society that facilitate trustful
   relationships between immigrant newcomers and all facets of their receiving
   community, especially law enforcement, elected officials, and other civic
   leaders.

*Introduction*

Immigrant integration has become a national issue as millions of America's
newcomers adapt to communities that must in turn adjust to the social,
economic, and political changes resulting from the presence of these
newcomers. Integration is an inevitable process wherein immigrants and the
communities in which they settle mutually adapt to one another. But the
inevitability of integration does not always guarantee positive outcomes.
Integration may follow a path that leads to divisiveness between newcomers
and their receiving communities—a more likely outcome when integration is
left to chance. A sound immigrant-integration policy can facilitate a more
positive, unifying form of integration that benefits immigrants, their
receiving communities, and the nation as a whole.

Political pundits and policymakers have done a good deal of hand-wringing
about integration, but government policies are virtually silent on this
issue. As congress and the white House look to overhaul what most agree is a
broken immigration system, the debate revolves around the laws that govern
who is admitted to the United States and under what circumstances, while
giving at most a symbolic nod to questions of integration. However, the
United States needs much more than an overhaul of its immigration policy.
This nation of immigrants also needs an immigrant policy that takes a more
active role in the integration of newcomers, thereby maximizing the
economic, social, and cultural contributions that immigrants make to the
United States.

*The Need For an Integration Policy*

Comparisons between contemporary and past waves of immigrants often lead to
the conclusion that something is amiss with the way today's immigrants are
integrating. Fears about their lack of integration are largely exaggerated,
however. Though there is variation among groups, today's newcomers appear to
be integrating into U.S. society in ways reminiscent of immigrants from
previous eras, with the second-generation children and third-generation
grandchildren of first-generation immigrants mastering English, improving
their educational status, and joining the U.S.
workforce.[1]<http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_1>

Nearly all the children and grandchildren of immigrants speak English well,
regardless of ethnic origin. For instance, according to the 2000 census,
91.1 percent of the children and 97.0 percent of the grandchildren of
Mexican immigrants spoke English well. Similarly, 93.8 percent of the
children and 98.4 percent of the grandchildren of Salvadoran immigrants
spoke English well in 2000 {Figure 1}.[2]<http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_2>


Patterns in educational attainment also evince intergenerational
improvement. Calculations from the 2004 current Population Survey show, for
example, that the share of Mexican immigrants without a high-school diploma
was 58.0 percent, but only 16.9 percent of their children lacked a diploma
{Figure 2}. Conversely, only 5.7 percent of Mexican immigrants had a college
degree, compared to 14.1 percent of their children {Figure
3.}[3]<http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_3>




In addition, immigrants and their children are hardly idle when it comes to
work. The 2004 current Population Survey shows that adult immigrant men from
canada, Europe, and Australia had the lowest employment rate (83.4 percent),
while those from mexico had the highest (87.3 percent). Immigrants actually
tend to have somewhat higher rates of employment than their children. The
employment rate of second-generation men from canada, Europe, and Australia
was 82.6 percent, while that of second-generation Mexicans was 81.1 percent.
Evidence of intergenerational improvement in employment rates is pronounced
among women. For instance, only 45.3 percent of first-generation Mexican
women were in the labor force, compared to 70.2 percent of their daughters
{Figure 4}.[4] <http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_4>



Mexicans, by far the largest immigrant group at 31 percent of all
foreign-born individuals, often are cited as an exception to these larger
integration trends. But they too appear to be integrating over time, even if
at a slower pace compared to other groups. Sociologist richard Alba finds
that each new generation of Mexican-origin individuals born in the United
States improves on their parents' educational attainment by an average of
2.5 years, though the third generation still lags behind non-Hispanic whites
by 1-1.5 years (the gap is smaller among
women).[5]<http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_5>Similarly, a 2006 study
by RAND corporation economist James P. Smith found
that successive generations of Hispanics have experienced significant
improvements in wages and education relative both to their fathers and
grandfathers and to the native Anglos with whom they competed in the labor
market.[6] <http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_6>

These positive trends belie reactionary "solutions" to the "immigrant
problem." But the big picture also tends to gloss over challenges that both
immigrants and their receiving communities confront on the ground. If left
unaddressed, cultural and linguistic barriers, distrust between immigrants
and receiving populations and institutions, and the economic, political, and
social marginalization of immigrants and their descendents may lead to a
form of integration that results in mistrust and disunity. The United States
simply cannot afford such an outcome. The imperative for adopting a policy
that ensures positive integration becomes clearer when considering the
following factors:

