Would the Germans learn to speak English? Could Roman Catholic Irish and Italians be loyal to America? Were the Jews and Chinese so different that they could never be Americans?
Millions of Hispanics migrated to the United States over the past 50 years. The big question, as always, is will they assimilate and thrive as other groups have?
There are some big differences between past and present immigrant groups. However, experts say the similarities are strong. There is every reason to believe Latinos will fit into the tradition.
The biggest difference is that so many Latino immigrants live in this country without legal status. Also new is that, in the age of the Internet, staying in contact with the homeland is easy.
Most Latino immigrants came to the United States poor and ill-educated. In many ways they were different from native-born Americans. But the children of immigrants became richer and better educated than their parents. They speak English. All signs are that the grandchildren are even more American.
An expert said, “Fears about immigrants have been voiced many times in American history. They have never proven true. It does not happen right away. But everything with Latinos points to a very typical pattern of integration in American life in a generation or two.”
- The median income of Latino immigrant households is $24,000 less than all households; the median income of the second generation is only $10,000 less.
- Only 7 percent of Latino immigrants marry someone of a different ethnicity. About 26 percent of the second generation does.
- For decades the average Latino immigrant completed little more than junior-high school. Today, their children finish high school and attend almost one year of college. Grandchildren are doing even better.
There are special challenges facing undocumented migrants. It is more difficult for them to get jobs, change jobs and demand more money and benefits on the job. New immigration laws, if they pass, will take a long time to work. However, the long-term future for present and future immigrants is much brighter.
There is every reason to think Latino immigrants and their future generations will fit into the traditional American pattern.