English & Assimilation of immigrants

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English & Assimilation of immigrants

Post by confuzzled dude on Fri May 11, 2018 8:41 pm

Kelly continued.

“But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society,” he said. “They’re overwhelmingly rural people in the countries they come from — fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English; obviously that’s a big thing. They don’t speak English. They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws.”
On his mother’s side, Kelly’s great-grandfathers worked as a wagon driver and fruit peddler, according to Mendelsohn’s research. These were not skilled positions, obviously. It’s not clear that any of Kelly’s immigrant ancestors had significant educational backgrounds.

Then there’s the issue of language. This can be trickier to determine, but census forms used to include questions about languages spoken. From one such record, Mendelsohn learned that John DeMarco, the fruit peddler, still didn’t speak English after more than a decade in the country. His wife Crescenza — Kelly’s great-grandmother — lived in the United States for more than 30 years without learning the language.

There’s an obvious response to all of this, which Kelly gets to in his initial comments: That was then. Kelly pointedly says that these immigrants cannot assimilate “into our modern society.”

But things aren’t so different now from then. At the time that Kelly’s Italian ancestors were living in Boston, there was a large population of both Italian and Irish immigrants. You can see in the census documents that Mendelsohn shared on Twitter that the houses near Kelly’s ancestors were populated with people who’d mostly immigrated from Italy and Ireland. In the 19th century, these were neighborhoods in which one didn’t need to speak English to communicate.
Education is more important now than it was then, but there is clearly work to be done by people with less than a high school education. That’s the point, really: Many immigrants come from Mexico and work in the agricultural industry here as laborers. They may not end up as White House chiefs of staff, but then neither did Giuseppe Pedalino. It took Pedalino’s family three more generations before it attained that level of  prominence.

Even had the Pedalinos and the Kellys and the DeMarcos and the Currans not wound up as the grandparents and great-grandparents of a Marine Corps general or chief of staff, it’s likely that Kelly wouldn’t have judged their arrival in the United States as unworthy. That’s much of the reason that Kelly’s comments to NPR earned the reaction that they did: Not all immigrants become prominent individuals or important members of society, but then neither do all native-born Americans

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