63% of Hispanic U.S. immigrants not literate in English
The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) recently published a report showing that of all the immigrants entering the U.S., 41 percent register scores at or below “functional illiteracy,” which is the lowest level of English literacy also known as “below basic.” But the lowest-percentage group to efficiently speak, read and write English are Hispanic immigrants.
Communication gap from south of the border
Compared with other immigrants from round the world, those coming from Mexico and other Latin American countries are least likely to get by with the minimal rudimentary language skills to acclimate to American culture.
“Hispanic immigrants struggle the most with English literacy,” CIS divulged from its study. “Their average score falls at the 8th percentile, and 63 percent are below basic.”
This contrasts greatly with other non-Hispanic immigrants – a group that registers at a significantly less (23 percent) “below basic” literacy level.
Furthermore, Dr. Jason Richwine – who serves as an independent public policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. – stresses that most Hispanics living in the U.S. who profess to be fluent in English actually aren’t.
“For Hispanic immigrants, self-reported English-speaking ability overstates actual literacy,” Richwine pointed out in a report he published for CIS. “The average literacy score of Hispanic immigrants who self-report that they speak English ‘very well’ or ‘well’ falls at the 18th percentile, and 44 percent are below basic.”
Literacy in English is not just a major problem for those entering the U.S. from over the border, as a significant proportion of Hispanics who have lived in America for a good portion of their lives are illiterate in English.
“Even long-time residents struggle with English literacy,” explained Richwine, who is also a contributing writer for National Review. “Immigrants who first arrived in the United States more than 15 years ago score at the 20th percentile, and 43 percent are below basic.”
He also emphasized how low-skill immigrants’ difficulty with literacy spans far beyond their immigrant generation, noting that 67 percent of Hispanic immigrants who entered the U.S. more than 15 years ago are still functionally illiterate.
“The children of Hispanic immigrants score at the 34th percentile, and 22 percent are below basic,” Richwine continued. “In addition, just 5 percent of second generation Hispanics have ‘elite’ literacy skills, compared to 14 percent of natives overall.”
The author of the literacy report argues that the increasingly accommodating American culture is to blame for the strikingly high illiteracy rates among Hispanics, who find Spanish versions of literature virtually everywhere they go.
“The big problem, especially regarding Hispanic immigrants, is that there are so many other people speaking Spanish that they can live basically their entire regular lives at work, at home, in the media they consume – it can all be in Spanish,” Richwine expressed to WND in an interview. “And so, when you even further accommodate that, when they have to deal with the government or they have to deal with a business, they go to Home Depot because they need something, they see that all the signs at those kinds of places are also in Spanish – that can only further discourage people from learning English.”
Trump denounces dependence, encourages independence
President Donald Trump recently brought up America’s problem with new immigrants who cannot make it on their own – a predicament often rooted in the literacy gap.
At a Wednesday night campaign-style rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Trump announced his plans to push Congress to pass legislation that would ban immigrants from obtaining public assistance within five years of entering America.
“The time has come for new immigration rules that say … those seeking immigration into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years,” Trump declared, according to Fox News.
The president’s new policy would give immigrants more incentive to become self-sufficient under his administration than the previous two.
“Trump’s proposal would build on the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which allows federal authorities to deport immigrants who become public dependents within five years of their arrival,” Fox News reported. “Many of that law’s provisions were rolled back during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, but Trump’s proposal would make more categories of federal benefits off-limits to immigrants. Currently, states typically have the authority to determine eligibility for local public assistance programs.”
Even though pro-immigration reform Democrats persistently work to promote illegal immigration and deter assimilation through programs that are Spanish-speaking friendly, illegal immigrants and foreigners with non-immigrant visas are for the most part banned from receiving many forms of public assistance – and Trump wants to make sure such regulations are followed by state and federal officials.
“Trump’s proposal would also prevent the admission of people who are likely to become so-called ‘public charges’ within five years of their arrival,” the conservative news source added. “The concept of ‘public charge’ has been part of U.S. immigration law for over a century. It allows the government to bar entry to individuals who are likely to seek public assistance. Trump is expected to propose toughening up the rules regarding ‘public charge’ and ensuring that they are enforced.”
U.S. promoting illiteracy?
Literacy trends indicate that the U.S. is doing a lousy job of making sure new waves of immigrants are fluent in English.
“[Newer immigrants are likely more skilled when they arrive than were previous waves], but the point is that even immigrants who have been here for more than 15 years still have rather low literacy scores, which indicates that they are not becoming fluent the way we might expect them to,” Richwine told WND.
On the other hand, it is deduced from the research that children who are born in the U.S. to immigrants see much higher literacy rates.
“Among second-generation immigrants, only 15 percent are functionally illiterate in English, matching the level among all U.S.-born people with two U.S.-born parents,” WND’s Paul Bremmer gleaned from the CIS study. “However, Hispanics still lag behind in this regard, as 24 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics with two U.S.-born parents are functionally illiterate.”
Hiding the problem
It is argued that statistics released by the federal government about immigration and literacy are deceiving – at best.
“[The study] communicates that language assimilation, at least, is not happening as fast as some of the Census Bureau data would suggest it does,” Richwine asserted to WND. “A lot of people look at that data and they say, ‘There’s really no problem here because once you get to the second generation, 80 or 90 percent of people are saying they speak English very well or they speak only English at home, and so there’s really no problem.’ But what this literacy test data indicates is that for Hispanic immigrants, in particular, their self-assessment of their English language ability is really an overestimate of their actual ability.”
He impressed that curbing immigration would help to alleviate the literacy problem, which would deter ethnic enclaves from enduring – areas where the need for assimilation are rarely felt. And instead of being Spanish-speaker friendly, Richwine stressed that the U.S. should be promoting the use English more aggressively.
“It would mean declaring English as the official language of the United States,” Richwine added. “It would mean getting rid of the rule about having to have ballot papers in different languages if there’s a certain percentage of foreign speakers in that area. It would involve politicians not pandering to Spanish speakers by giving Spanish-language speeches.”
He ended with this advice to officials in Washington.
“We need politicians to say, ‘You know what, people can speak whatever language they want in their homes, but in terms of the civic language in the United States, the language in which we do business is English, and we’re not going to give speeches in Spanish, we’re not going to put out campaign materials in Spanish, because this is a country where we communicate politically in English,’” Richwine concluded.
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