National Review Online

Patriotic Integration

Senior Fellow and Director, Center for American Common Culture

Within the next day or two, the U.S. Senate will pass a 1,100-page immigration bill that weakens border security, provides amnesty to 11–12 million illegal immigrants, and doubles low-skilled immigration while making no serious provisions for promoting the patriotic integration of immigrants. In fact, the concept of patriotic integration has disappeared from the vocabulary of immigration "reform."

Interestingly, the flawed Senate immigration bills of 2006 and 2007 did contain a section that explicitly called for the "patriotic integration" of immigrants. It made La Raza nervous, as the Washington Times reported at the time: In an internal e-mail, La Raza's director of immigration policy wrote that a patriotic-integration amendment offered by Senator Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) was "very problematic" because, "while it doesn't overtly mention assimilation, it is very strong on the patriotism and traditional american [sic] values language in a way which is potentially dangerous to our communities."

So what was in Alexander's language that was so "dangerous to our communities" then and, apparently, to the Gang of Eight today? Alexander's "patriotic integration" proposals were incorporated into both the 2006 and 2007 immigration bills. They called for the "patriotic integration of prospective citizens into the American way of life by providing civics, history, and English . . .  with a special emphasis on attachment to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, the heroes of American history (including military heroes) and the meaning of the Oath of Allegiance." (Disclosure: I advised Alexander's staff at the time.)

Six years later, La Raza has no need to worry. That "patriotism and American values language" is nowhere to be found in the bill. It does call for funding that the DHS would allocate ostensibly for "integration," though not "patriotic integration," as in the 2006 and 2007 bills. According to Politico, a group of conservative supporters of the Gang of Eight (including Alfonso Aguilar and Al Cardenas, among others) were concerned about the absence of patriotic-assimilation provisions in the bill and held a closed-door meeting with Senator Rubio. Niger Innis of TheTeaParty.Net, who was also invited to the meeting, complained that it was "problematic" that patriotic assimilation was "not being discussed." Innis also thought that federal funds designated for promoting integration would be funneled mainly to leftist community-organizing groups.

However, nothing tangible emerged from the meeting. The Florida senator gave his putative allies the cold shoulder. In response to criticism that federal funding would favor leftist groups, Rubio's spokesman said (apparently with a straight face) that he would encourage conservative organizations "to apply for the grants as well" — as if Obama-Napolitano's DHS will choose to fund conservative groups that are in grant competition with La Raza, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, or the Council on American Islamic Relations. Unlike the 2007 legislation, which limited "advocacy," Schumer-Rubio explicitly gives preference to groups with "advocacy" experience.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) blithely dismissed concerns about assimilation, declaring that "we never really had a problem" and "these young DREAM Act kids, they don't need any assimilation lessons from me." Of course, any serious student of American immigration knows that there are always "problems." Ellis Island immigrants eventually achieved assimilation, but only after decades of sustained Americanization initiatives and the immigration cutoff of the 1920s.

In a recent analysis of Harris Interactive survey data (the survey was commissioned by the Bradley Foundation project on American Identity), social scientist Althea Nagai and I show that the traditional patriotic-assimilation system is broken: Immigrant citizens are much less attached to American identity and patriotism than are native-born citizens.

This is not the fault of the recent immigrants but the result, at least in part, of federal programs that promote multiculturalism and bilingualism among immigrants and ethnic- and racial-group preferences among American institutions. The type of "assimilation" or "integration" that is occurring today is "assimilation" into a legal regime of multiculturalism. This new style of "assimilation" places the immigrant into the ethnic-racial "diversity" box. The immigrant is taught that he or she is not primarily an individual American citizen but the member of a particular group defined by ethnicity, race, language, or gender. It elevates the pluribus over the unum.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate bill will double (predominantly low-skilled) immigration and lower wages for many Americans, thereby exacerbating the conflict between individual rights and group rights. This conflict is inherent in struggles over ethnic-group preferences, coercive "diversity" programs, affirmative action, and "disparate impact" litigation. Schumer-Rubio-Corker-Hoeven would greatly expand the ranks of the "protected classes"—that is, of "victims" needing "services."

To a much greater extent than the old McCain-Kennedy bills of 2006 and 2007, the 2013 proposal serves the interests of today's ruling elites. It provides an endless supply of cheap labor for corporations and millions of new "clients" for social-service professionals in the powerful and coercive diversity industry in government (at the federal, state, and local levels) and in corporations, education, and the media. What it does not serve are the interests of the American middle class, the working class, and our nation as a whole. The old Alexander "patriotic integration" language of 2006–07 has no place in the monstrosity that the Senate is about to pass.