Contrary to Richard Estrada's assertions that a common civic culture is threatened by immigrants [op-ed, Aug. 24], recent research confirms that contemporary immigrant families are doing what newcomers have always done: slowly, but surely, embracing the cultural norms that are part of life in the United States, including adoption of English as their primary language.

In a recent study, Pepperdine University scholar Gregory Rodriguez analyzed census data to examine four quantifiable indices of immigrant assimilation. He found the following:

English language acquisition: Within 10 years of arrival, 76.3 percent of immigrants spoke English with high proficiency. With second and third generations, almost all children of immigrants spoke English proficiently. In most cases, the native language of immigrants is lost after a few generations in the United States.

Citizenship: The longer immigrants live in the United States, the more likely they are to become citizens. In 1990, 76.4 percent of immigrants who had been in this country for 40 years were naturalized.

Homeownership: Immigrants are making significant strides toward homeownership. Within 20 years of arrival, 60.9 percent owned their own homes (as of 1990). In 13 of the 15 most populous immigrant groups, two-thirds of households were owner-occupied after 26 years of residence in the United States.

Intermarriage: Both foreign-born Asians and foreign-born Hispanics have higher rates of intermarriage than do U.S.-born whites and blacks. By the third generation, intermarriage rates for Asians and Latinos are extremely high: More than 33 percent of third-generation Hispanic women are married to non-Hispanics and 41 percent of third-generation Asian American women have non-Asian spouses.

Far from being at odds with the national interest, current immigrants prove that this nation of immigrants is strong enough to absorb people of different backgrounds within its borders.


Executive Director

National Immigration Forum