Last month, the highest court in France upheld the decision to deny the French citizenship to a woman from Algeria who refused to shake the hand of a French official. The denial is based on France’s requirement that new citizens “assimilate” into French society. The French court ruling ruled that the woman’s refusal to shake hands was a “failure to assimilate,” which is a requirement of French immigration law.

This forces us to ask the question, should immigrants be required to “assimilate” to become citizens? In the case of France, and even México the answer is yes. But, but that makes me a hypocrite some of you, if not all of you, are crying out. How can you demand that immigrants to México “assimilate” to become citizens?

First, let me clarify that for me personally, I do not think “assimilation” should be a requirement to immigrate. That said, I have no problem with the French law. Why?

“Assimilation” is a slippery slope. Where does “assimilation” begin and where does it end? Is “assimilation” simply adopting the same customs and language, or is it an insidious requirement that all immigrants be Christians? Those are arguments that can be had around public policy. Each nation has the right to set its own public policy.

And this is precisely where the argument for the “assimilated” immigrant falls flat on its face in the United States. There are a significant number of Hispanics/Latinos in America that are citizens, and thus have the right to vote. As such, they have every right to set national policy. Many of them speak Spanish at home and many culturally lean towards their Hispanic heritage.

They are comfortable in their brown skins.

When the issue of the “assimilated” immigrants comes up in the United States it usually involves speaking English and adopting the ethics of American Evangelist Christianity. Therein lies the lie of the “assimilated” American.

As U.S. citizens, American Hispanics and Latinos have the same rights to set public policy according to their wants and needs. If an Hispanic U.S. citizen wants to speak Spanish, what is wrong with that? If an American Latino wants to eat spicy food with tortillas, instead of a hot dog, what is wrong with that?

The United States is a democracy based on public policy created through laws pushed forth by U.S. citizens. If Americans – a majority of them – really wanted English to be the official language, or the “assimilated” language of the nation, then why hasn’t the people passed a law making it so?

The answer to that question is the answer that those pushing “assimilated” immigrants don’t want to address.

This brings us back to France’s “assimilated immigrant” requirement. The French people voted that into law and thus it is required of immigrants.

The United States has not enacted “assimilated” immigrant laws and thus the demand that immigrants be “assimilated” is an outright violation of the law. If the American people truly wanted “assimilated” immigrants, then the required laws would be forthcoming.

They are not. Why?

That’s because the drive towards “assimilated” immigrants is being pushed forth by a loud minority of the nation.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

One reply on “Assimilation and Immigration in America”

  1. English should be the official language for legal purposes in the USA, i.e., businesses and institutions not be required to accommodate other languages. Where would you stop in a country as diverse as this? Swahili?

    You can speak any language you want and business and institutions (e.g., schools and government) can offer any language they want voluntarily. But there should not be a mandate to do so other than in English. Let’s not get into what version of English as I am fluent in “Wisconsinian.”

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