Thursday, March 30, 2006

Turning Immigrants Into Americans

A couple of years ago my parents returned from an extended tour doing volunteer work in my father’s native country. After walking into their home, my dad sat down on his couch and said, “It’s good to be back home in America.” I remarked that I thought he had just returned from his ‘home.’ He replied that me might have been born and raised elsewhere, but that he was an American and that America was his home.

Peggy Noonan cuts through all of the economic and policy debate to strike directly at the roots of our country’s immigration problems in this insightful essay. I wish every American adult would read it. Noonan causes the reader to ponder what it means to be an American, and indeed, what the United States of America means.

Noonan asserts that our methodology of assimilating immigrants has changed since the Ellis Island days. Back then immigrants became Americans in their hearts. That is, they subscribed to and internalized the principles that make our country great. Of course, you have to believe in American exceptionalism for this to be meaningful. You have to believe that this country is a special place because of our heritage of liberty. Noonan explores this. She says that we do fine assimilating immigrants culturally and even economically, but that nowadays we do lousy at assimilating immigrants patriotically.
“Because we do not communicate to our immigrants, legal and illegal, that they have joined something special, some of them, understandably, get the impression they've joined not a great enterprise but a big box store. A big box store on the highway where you can get anything cheap. It's a good place. But it has no legends, no meaning, and it imparts no spirit.”
My father was already an American in his heart when I was born. How many of our more recent immigrants (legal or illegal) are Americans on the inside? What would we need to do to do this the right way? Do any of the immigration reform plans being presented today even address this issue? This is really deeper and more important than what I hear coming out of the halls of Congress.


Anonymous said...

I think that the lack of a change of heart is evident in the flags that they are carrying. It is NOT the American flag. What a shame.

That One Guy said...

They aren't even joining a big-box store, they're looting. Their reasons for coming here aren't patriotic, they're economical. Period. They don't want to be "Americans", they want what the Americans HAVE. And they'll (obviously)do anything to get it. It's not about what they can add to Americanism, it's what America can GIVE them. As additional information regarding the essay from the WSJ, here is another: