Bobby Jindal: American Freedom Should Be A Reward Given To Immigrants For Becoming ‘American’

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, still trying to run for president, reiterated his call that all immigrants assimilate into American culture on Sunday’s edition of  Face the Nation. He said that the problem with immigration is not border security so much as it is a problem of values. Immigrants don’t hold American values, and, as he’s said before, that simply must stop.

Jindal is the child of immigrants himself, but has a lot of nativist ideas about immigration. According to the Huffington Post, he specifically said:

“What I worry about is you look to Europe, the contrast is — you’ve got second-, third-generation immigrants that don’t consider themselves part of those societies, those cultures. We in our country shouldn’t be giving freedoms to people who want to undermine the freedom for other people.”

What freedoms are they undermining when they don’t assimilate in the manner Jindal wants? The freedom to be a bigot? The freedom to discriminate? The freedom to point and laugh? Jindal ought to cut to the chase with this if it’s really how he feels.

Furthermore, what freedoms does he propose we withhold if they don’t assimilate properly? Freedom of speech? Freedom of religion? That wouldn’t be surprising; he would probably insist they all convert to Christianity as part of the assimilation process. Should we withhold the right to vote, even if they’re living and working here legally? What about equal protection? Should employers be allowed to discriminate against them if they haven’t assimilated enough? There’s a massive barrel of worms here that Jindal doesn’t even seem to see.

Jindal also said:

“Let’s insist on being the melting pot. Let’s forget this politically correct, left notion that we’re not a melting pot anymore.”

So, basically, “melting pot” means immigrants should have to give up their heritage in order to become true Americans. The odd thing is, this is how it works elsewhere in the world, too. Few people emigrate to another country and automatically give up their heritage as soon as they settle in. They often keep speaking their native languages, and holding to their own traditions, and it’s usually their children who start the assimilation process. Sometimes, it’s even the grandchildren who fully assimilate.

Jindal also said that if people come here, they should want to be Americans. How quickly people shuck their own traditions and values seems to be the yardstick by which Jindal wants to measure this. The hyphenated names thing has to go, too, in Jindal’s eyes. They all need to learn English now. And so forth.

It’s odd, and problematic, that the son of immigrants would worry that American culture is getting diluted because immigrants won’t assimilate as quickly as he likes. The melting pot that is American culture, however, is an amalgamation of lots of other cultures. Except for Native Americans, everyone in this country is the descendant of immigrants, who brought their own cultures, traditions, and values with them when they came here. Both the continents of North and South America are like that.

However, Republicans are also increasingly xenophobic. They want the U.S. to be a homogenous, closed culture because it makes them feel safe. They fear change, and immigrants change the U.S. They change the culture. They change the way we look. They change the way we see religion (oh noes!). In other words, they change the country in ways that Republicans don’t like, so Republicans demonize them, even if it means being a hypocrite like Jindal here.

A different story in The Huffington Post says that Jindal’s parents worked hard to raise him and his siblings as Americans. Lots of immigrants do that. Scholars, however, say assimilation is more complicated than that, and his views are outdated (another problem Republicans have). There is no single definition of assimilation, and the ability of immigrants to do it depends on a whole host of factors. These are things that Jindal completely ignores.

He holds himself up as an example of how easy it is, but, once again, the plural of anecdote is not data. Republicans are having a really hard time with that. Jindal, like the rest of the GOP and their nativist rhetoric, will continue to alienate immigrants in their quest for the White House if they keep this up.


Featured image by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons