America’s patriotic assimilation system is broken

Capitol building

WASHINGTON — As Congress debates immigration reform legislation many argue that “our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed.”In a new quantitative analysis of Harris Interactive survey data, Hudson Senior Fellow John Fonte and consultant Althea Nagai suggest that our patriotic assimilation system is also broken and needs to be fixed. The authors have found that a large “patriotic gap” exists between native-born citizens and immigrant citizen issues of patriotic attachment and civic knowledge.

Despite what some may believe, native-born citizens have a much higher degree of patriotic attachment to the United States than naturalized citizens. Below are some additional findings: By 21 percentage points (65 percent to 44 percent), native-born citizens are more likely than naturalized immigrants to view America as “better” than other countries as opposed to “no better, no worse.”

American citizens

By about 30 points (85 percent to 54 percent), the native-born are more likely to consider themselves American citizens rather than “citizens of the world.”By 30 points (67 percent to 37 percent), the native-born are more likely to believe that the U.S. Constitution is a higher legal authority for Americans than international law. By roughly 31 points (81 percent to 50 percent), the native-born are more likely than immigrant citizens to believe that schools should focus on American citizenship rather than ethnic pride.

By 23 percentage points (82 percent to 59 percent), the native-born are more likely to believe that it is very important for the future of the American political system that all citizens understand English.

By roughly 15 points (77 percent to 62 percent), the native-born are more likely to believe that that there is a unique American culture that defines what it means to be an American.By 15 points (82 percent to 67 percent), the native-born are more likely than immigrant citizens to support an emphasis in schools on learning about the nation’s founding documents.


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  1. Here’s my top-ten list of what we should expect from those who want to become Americans (and those who are already Americans, for that matter). The list was first published in a National Review Online column a decade ago [link: ], and it is fleshed out in Congressional testimony [link: ]:

    1. Don’t disparage anyone else’s race or ethnicity.
    2. Respect women.
    3. Learn to speak English.
    4. Be polite.
    5. Don’t break the law.
    6. Don’t have children out of wedlock.
    7. Don’t demand anything because of your race or ethnicity.
    8. Don’t view working and studying hard as “acting white.”
    9. Don’t hold historical grudges.
    10. Be proud of being an American.


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