   - *The future prosperity of the United States depends on the success
   of today's newcomers.* Immigrants who have arrived in the United
   States since 1960 make up almost one in ten individuals in the country,
   while the children of these immigrants comprise more than 10 percent of the
   total population. These children of immigrants, with an average age of 17,
   have not yet entered the full-time workforce, but soon will comprise a
   substantial proportion of American
workers.[7]<http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_7>The nation's economic,
political, and social futures thus rest on the
   successful integration of these "immigrant stock" individuals. Indeed, the
   nature of their integration will strongly influence the ability of the
   United States to compete in an increasingly global economy, the health of
   our democracy, the vitality of civic life, and even the well-being of
   native-born families who have lived in the country for generations. Perhaps
   the clearest link between integration and the prosperity of the nation is
   seen in the graying of the native-born population. As massive numbers of
   baby boomers age into retirement, today's second generation is the workforce
   on which aging baby boomers will depend for workers who provide both the
   direct services and the tax base that support programs for the elderly.
   [8] <http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_8>

   The importance of immigrants and their children to the labor force is
   particularly acute in california, the most populous state in the union and a
   state in which 26.2 percent of the population was born abroad.
   Immigrants accounted for 66.9 percent of the growth in california's
   working-age population between 1980 and 2005. Over the next 25 years,
   however, the second generation will account for the majority of this growth,
   at 59.5 percent, and immigrants will account for almost all of the
   remaining growth.[9] <http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_9>

   - *Immigrant integration is a national issue.* Immigration is no
   longer a regional phenomenon concentrated in a few, mostly border states.
   While states like California, Florida, New york, New Jersey, texas, and
   Illinois remain the most popular immigrant destinations, since the early
   1990s immigrants have fanned out to new midwestern and Southern "gateways"
   that previously received few newcomers {Figure 5}.

   The rate of growth of the immigrant population in these new gateway
   states is enormous. All of the top-five immigrant- growth states from 1990
   to 2005 are new gateways, and these states have experienced a rate of growth
   between 3.4 and 4.8 times that of the nation as a whole during this
   period {Figure 6}.[10] <http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_10> The
   national nature of immigration means that communities throughout the country
   share a common set of challenges and opportunities related to immigrant
   integration. The benefits of a national integration policy, therefore, would
   reach into virtually every corner of the national map.




   - *Any overhaul of immigration policy will have significant
   implications for integration.* Despite the failure of the 109th
   congress to pass major immigration-reform legislation, the white House and
   new leadership in congress are expected to try again in the 110th. An
   earned-legalization program for undocumented immigrants now in the United
   States is once again likely to be a centerpiece of any proposed immigration
   overhaul. Many of the unauthorized immigrants whose legal status would
   change under such a program already are experiencing some degree of
   integration. Unauthorized immigrants constitute nearly 5 percent of the
   U.S. labor force and many have children who are U.S. citizens (64
   percent of children living in an unauthorized family are U.S. citizens
   by birth).[11] <http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_11> A change in the
   legal status of undocumented immigrants would more deeply plant their roots
   in the United States, making their positive integration all the more
   necessary.

   The inclusion of a guest-worker program in a larger immigration-
   reform package also has relevance for integration. Even if workers are in
   the country on a temporary basis, some degree of integration will take
   place. Guest workers will live in communities throughout the nation, and the
   way in which receiving communities and guest workers interact with each
   other will determine the success of such a program.

*Past Integration Policies*

In looking ahead to an integration policy for immigrants to the United
States, it is worth examining and learning from past efforts. The nation
historically has taken two broad approaches to immigrant integration. The
first sees a role for policies that actively encourage integration. This
more proactive approach first appeared on a large scale with the
Americanization movement of the 1910s and 1920s. Faced with large numbers of
immigrants arriving primarily from Eastern and Southern Europe, communities
throughout the country engaged in a massive effort to integrate and, in some
instances, forcibly turn immigrants into "Americans." Programs coordinated
by public- and privatesector organizations provided English-language
training, civics classes, and symbolic displays of patriotism—all aimed at
expediting the removal of "old world ways" and the adoption of a singular
American identity.[12] <http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_12>

The ideological underpinnings of the Americanization movement resonate in
many of today's policy initiatives. English-only campaigns at the state and
national levels, efforts to limit immigrants' access to public resources,
and bills that propose tightening citizenship requirements are all
present-day policy cousins of the Americanization movement that aim to
preserve an un-changed ideal of American identity. The problem with this
approach to integration is that it often achieves outcomes that contradict
those which policymakers intend. Americanization-style initiatives become a
significant basis for division. Instead of turning their allegiances towards
an American mainstream, immigrants and their children may begin to turn
their backs on a country that they believe has rejected them. Efforts to
strip immigrants and their children of their ethnic allegiances altogether
can also have deleterious academic and psychological outcomes that further
inhibit positive integration.[13] <http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_13>

