Immigration in America, Now

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For a nation of immigrants, America has always had a complicated relationship with immigration. Some came in splendor, some came in chains, and everything in between.

In the half century since Ellis Island closed, immigration and the immigrant experience have changed massively, again. Do we still want to absorb? Do they still want to assimilate? Are we open to a permanent underclass? In a globalized world, do immigrants ever really leave the old country?

This hour On Point: the realities of the new American immigrant experience.

Quotes from the Show:

"For people in Mexico, the United States represents social mobility. ... But there's also an awareness in Mexico that the immigrant experience has become shadowy." Hector Tobar

"If anything has been a constant and predictable with respect to immigration to the US, it has been the kind of xenophobic response [it has triggered] among the natives." Ruben Rumbaut

"You could say that immigration is the highest form of flattery. ... Those who immigrate are a highly selected group of people." Ruben Rumbaut

"You have this low-wage sector in America that is increasingly dependent on immigrants." Hector Tobar

"People want to very much be part of this country. You can feel very proud of being in this country and still send charity and investment back home." Peggy Levitt

"A lot of [immigrants] assimilate in this country." Immgrant listener from Guatemala

"Immigrants are not just of one cloth. ... The highest and the lowest of anything you can imagine can be found in the immigrant population. ...We have to understand this in the global context." Ruben Rumbaut

"I think that gradually the United States is going to be transformed by Latin Americans the same way that the Germans and the Irish transformed it in another century." Hector Tobar


Jim Pethokoukis, senior writer for U.S. News & World Report;
Ruben Rumbaut, sociology professor at University of California Irvine and author of "Immigrant America: A Portrait";
Hector Tobar, Mexico City bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times and author of "Translation Nation";
Peggy Levitt, sociology professor at Wellesley College and author of "God Needs No Passport"

This program aired on May 23, 2007.


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