The Corner

Our Broken System of Assimilation

Although an Op-Ed in today’s New York Times by liberal immigration researchers Marcelo and Carola Suarez-Orozco, “Immigrant Kids, Adrift,” comes from a very different perspective than the important new study by John Fonte and Althea Nagai, “America’s Patriotic Assimilation System is Broken,” their conclusions are remarkably similar. Like Fonte and Nagai, the Suarez-Orozcos argue that America is not successfully assimilating new immigrants.

I’ve already argued that the Tsarnaev brothers are an extreme example of this larger social problem of failed assimilation, and the Suarez-Orozcos emphasize that the Tsarnaevs reflect the very same problems of assimilation they encountered in their study.

According to the Suarez-Orozcos, in too many cases, the tough urban schools attended by immigrant students had “no sense of common purpose, but rather a student body divided by race and ethnicity.” For the Suarez-Orozcos, the solution is increased focus by educators on “students distinct needs” and the cultivation of “authentic connections” with immigrant families by school personnel.

With respect, this is pie in the sky. The solution for schools riven by racial and ethnic divisions and a lack of common purpose is an affirmation of the shared American identity that used to unite this country. Confidence in our American heritage and the principles of our founding is the key to assimilation, not more catering to “difference.”

The breakthrough here is that even the New York Times and liberal immigration researchers are confirming the basic analysis of conservative scholars like Fonte and Nagai. Our assimilation system is broken. Until it’s fixed – not with more social work, but by an end to government-backed multiculturalism and bilingualism – we shouldn’t be creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. If anything, we need to rethink our policy on political refugees. Massively expanding our population of immigrants when researchers on the left and the right agree that we are failing at assimilation makes no sense.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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