Why Immigration Doesn’t Work Like It Used To

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Mon, Aug 10 - 9:00 am EST | 3 years ago by
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Never looking back again,
They’re coming to America
~ Neil Diamond, America1

Lines of Departure - Immigration

Go listen to the song I footnoted and watch the video.

Done? Good. Now reflect a little. Those are us, those unwashed faces on Ellis Island. They’re our ancestors. Oh, some came over before or after, while some – some of my people, matter of fact – were “Northern Wetbacks,” who came over the Saint Lawrence. Some landed at different ports, Boston, for example. Some came from further south. Some crossed the border and a few, a lot fewer than is politically correct to insist upon, the border, itself, crossed.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s an Indian (feather, not dot) out there without some admixture of settler/immigrant. Still, barring that possibility, those people are, again, us.

If the song tugs a little at the heartstrings, don’t feel bad. It’s perfectly natural. Indeed, a good part of what we are, and – just as important – what we think we are and what we want to be, revolves around the idea that people still want to join us, to become one of us. If you want to feel that tug, deep in your bones, deep in your heart, I suggest going to a naturalization ceremony sometime. They are simple and very, very moving. The faces there, the yearning to become one of us written plain upon them, reinforces our sense of worth. You may think, if you go, “Well, maybe we haven’t lost it yet, our quite probably divine mandate, if these folks are so eager to join us.”

I suspect that, over and above the Democratic Party’s earnest desire to create a new and unassimilable underclass to exploit for short term political gain, beyond some on the far left’s desire to fracture us, the quicker to ruin us, and even further than the will of the despicable, denationalized, and greedy capitalist class toward ever more money and power, it’s that deep tug, that subtle knowledge of where we came from, plus the desire for reinforcement of our sense of self-worth as a people, that keeps us from dealing with the problem of illegal immigration and the growing presence of unassimilated immigrants. Often enough, it keeps us from even admitting that there is a problem now or a worse one coming in the future.


There’s a saying, often attributed to Albert Einstein, that “insanity consists of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Doesn’t matter who said it since, as far as it goes, it’s got a good deal of truth to it. But, as I’ve said in another context2, there’s another kind of insanity, the kind that insists on doing everything – at least everything important – differently, but that still expects the same result. There’s perhaps no clearer instance of this than the insistence that, because massive immigration worked well for us before, it must continue to, even if the sole similarity between what was and is lies in the word, “immigration.”

This is not to say that everyone who refuses to admit how things have changed is insane, mind you, some are just dishonest: Note, once again, those aforementioned Democrats, Leftists, and Capitalists. Perhaps a number are stupid, as well. But to hell with those, this column is for you, Bright Reader, and for you to use to explain the changes to the reasonably intelligent but perhaps misled or misinformed people around you.


The differences from older times, the differences that make current immigration different from past immigration, are many. I cannot hope to cover them all. Here’s a non-exclusive list of some of the big ones.

1. By and large, former immigrants had to break close and continuing ties with the old country. Oh, they might write and receive letters, and the odd photo, of course, but going back and forth was usually out of the question. This tended to drive assimilation to the United States by breaking or, at least, weakening ties with the old country.

Conversely, Latins, indeed most immigrants, do not have that kind of break anymore. Transportation is easier, cheaper, and much safer. Long distance communication is cheap and reliable.

2. While there were definite waves of immigration, as a general rule, there was no lasting majority language among all immigrants within the US, until they learned English. This tended to encourage people learning English, at least in the younger or second generations. There were a fair number of ethnic newspapers, some written in Yiddish, for example, and some even survive today. On the whole, though, they were marginally effective at keeping assimilation at bay. Movies and radio or television were in English.3

Today, the majority immigrant language is Spanish. Books in Spanish are widely available. Univision and Telemundo ensure that one need not understand English for entertainment or news.

3. Ethnic neighborhoods sprang up, but they were not so large as to be more or less completely self-contained and self-sufficient. Contact with the English-speaking outside world was needed. One might think of those ethnic enclaves as temporary halfway houses, easing the entry into mainstream America.