A more thoughtful, but equally active approach to integration is apparent in
U.S. refugee policy. Refugees to the United States are greeted by an
expansive web of government agencies and non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) tasked with facilitating their integration into U.S. society.
Established under the refugee Act of 1980, the Office of refugee
resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services heads
refugee integration by providing funds for, "among other benefits and
services, cash and medical assistance, employment preparation and job
placement, skills training, English-language training, social adjustment and
aid for victims of torture."[14]
<http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_14>ORR's efforts appear to be
successful, but the reach of their programs is
limited to the 5 percent of the immigrant population annually admitted as
refugees or asylees. The other 95 percent have no access to assistance aside
from a small amount of funding for Englishlanguage acquisition and some
workforce training provided by a patchwork of programs that together do not
constitute a coherent integration policy.

A second and more predominant approach to immigrant integration involves
virtually no policy intervention. This laissez faire method relies on a
combination of immigrants' remarkable motivation and the ability of the
labor market to provide jobs and incomes that, over time, facilitate the
entrance of newcomers into the American economic, political, and social
mainstream. However, the stakes are too high to rely on a laissez faire
approach. The extent to which the prosperity of the United States depends on
immigrants and their children, the national nature of immigration, and the
sweeping changes that would result from enactment of comprehensive
immigration legislation make an immigrant-integration policy essential.

*Principles of an Immigrant-Integration Policy*

The principles on which a national immigrant-integration policy might be
based can be gleaned from successful local-level integration initiatives in
places like Santa Clara county,
California,[15]<http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_15>and the state of
Illinois,
[16] <http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_16> as well as experimental efforts
spearheaded by a coalition of government agencies and NGOs in Lowell,
massachusetts; Nashville, Tennessee; and Portland,
Oregon.[17]<http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_17>


   - *Integration is a two-way process.* Any integration policy must
   begin from the premise that immigrants influence the communities in which
   they settle as much as these communities influence the immigrants. Programs
   supported by a comprehensive integration policy, therefore, must place
   mutual responsibility for integration on both immigrant newcomers and their
   receiving communities. Accordingly, the aim of a successful integration
   policy is not just to help immigrants find their way in a new land, but also
   to help receiving communities adjust to the economic, political, and social
   shifts that immigration entails.

   - *The federal government must take the lead.* Immigration has long
   been considered a federal policy issue, while integration is largely
   relegated to individuals, local governments, and NGOs. But immigration and
   integration go hand-in-hand, and this division of labor thus makes little
   sense. Integration is a federal responsibility and a federal integration
   policy should function alongside immigration policy. The federal government
   must serve as the "north star" for integration, setting guidelines and goals
   for integration programs implemented at the local level. Rather than dictate
   policy, the federal government should partner with state and local
   governments, NGOs, and the private sector in carrying out the business of
   integration.

   - *Integration takes place at the local level.* An integration policy
   must be spearheaded by the federal government, while allowing for
   flexibility in meeting challenges and opportunities that vary by locale.
   Although the effects of immigrant integration reverberate throughout
   U.S. society, it is at the local level where the proverbial rubber
   meets the road. Because some communities have a long history of immigration,
   they have existing institutional mechanisms that better equip them to carry
   out the business of integration. Other communities, however, have only a
   very recent history of immigration and lack these institutional mechanisms.
   The different immigrant groups that predominate in different locales also
   create an array of challenges and opportunities, requiring flexibility in
   the local implementation of integration programs. For example, minneapolis,
   minnesota, where the immigrant population is dominated by Southeast Asian
   refugees, likely faces a different set of cultural, linguistic, and social
   challenges and opportunities than Dalton county, Georgia, where nearly all
   immigrants are laborers from Latin America.

   - *There are certain aspects of integration that are essential to the
   success of both immigrants and receiving communities.* If there is one
   aspect of integration that is preeminently important, it is English-language
   acquisition. There is little doubt that knowing English dramatically
   facilitates full participation in U.S. society, and an integration
   policy must have English- language acquisition as a centerpiece. Learning
   English does not require immigrants and their children to jettison their
   mother tongue, however. They are more successfully integrated, in fact, when
   they retain their native language while learning
English,[18]<http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_18>and having a
bilingual workforce makes the United States more competitive in
   the global economy. Civic integration of immigrants is essential, but should
   not be relegated to the memorization of basic facts about U.S. history
   and civics. It also must involve opportunities to participate in civil
   society that facilitate trustful relationships between immigrant newcomers
   and all facets of their receiving community, especially law enforcement,
   elected officials, and other civic leaders.

