CIS’ latest screed, “Mapping the Impact of Immigration on Public Schools,” argues that immigrant children pose a risk to assimilation, as its author Stephen Camarota said in a recent interview, “The biggest issue for me is: Can the level of immigration be so high that it overwhelms the assimilation process?”
The report has already gotten some play in what Camarota, speaking to a sparse crowd, called the “alternative press.” Camarota’s opening remarks at the National Press Club made the case for the report, using carefully coded language about how the increase in the number of immigrant children in America’s schools will be taking America into “uncharted territory” and “the level of immigration or the number of kids from immigrant backgrounds in public schools is now so high in immigrant areas that it does raise profound questions about assimilation.”
Camarota went on to proclaim, “All of this has occurred with little debate over the capacity of our schools to educate and to integrate these children into our society and our culture.” Camarota also equated immigrant children with poverty citing an example in Minnesota, stating, “In a very real sense, there is a new poverty problem in Minnesota that is of immigrant origin.”
Next up was Boston College professor Peter Skerry, who was critical of much of the CIS report. Some of these criticisms clearly triggered Camarota who shifted uncomfortably in his chair next to the political science professor. Skerry took particular issue with two lines in the report that stated: “One way that assimilation works is that the predominance of natives and their children makes the absorption of American culture and identity almost inevitable among immigrants and their children. If immigrants are a modest share of the local population it makes identifying with America and its culture practically unavoidable.” Skerry said that he thinks nothing is “practically unavoidable” and noted that the notion of inevitably of assimilation—if as the CIS report says that there is a “predominance of natives”—is “problematic” for him.
The final two speakers were Reihan Salam of National Review and Juan Rangel, the corrupt former head of UNO Charter School Network Inc., a charter schools network in Chicago which he left after federal regulatory charges “that he misled investors in a $37.5 million bond issue to build three facilities” according to Crain’s Chicago Business.
Following the speeches, Mark Krikorian the longtime head of CIS began the Q&A section with a question that essentially sums up CIS’ position: “It seems to me, isn’t one conclusion, not the only one but in a sense the first one, the first corollary of everything you guys have said, is therefore there should be less immigration?"
What was not discussed at the panel was the anti-immigrant movement’s long-term strategic goal of challenging a 1982 Supreme Court decision that ruled that all children, regardless of status, have the right to a public education in America. Both the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and CIS have talked about overturning Plyler vs. Doe, with one 2005 CIS report stating the case “is perhaps the most egregious of the Court’s immigration rulings.” Reports like the one CIS published Tuesday are most certainly an attempt to push this agenda forward.