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Posted at 1:35 PM ET, 01/17/2011

In praise of Jeb Bush

By Ezra Klein

I think Jon Chait gets Jeb Bush very wrong here. When Bush says that "second-generation Hispanics marry non-Hispanics at a higher rate than second-generation Irish or Italians" and that "second-generation Hispanics' English language capability rates are higher than previous immigrant groups," he's directly answering a critique that has a lot of power among anti-immigration groups: that there's something different about this wave of immigrants as compared with previous waves of immigrants.

This is, after all, a fairly important part of their argument. America has not just assimilated, but actively benefited from, many previous waves of immigration. If you're to oppose Hispanic immigration, you have to somehow explain why you won't look, in 30 years, like the people who were hanging "No Irish Need Apply" signs on their storefronts, or like Benjamin Franklin, who said of the Germans immigrating to Philadelphia, that they "are generally the most stupid of their nation." And plenty of people, including notable political scientists like the late Samuel Huntington, have been trying:

Americans like to boast of their past success in assimilating millions of immigrants into their society, culture, and politics. But Americans have tended to generalize about immigrants without distinguishing among them and have focused on the economic costs and benefits of immigration, ignoring its social and cultural consequences. As a result, they have overlooked the unique characteristics and problems posed by contemporary Hispanic immigration. The extent and nature of this immigration differ fundamentally from those of previous immigration, and the assimilation successes of the past are unlikely to be duplicated with the contemporary flood of immigrants from Latin America.

Huntington offers a couple of hypotheses for why this might be: Hispanics are characterized by a "lack of ambition," and they are so geographically close to their home country that they won't have sufficient incentive to assimilate, to name but two. But these hypotheses aren't being borne out: Hispanic immigrants are following the patterns of past immigrants fairly closely, and in some cases, outdoing them. We need more American politicians pointing this out. Good for Bush.

By Ezra Klein  | January 17, 2011; 1:35 PM ET
Categories:  Immigration  
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The world would be a better place if fewer people (or nobody) listened to Samuel Huntington.

Posted by: yawgmoth6139 | January 17, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

"lack of ambition" = "lazy", a very virulent ethnic slur. All the Hispanic Americans I know work very hard jobs for comparatively low wages. Many own their own businesses or have worked their way into supervisory roles. Hardly a lack of ambition.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 17, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse


Jeb Bush may be right about assimilation rates, but I would like to see the actual data.

In any event, "Hispanic" covers a lot of disparate territory.

That said, whether Jeb Bush is right or not about assimilation rates, his overall point, that the Republicans can win Hispanic votes has been borne out in past elections. Nothing new there.


Posted by: dbuck1 | January 17, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Jeb Bush is right that Mexicans easily assimilate with Americans. Too bad, he doesn't yet see that for this very reason the 200-year de facto apartheid of Mexicans must end with the integration of Mexico into the U.S., allowing the border to go poof and all 400+ million Americans to finally erase the record and mix freely under a 60-star U.S. flag. Find out about the Megamerge Dissolution Solution:

Posted by: tlwinslow | January 17, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Right on. Amazing also that hispanics are reaching life expectancy levels that belie the usual poverty and access to healthcare causes assigned by liberals.

So much is about culture that race is simply not the key factor any more. You don't have to be any particular race to transfer values of educational attainment to your children.

Posted by: staticvars | January 17, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Another issue with cultural assimilation is that for a big swath of the country, it American culture assimilating into the Hispanic culture, not the other way around. Hispanic culture has been living and developing in the American southwest for almost 500 years, while the US has had possession of those territories for less than 1/2 of that time period....

Posted by: joekowalski1 | January 17, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I'd be interested in your take on this:

"Arizona statute could endanger Gabrielle Giffords's hold on seat"

Posted by: jnc4p | January 17, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm second-generation Eastern European and I'm always struck by how quickly my parents' generation buried their heritage. My grandparents spoke Czech in the house and among their brothers and sisters. But my parents and all of their siblings staged some kind of mini-rebellion against this and became thoroughly and consciously Americanized. It's also somewhat ironic because this same generation in my family is rather vocally anti-immigrant. Or at least immigrant-phobic. When you press them on it and mention that their parents were in a similar situation seventy years ago, their response is always that they embraced American culture and that their parents came here to be Americans and so that's what they did. I know, I know, cultural sensitivity etc. etc. etc. but that was their experience and it's a very interesting perspective. But maybe incorrect, as it turns out.

