Recently I was stumped by a foreign visitor. When asked where they would like to eat, they said, let’s go to an American restaurant. An American restaurant? Do you want to do Italian, Thai, Chinese, French? Maybe Vietnamese or even Nepalese? But American? What’s that?
We are a land of immigrants and always have been. Other than Native Americans, we all come from someplace else. And it has been pretty standard that the most recent immigrants come in for a lot of criticism if not outright discrimination.
The recent comments by real estate mogul and Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, bears this out: “When Mexico sends its people they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people who have a lot of problems… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., the overwhelming majority are from Latin America. The Washington Post fact checked Trump’s comments and could find no evidence that immigrants, legal or illegal, committed more crimes than native-born Americans.
The Economist did an interesting piece on immigrants in February. It noted that the largest immigrant group in the U.S. is German Americans (46 million Americans claim German ancestry), more than Mexican Americans or Irish Americans or English Americans. And as you can see from the map below, states from Pennsylvania all the way across the Northern tier of America are dominated by German Americans.
But this group did not escape the immigrant curse. Germans suffered discrimination in the mid to late 19th century and especially around World War I when the teaching of German was banned and many German Americans Anglicized their names for protection.
Immigrants have been a big part of Amerca’s success. Yes, when they first arrive they may live in enclaves, speak only their native language and seem to use a disproportionate amount of government services, but assimilation comes, and often comes quickly. Today, it is estimated that 97% of German Americans speak only English at home. Assimilation will happen with the most recent immigrants be they from South America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, wherever. Get over it, we are all from someplace else and we are a better country for it.