Is America becoming a nation of strangers?
“Why can't we have a home?” asked Ann Coulter, in a recent BBC interview.
It might be more accurate to say that because of immigration, America no longer feels like home to Ann Coulter. Coulter's opposition to immigration is based less on hostility to Mexicans and more on an attachment to the America she grew up in – the America that no longer feels like home to her.
Too many people on the right and the left dismiss views like Coulter's without serious consideration. To them, these views smack of xenophobia, or worse, racism. Out of an understandable desire not to offend, or make anyone feel unwelcome, our political elites failed to consider the ramifications of mass immigration.
A nation's laws and cultural norms are a direct reflection of her people. There is no way to alter the underlying demographics of a country without changing its culture, and by extension its politics. If you are purely an economic conservative, you can live with mass immigration, but if you are a social conservative, it's more difficult.
More important is the visceral effect mass immigration has on the native-born. Sociologist Robert Putnam described it as follows: “[t]he short run effect of being around people who are different from us is to make all of us uncertain – to hunker down, to pull in, to trust everybody less. Like a turtle in the presence of some feared threat, we pull in.”
When we no longer share a language or culture with our neighbors, we feel alienated. Ultimately, people like Ann Coulter are motivated by a feeling of alienation, not outright racial prejudice. On a positive note, Robert Putnam found reason for optimism that our current wave of immigrants will eventually assimilate.
Some people who are worried about immigration in America for some reason believe that this new wave of immigrants doesn’t want to speak English, but the level of language acquisition by this current wave of immigration is just about what it was 100 years ago when people were coming here from Russia, Poland, Italy or Germany. Then, we had a lot of concern about whether the country was going to become German-speaking. Most people who lived in St. Louis, Cincinnati or Milwaukee in those years spoke German, not English. But of course their kids learned to speak English and the grandchildren of those immigrants spoke only English.
A dramatic reduction in the total number of immigrants arriving, along with an emphasis on the English language, will restore our sense of community and help integrate this current crop of immigrants into American society. If we take prudent steps to aid the process, ultimately Hispanics will become part of mainstream American society, and anti-Hispanic sentiment will be as strange to us as anti-German sentiment.