Posted by: willows1 | January 17, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

One of the complaints I hear about Hispanic immigration (and it's not that I espouse it, but it's not as easily dismissed as racist "lack of ambition" nonsense) compared to previous waves is that so much of it is, or is perceived to be, "illegal" - where as the irish, italians, etc. came here "legally". Obviously, both the idea that hispanics are mostly undocumented and previous waves were mostly documented may be stretching the truh, if not an outright fabrication. If you go back far enough, to the original settlers, this logic too breaks down. Not to mention, quotas in effect today are likely not comparable to what earlier waves dealt with.
But it's out there as a "non-racist" (at least on it's surface) complaint.

Posted by: rollz | January 17, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Nobody under the sun is complaining about Immigration in a negative way. No one is complaining about Hispanics.

The discussion, and it is a serious one that this report totally missed, is about illegal aliens and their staggering cost in terms of jobs lost, under the table wages when local taxes are never paid, and countless other items that are critical in the functioning of a society. And.. for the goofy little people who whine about immigration while everyone else talks about illegal aliens, we are going to do something about it and soon because it DOES create so many problems. And so it is, over 20 states are looking at and preparing to pass, some form of law that does what Obama has refused to do: enforce the Immigration Law of the land. A good site for this reporter to understand what the issue is is here.

Jeb Bush, by the way, NEVER mentions the cost to the citizenship of the illegal aliens.. nor, for that matter, illegal aliens.

Posted by: joelwisch | January 17, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

joelwisch - I have a lot of sympathy with that position, but I'm not certain that anything has changed as compared with past waves of immigration except for the legality issue. Not to diminish that in importance, but a lot of Irish and Eastern European immigrants came to the US in the early 20th century specifically to work for industries whose workers were striking (mining, industrial, textile, etc). So I think the "jobs lost" and "wage suppression" issues, while potentially real, are not necessarily different for Hispanic immigrants. And the complaints from those opposed to immigration are nearly identical.

Posted by: willows1 | January 17, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Uh, joelwisch, if it is true that there is a "staggering cost in terms of jobs lost, under the table wages when local taxes are never paid" then that is not an issue about immigration that is an issue about certain American businesses committing fraud.

Posted by: Douglas4 | January 17, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I urge everyone to take a look at some of the research that has been published by Per Hispanic. If they did so, they might not have such an optimistic view of Hispanic assimilation or many other so-called positive spins about recent Hispanic immigration.

Posted by: jeffreed | January 17, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

I understand that the educational achievement and economic progress of this wave of Latino immigrants does not match the immigrants 120 years ago.

I'll point out something everyone can agree one -- 120 years ago the population of the U.S. was 63 million people. Now it is 310 million and climbing out of control. What is the point of all these new people? Is more ethnic cuisine and affordable nannies for upper-middle class people enough of a reason to be doing this?

When do we say, "Stop"?

Posted by: Mallarde1 | January 17, 2011 6:51 PM | Report abuse

I understand that the educational achievement and economic progress of this wave of Latino immigrants does not match the immigrants 120 years ago.

I'll point out something everyone can agree one -- 120 years ago the population of the U.S. was 63 million people. Now it is 310 million and climbing out of control. What is the point of all these new people? Are ethnic cuisine and affordable nannies for upper-middle class people reasons enough to be doing this to our country? If not, what is the reason? Because we were told in college that "diversity" is good, and this means more "diversity"?

When do we say, "Stop"?

Posted by: Mallarde1 | January 17, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

The difference of course is the presence of a huge Hispanic country across our southern border, and historic grievances its inhabitants have against the US, which took a large part of that country by force 160 years ago. In a few decades we can easily run into one of many nasty situations common around the world: Sudetenland, Kosovo, Ireland, Krajina, Karabah, Alsace - the list goes on and on. However well the immigrants assimilate, ethnic allegiances run deep and for many generations. We definitely don't want that trouble.

Posted by: anatol1 | January 17, 2011 7:22 PM | Report abuse

--*I think Jon Chait gets Jeb Bush very wrong here.*--

If I were to pick someone who gets things wrong more than you do, Klein, Chait would be the one.

Posted by: msoja | January 17, 2011 8:12 PM | Report abuse

joelwish: It most certainly IS the case that many people are complaining about immigration in general (and not just the illegal variety). Numbers USA, CIS and FAIR are three prominent anti-immigration organizations whose goal is to radically constrict America's openness to legal, permitted newcomers.. Moreover, even those mostly complaining about illegal immigration quickly pivot to a general anti-immigration stance when it is pointed out much of our illegal immigration problem could be legislated out of existence by passing out lots of work permits, and increasing the penalties for going outside the system (under the status quo it is essentially impossible for a Latin American manual laborer to get a US work permit or Green Card if he/she is unlucky enough not to be related to an American). In other words, we could end or substantially modify our current policy of defacto prohibition of low-skilled workers from this hemisphere and basically "legalize" our way out of the problem. But that, of course, isn't acceptable to the Mintutemen and TeaPartiers, your assertions notwithstanding.

Posted by: Jasper999 | January 17, 2011 9:51 PM | Report abuse

The issue is not whether Hispanics can assimilate or not; the issue is numbers. They are coming in at such great numbers that they don't have to assimilate, and they don't. That's why we have "press one for Spanish" everywhere.

The Italians, Germans, etc. did NOT come in such huge numbers, so they were forced to assimilate.

Secondly, as the WaPo has ignored again and again, today's mass immigrants are arriving at a modern industrial welfare state, unlike yesterday's Ellis Islanders. The Ellis Islanders were poor people arriving at a new country where most of the people were also poor. There was not that much of a class disparity between newcomers and the established populations. This is not the case today. The incoming poor resent the established, native-born middle-class and the established,native-born middle-class resent the incoming poor. This is demonstrated again and again as the native-born middle-class moves away when large numbers of incoming foreign poor show up in their schools and neighborhoods.

In addition, the modern welfare state makes huge numbers of new immigrants, whether legal or illegal, simply unsustainable. Europe is finding this out the hard way, and we are finding it out in bankrupt California also. You simply cannot have a modern welfare state and mass immigration. The natives who pay for the welfare state resent newcomers who did not pay into it using those resources, especially when the number of newcomers we are expected to support appear to be endless. How endless? Plyer vs. Doe, the 1982 US Supreme Court ruling which mandated that US states pay for "free" public school education for foreign born, illegally present children from K-12, has no upper limit. There is nothing in the ruling which says, "US taxpayers are off the hook once they pay for five million free K-12 educations for illegal immigrant children." Under Plyler vs. Doe, we are obligated to provide that "free" K-12 education even if 50 MILLION foreign-born, illegally present children show up in the US. 50 million, 100 million, it doesn't matter. And that's just our "unfunded" court-ordered mandate for ONE type of social service.

The precedent set by Plyler vs. Doe is aslo why we can never have national health insurance. To be honest the conversation is not about insuring 300 million Americans; it is about providing healthcare for 300 million Americans plus a 100 million Mexicans and 50 million Central Americans. For starters.

Posted by: MaryJessel | January 17, 2011 10:47 PM | Report abuse

MaryJessel: Your restrictionist screed has too many untruths and half truths to respond to properly, so I'll just focus on your bizarrely wrong claim that a government sponsored safety net is incompatible with "mass" (by which I take it you mean the modest-by-historical standards current US rate of immigration -- about a third of what it was circa 1900 FWIW) immigration. Far from hurting the State's ability to provide a safety net, in fact the boost to the percentage of the population that is of working age flowing from healthy levels of immigration is what makes the welfare state sustainable. Places like Italy and Japan make America's long term fiscal challenges look like child's play.

Posted by: Jasper999 | January 18, 2011 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Just because Jeb Bush said it does not mean it is true. I have not previously seen the claim that "second-generation Hispanics marry non-Hispanics at a higher rate than second-generation Irish or Italians" and that "second-generation Hispanics' English language capability rates are higher than previous immigrant groups." What is the source of this claim? Who published what study, where? Every achievement test I have seen collects demographic data in terms of ethnicity, but I have never seen one that asks which generation American the subject is. Thus, I am frankly suspicious of Bush's claim. And I'm going to assume that what Bush actually means is that second generation Hispanics marry outside of their own ethnic group more frequently than second generation Irish or Italians do; and that he means spoken English mastery when he speaks of "English language capability." Mastery of written English is usually referenced as reading and writing, or in composite scores (rare) as literacy. His claim about second generation marriages outside of one's ethnic group is pretty doggone interesting! On what data is this claim based? Who did the study? When and where is it published?

Frankly, I think it is extremely poor journalism to base an article on unsubstantiated claims. I know the WaPo is biased, but REALLY!

Posted by: Portia4 | January 18, 2011 12:22 AM | Report abuse

I think it's funny that we expect cultural integration in the US as though we're some sort of privilege to be around. In all honestly, we're the cultural separatists. Aside from the US, Canada and certain Islands in what was historically known as The West Indies (Jamaica, Trinidad, Haiti), the rest of the Hemisphere is Hispanic. Maybe we should work on integrating one of these generations.