On the other hand, in, say, Miami, English is the second language, with about two-thirds of the population being native or home Spanish speakers. To get by in Miami, Spanish is the language one needs, and English is rather optional.

4. We used to have a massive infrastructure devoted to turning the school-aged children of immigrants and immigrants themselves into Americans. Because the schools would not have a majority tongue, English would become the lingua franca, thus encouraging Tony, the Italian kid who was interested in Katarina, the Slovak girl, to learn English so he could talk to her. (Oh, and vice versa, I am sure.)

My wife, then a recent immigrant from Panama (we were already married), along with lessons at Berlitz, after hours, attended the last trace of this formerly gigantic infrastructure left in Boston, and perhaps on the East Coast, called the “English Language Center.” This was in 1979 and 1980. There is still a school by that name there, in Boston, but it is not, as the former ELC was, public. I believe that last trace is now gone.

The ELC operated pretty much as I described. The kids, who ranged up to their late teens, had no majority language. Thus, to talk with each other, they had to learn English. But the Center taught more than just the language. Its mandate included passing on the history and the myths, the outlooks and the values, of the United States, the better to turn the kids into Americans.

Try that now and the politician or educator responsible would probably be vilified as a racist, deemed a genocide, deprived of employment, driven from public life, and ruined.

5. We did not, in that lost past, have such a large and influential crew seemingly determined on wrecking the United States as it is and substituting their social and socialist (oh, and social justice) fantasies in place of it. Yes, those would be the people behind ruining that politician or educator, mentioned above.

6. We used to have the self-confidence, maybe even arrogance, to do all that. We could accept massive immigration safely because of it. That’s gone, undermined by at least two of the three guilty parties I indicted above. It would be amusing were it not so tragic; the people who most want massive immigration are also those who have made it most problematic, and most likely to result in a mass expulsion.


1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRTHdC7k4uY

2 http://www.tomkratman.com/Rantdesertpeace.html

3 An interesting exception to this was Woonsocket, RI, where things tended to be in French.

Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from Amazon.com for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through baen.com.

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  • Ming the Merciless

    Every once in a while I’ll run into an idiot who insists the Hispanics are just “the new Irish”. No, they’re not, but also, we don’t need lots of warm bodies now. In the 1800s we needed warm bodies like the Irish to work in farms and factories. Aren’t we supposed to be the “knowledge economy” now? (What do you call a Guatemalan or Salvadoran who works in a tech company? The janitor.) An immigration policy based on smarts and tech skills would be better than the one we have. Nonetheless, there are probably tens, if not hundreds of millions of Indians and Chinese who would probably qualify under such criteria. Would we want them all? My answer is no… but the reasons are not “economic”.

    • Can Terzioğlu

      The problem is, today national interests, unless you are in China, are brutally crushed.

    • Tom Kratman

      The French used to set an admirable example of looking out for their own interests. I think that may have been behind their early support for the EU, on the assumption they could control it.

    • Can Terzioğlu

      One wonders if all this “wrong immigration” policy is…deliberate.

      I can tell you day and night about human smugglers in Turkey. I know they take at least 5000 euros per person.

      If you can scrounge up this much, chances are that in 3rd world you might not be a poor person in need of aid. Just saying.

    • Tom Kratman

      That, or you had some kids excess to needs that you sold as slaves. Oh, yes, they do.

    • Can Terzioğlu

      Ha! You are telling me? In Turkey, now there is an endless supply of terrified, underaged, cheap Syrian females. I will say no more. Just thinking makes me need to washing in boiling water and retching after an enema full of bleached water.

    • Tom Kratman

      I seem to recall being briefed at one time or another that Turkey had some very unusual laws on prostitution.

    • Can Terzioğlu

      Very unusual indeed. Prostitutes can be raped with no penalty, due to constitution, therefore are kept under extreme guard. Thats right, I can go and find an off duty hooker. Rape her, and assuming I can run away faster than the pimp and the guards…. I am scot free. In the face of the law. Even with visual evidence.

      Absolutely no changes are made due to stigma of conservative air

      Plus Erdogan pays 20000 lira bonus for marrying and making Arab women Turkish citizens. He is a snake arabicizing the country..

    • Tom Kratman

      Well…foreign women usually assimilate to their husband’s culture, so I wouldn’t worry too much about Arab brides. The reserve seems less true.

    • Blogengeezer

      Turkey is interesting as it tries mightily to erase All vestiges of past Jewish existence from the land, continual digging up the ancient Jewish graves…. and even hammering the markers into little pieces of rock…. You Tube.

      The Young Turks……. Armenian massacre is another minor detail.

      Maybe it is time for….. “What goes around, comes around”?

    • Sam TwoDat Costanza

      If I had very deep pockets, I’d buy them all up, and hire the Colonel, Mad Mike, and John Ringo to turn them into a fearsome fighting force, so they could take back Syria, and drag it into the 21st century. Along the way, I’d try to teach them not to take any crap from the turds that have ruined the Muddle East.

      Yeah, a lot of goat rapers would be going to the Islamic hell.

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      im out of shape but if you need a Turcopoles unit, look me up.

    • Neil

      I wouldn’t say we “don’t need” lots of warm bodies right now. I would say that we’ve structured our society such that they would be more of a burden than a help–the minimum wage, welfare, and now Obamacare regulations make it difficult to gainfully employ unskilled labor. We’ve decided that there are some things Americans shouldn’t do (unless they get paid under the table).

      If those obstacles weren’t in the way, there would be plenty of work to do.

    • Ming the Merciless

      If we got rid of minimum wage, welfare, and regulations, we’d have more than enough warm bodies to do what types of unskilled work need to be done. So we wouldn’t need mass immigration even then.

    • James

      The problem is Neil there is no great labor sponge like there was back then. So no there is no need for more bodies.

    • James

      There are already a lot coming over. One of the great fuck ups from the jobs americans don’t want to do is whats happening now. Companies will go without hiring Americans for jobs either by just not hiring or making them to demanding applications wise then go to the government and say, “look no one wants to do these jobs in America let us hire immigrants and bring them here!”

      So they truck in people they can pay less for and do less for and who won’t complain if shit is done poorly or under the table. Its completely destroying the trucking industry.

      So the next time you see those 2-3 years experience necessary jobs everywhere but see people say there is no way to get it….well you’ll know why.

      People wonder why I and so many of my generation are turning away from capitalism and corporations in general.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Don’t confuse what is happening today with “capitalism”. Corporations are not necessarily “capitalist” — you can make money without being capitalist if you can get the government to tilt the playing field in your favor, which is exactly what most of them are doing.

    • Tom Kratman

      Yes. In many cases, what we have resembles capitalism about as much as did a Soviet agricultural collective. Look up, too, the phenomenon of “capture,” wherein a regulated industry captures the regulatory agency, then uses that to ensure that a) the rules are not onerous to it but b) are impossible to anyone with less depth and clout.

    • Blogengeezer

      ‘The extremely tight, close working relationship between Big business and Big Government’…’Fascism’….. is the Only means of financial support for…. National Socialism, no matter which form, from ‘Progressive’ to Hard Communism.

      No matter what his political rhetoric, Bernie Sanders [including 'Bernie Light'], plans can not survive without an intensely close working ‘scam’ with very Big Business.

      Commies devour cash and create absolute waste, to attempt to fulfill political election ‘Promises’… Hugo Chavez, ‘bless his heart’, and the Utopia of ‘free stuff’… Venezuela. To say nothing of Robert Mugabe’s ‘Hope and Change’ … ‘Fundamental Change’ of Zimbabwe.

      National Socialism in any form is far from Capitalism.

  • Duffy

    I am still looking for the historical news story where the Irish threatened to riot if the Stars and Stripes flew on Saint Patrick’s day. Anybody?

    • Tom Kratman

      Quite, but that’s also more us than them. Back then, if they’d rioted, they’d have been shot in the street. Come to think of it, during the 1863 New York Draft riots….