   - *Integration is more than just U.S. citizenship.* U.S. citizenship
   is an essential goal of integration, but integration begins well before an
   immigrant takes the oath of citizenship. An integration policy should aim to
   develop important precursors to citizenship, like English-language
   acquisition, civic participation, and socioeconomic mobility. These
   antecedents provide immigrants with a greater stake in their adopted
   communities and make them more likely to eventually become citizens.
   [19] <http://www.ilw.com/cgi-shl/pr.pl#_19>

   - *Integration requires the cooperation of many different
actors.*Virtually every sector of
   U.S. society has a stake in successful integration, and all actors in
   receiving communities have an important role to play. As refugee
   resettlement programs suggest, integration is most successful when federal,
   state, and local governments along with NGOs and the private sector work in
   collaboration with immigrant newcomers.

------------------------------
*Endnotes*

1 Frank D. Bean & Gillian Stevens, *America's Newcomers and the Dynamics of
Diversity.* New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2003; Alejandro Portes &
Rubén G. Rumbaut, *Immigrant America: A Portrait.* Berkeley & Los Angeles,
CA: University of California Press, 2006, chaps. 7 & 8.

2 Richard Alba, *Language Assimilation Today: Bilingualism Persists More
Than in the Past, But English Still Dominates* (Working paper 111). La
Jolla, CA: Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University of
California-San Diego, November 2004, Table 1 {Calculations based on
5-Percent Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) from the 2000 Census.}

3 Roger Waldinger & Renee Reichl, "Today's Second Generation: Getting Ahead
or Falling Behind?" in Michael Fix, ed., *Securing the Future: U.S.
Immigrant Integration Policy, A Reader.* Washington, DC: Migration Policy
Institute, 2007, p. 29-30.

4 *ibid.*, p. 33.

5 Richard Alba, "Mexican Americans and the American Dream," *Perspectives on
Politics* 4(2), June 2006: 289-296.

6 James P. Smith, "Immigrants and the Labor Market," *Journal of Labor
Economics* 24(2), April 2006: 203-233.

7 Alejandro Portes & Rubén G. Rumbaut, *Immigrant America: A Portrait*,
2006, p. 246-47.

8 Dowell Myers, *Immigrants and Boomers: Forging a New Social Contract for
the Future of America.* New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 2007.

9 Dowell Myers, John Pitkin & Julie Park, *California Demographic Futures:
Projections to 2030, by Immigrant Generations, Nativity, and Time of Arrival
in U.S.* Los Angeles, CA: Population Dynamics Research Group, School of
Policy, Planning, and Development, University of Southern California,
February 2005, p. 18.

10 Author's calculations based on U.S. Decennial Census and 2005 American
Community Survey data compiled by the Migration Policy Institute.

11 Jeffrey S. Passel,* Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant
Population in the U.S.: Estimates Based on the March 2005 Current Population
Survey.* Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, 2006, p. 8-9.

12 John Higham, *Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American
Nativism,*1860-1925. New York, NY: Atheneum, 1963 [1955], chap. 9.

13 Alejandro Portes & Rubén G. Rumbaut, *Legacies: The Story of the
Immigrant Second Generation.* Berkeley & Los Angeles, CA: University of
California Press, 2001, chaps. 6-9.

14 Office of Refugee Resettlement, "Eligibility for Refugee Assistance and
Services through the Office of Refugee Resettlement,"
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/geninfo/index.htm.<http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/geninfo/index.htm>

15 See ImmigrantInfo.org, sponsored by the Santa Clara County Office of
Human Relations and IRIS (Immigrant Relations and Integration Services),
http://www.immigrantinfo.org. <http://www.immigrantinfo.org/>

16 See immigrantIntegration.org, website of the New Americans Executive
Order of the state of Illinois,
http://www.immigrantintegration.org.<http://www.immigrantintegration.org/>

17 The Building the New American Community Initiative, which included the
Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Migration Policy Institute, the National
Conference of State Legislatures, the National Immigration Forum, the
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), and the Urban Institute. See
www.migrationpolicy.org/news/2004_12_9.php for more information.

18 Alejandro Portes & Rubén G. Rumbaut, *Legacies: The Story of the
Immigrant Second Generation*, 2001, chap. 6.

19 Irene Bloemraad, *Becoming a Citizen: Incorporating Immigrants and
Refugees in the United States and Canada*. Berkeley & Los Angeles, CA:
University of California Press, 2006.

*Copyright: The material above was originally produced by the American
Immigration Law Foundation. Reproduced with Permission. *

------------------------------
About The Author

*Tomás R. Jiménez <http://www.ccis-ucsd.org/>* is an Assistant Professor of
Sociology and a Visiting research Fellow at the Center for Comparative
Immigration Studies at the University of California-San Diego.


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