Posted by: DmetriKepi | January 18, 2011 3:13 AM | Report abuse


Post some facts to back Jeb's assertion. It's interesting, but lacking any backup it's also just someone saying something. Maybe something he read somewhere while jetting around.

Posted by: Nuancematters | January 18, 2011 6:36 AM | Report abuse


Post the facts to back up Jeb's assertion, please.

Posted by: Nuancematters | January 18, 2011 6:37 AM | Report abuse

Aw, but this piece left out an important distinction between the current argument on immigration and the past - that the discussion is about ILLEGAL immigration. It is far too easy to paint those who want the border closed, the Federal Laws enforced, and sanctuary cities banned as being against immigration or against Hispanics - but that ignores the real issue...that border where folks are crossing illegally.

Posted by: LMW6 | January 18, 2011 10:10 AM | Report abuse

If Jeb Bush is a statesman, he should publicly announce his desire to work with Obama toward bipartisan immigration reform.

Posted by: quest4truth1 | January 18, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

To be opposed to "illegal aliens" or "undocumented workers" is not to also be opposed to Hispanics or any other specific group of people, either racial or religiously.

Klein co-joins the two by saying that it is part of the current "argument". He says argument I'd say debate even if those on the left can't recognize anything from the right as having any validity. As a Floridian of long standing I watched former Gov. Bush carefully for two terms and if anybody can honestly point out to me (in a non-partisan manner) a governor who more honorably or capably upheld his oath of office and to Floridians then I'd like to hear of him.

I also think that Bush understands the difference between being opposed to illegal immigration and the path that so many of Florida's Hispanic were forced to take starting with Castro's takeover of Cuba. To witness what that, and future waves, of Cubans did to transform Florida is to witness the best of what legal immigration can bring to America. It in no way resembles the wave after wave of illegals that are doing so much economic, social, and political damage not only to the West and Southwest but to our entire country.

The left in this country has simply lost control of itself and is doing it's best to force the transformation of America across every boundary and in opposition to many of our long held beliefs not through actual public discourse or debate, but through miss-use of the judicial and legislative process that are integral part of our working Democracy.

Posted by: Sproing | January 18, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

jeb bush is posturing and positioning himself as the GOP leader-type who is hispanic-friendly and able to attract the "magic" hispanic vote

it is not a new thing, both he and his brother GW present themselves as hispanic-friendly, but it may indicate jeb bush is increasing his public presence

Posted by: jamesoneill | January 18, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

This Pew Research Center report indicates that 26% of Hispanics married someone of another race or ethnicity in 2009, the highest of any race or ethnicity and nearly double U.S. rate of 15%.

Posted by: eduardom | January 18, 2011 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Eduardom: Thanks for the link to the Pew Center publication. However, I disagree with your interpretation. The report states, "A record 14.6% of all new marriages in the United States in 2008 were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another...Among all newlyweds in 2008, 9% of whites, 16% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics and 31% of Asians married someone whose race or ethnicity was different from their own." My reading of this is that more Asians marry outside their ethnicity than do whites, blacks and Hispanics. The report additionally states, "Rates of intermarriages among newlyweds in the U.S. more than doubled between 1980 (6.7%) and 2008 (14.6%). However, different groups experienced different trends. Rates more than doubled among whites and nearly tripled among blacks. But for both Hispanics and Asians, rates were nearly identical in 2008 and 1980."

Referencing Jeb Bush's comments, nowhere in this extensive report is there any mention of first, second, third, fifth or any generation American. Nor is there any mention of Irish and Italians, specifically. Data is collected by ethnicity/race in the categories noted above, and without any information about how many generations of anyone's forebears were born in this country. I have never heard of any studies that do collect generational data. However, by implication, and certainly not by fact, one might conclude from the last quote above, that later generation whites in general marry outside their ethnic group more often than later generation Hispanics do. But we still don't know on what data, if any, Mr. Bush was relying when he made the claims that inspired Mr. Klein to write this article.

I could be wrong, and if I am, I would appreciate having the citation for such work posted here. I think Mr. Klein owes his readers at least that much. Until that happens - and I'm not holding my breath - I've got to very strongly suspect that Jeb Bush was fibbing. And WaPo never checked facts. If my suspicions are correct, then shame on both of you!

Posted by: Portia4 | January 18, 2011 10:21 PM | Report abuse

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