This happens across the country, they say, even in regions such as the Southeast that are not traditional immigrant destinations.
Although there has been bipartisan support in Congress's immigration reform efforts for provisions to better integrate new immigrants into US civic and cultural life, as Arlene Garcia and her family show, the notion of assimilation – or "integration," "incorporation," or any word used to describe the process of belonging – is far from straightforward. To evaluate how and whether immigrants – and, arguably more important, their children – are becoming part of this country involves questions of identity, belonging, and the very essence of being American.
Can you measure assimilation?
In 2006, Jacob Vigdor, a professor of public policy at Duke University in Durham, N.C., joined a group of academics in a series of meetings convened by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
The scholars, all with backgrounds in immigration research, were focused on a single question: Is there a way, in the face of an increasingly emotional debate over immigrants in the US, to actually measure assimilation?
This is no simple question. The 2010 US Census found close to 40 million immigrants in the US, making up 13 percent of the population. In 2012, the census determined that 36 million more were "second-generation immigrants," or the American-born children of immigrants. And while much of the public discourse focuses on Latinos – particularly the estimated 11.5 million here illegally – the portrait of America's foreign born is far more diverse.