Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: Immigrants are nothing to fear

Marcos Breton
Marcos Breton

In 2002, I angered some readers by declaring in a column that I was pulling for Mexico in a World Cup soccer match against the United States.

Older readers in particular said I personified how people of Mexican ancestry do not assimilate.

This dread appears to be the greatest threat to Congress' passage of comprehensive immigration reform, along with the GOP nightmare of 11 million undocumented immigrants becoming Democrats if legalized.

Fear not.

Republicans could score if they embraced immigrants instead of fearing them. Academic studies debunk myths that new immigrants don't assimilate.

"These fears about immigrants have been voiced many times in American history, and they've never proven true," Alan M. Kraut, a history professor at American University in Washington, told the New York Times recently.

It seems some assimilation is more frightening than others.

David Brooks, a conservative columnist with the Times, wrote last week that as recently as 1960 about 75 percent of America's foreign-born population came from Europe.

"Soon, we will no longer be an outpost of Europe, but a nation of mutts," Brooks wrote. "A nation with hundreds of fluid ethnicities from around the world, intermarrying and intermingling. Americans of European descent are already a minority among 5-year-olds. European Americans will be a minority overall in 30 years at the latest, and probably sooner."

Sound the alarm! The British aren't coming! The British aren't coming!

Reflecting on Brooks' words, a friend asked a good question: Why are we a nation of mutts when Latinos mix with Asians but not when Irish mix with Welsh and Dutch?

What are we afraid of?

Is Vivek Ranadive, the India-born principal owner of the Sacramento Kings, frightening to you? A staunch advocate for immigration reform long before he saved the Kings, Ranadive is not an anomaly.

There are an estimated 2 million kids and young adults in America who had no say when they were brought to the U.S. without documentation. Many have college degrees they can't fully utilize or are eager to serve in the U.S. military. They've assimilated, but we won't legalize them. I'll tell you the story of one in Sunday's paper.

In 2011, nearly 17 percent of all new recruits in the military were Latino, according to the Defense Department. And those numbers will grow.

Assimilation doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen. Where I once pulled for Mexico over the U.S., I'm now fully with the Yanks.

I used to be Mexican American, but now I'm just American.

Assimilating is what we do. Don't be afraid.

Call The Bee's Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096. Back columns, Follow him on Twitter @marcosbreton.