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      That is how you handle a riot.

    • Tom Kratman

      In the absence of a water cooled machine gun or two, anyway.

  • Jack Withrow

    You left something out about how we absorbed immigrants back in the day. From somewhere around the War of 1812 up till WW II and especially in the Indian Wars and Civil War, the US Army was another way we assimilated those immigrants. I realize it was not in the numbers that were assimilated in other ways, yet Military Service for those recent immigrants back in the day probably strengthened the country as much as anything else. We probably would not have won the wars we did with out those immigrants that assimilated through the US Military. Those immigrants fought and in some cases died for an idea that was totally foreign to anything in their experience prior to coming to this country. They assimilated through the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps and both the services and the country were the better for it. Now it doesn’t happen that way. These new immigrants are here for what they can take, not what they can give to the country. They want to bring the old ways from the old country and have no interest in assimilating.

    I have seen studies in the past that the makeup of the US Army, Navy, and Marine Corps from 1861-1890 was less than 50% native born citizens. Don’t know for sure that is true, but from anecdotal evidence I have seen it is probably not off by much on the percentages.

    • Tom Kratman

      I thought about including a comment on the armed forces but, a) this is about how it’s changed, not how it might be made the same, and b) in thinking upon it, I was no longer sure that the armed forces could assimilate anyone anymore without the EO-Fascisti coming in and stopping it.

    • Ming the Merciless

      The armed forces were very, very small in those days. The Army dropped from 57,000 in 1867 to under 30,000 in 1898. This could not have been a very important factor in assimilating the 11 million immigrants who arrived from 1865 to 1914. The idea that we could not have won our wars without immigrants in those days is rather questionable.

    • Tom Kratman

      The civil war was a close enough thing that we might have lost (we, being the Union) without them. Similarly, the battlefield performance of freedmen’s regiments was by and large poor (though 8 or a dozen regiments of free blacks did good and sometimes great service) but the burden of labor and rear area security they took up _were_ critical to that close run thing.

  • Jono

    In the 80′s I lived in Fairlawn, NJ which had become the home of a great number of Russian Jews (many with families) who had been able to emigrate thanks to private funding from other Jews. They received one year of communal housing and intensive indoctrination in what it meant to be in America and help in finding a job. They were middle class with salable skills so they did not collect welfare. My son became friends with one of them who had, at the age of nine, been placed in a school with no ESL program to sink or swim, and swim he did. He spoke American as well as my son did (and remained fluent in Russian since the first thing his parents did when they were on their feet was bring the grandparents over and he (the grandson) was pressed into service as a translator.

    I was struck by the way the family was expected to learn enough in the one year they had of supported living to survive and prosper in a strange land. And struck by how well they did. They were a throwback to the kind of immigrants you describe and became Americans, regarding that as part of what they needed to do to succeed.

    • Tom Kratman

      Even the 80s are a time and attitude long gone.

  • guest

    Demographics is destiny. You can’t bring tens of millions of people all at once from there to here without turning here into there.

    America is turning into Brazil with slightly better roads. We have a long way yet to fall. The Tranzis (thank you for that word, by the way) who have engineered it and spent decades gnawing away at our cultural foundations like busy little bees cannot contain their glee. Iran, Russia, China, North Korea, they no longer hide their glee, nor their contempt.

    • Tom Kratman

      One of the tricks, alluded to above, is that you can, provided there is no particular _there_, that the mix is such, both coming in and in their settlement patterns, that they never become anything like a majority, if their culture is much different from ours.

  • TBR

    A colleague who worked in the US for some two years as a “corporate expat” engineer with his family is now crossing the line. He quit his “expat” job and got a “native US” job in a different part of the country. He says he will do it all and naturalize as soon as possible. That guy is about 15 years my senior and supports a family. He is respective was an established professional in German high tech industry. If you can still get someone like him you still got “it”. Of course he is going to Texas…

    • Tom Kratman

      Tennessee’s good, too.

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