The latest Gallup poll shows that immigration is the most important problem facing the U.S. today. This topic continues to polarize the American public, and it is front and center in regards to the 2020 presidential election. The argument lingers with both sides convinced that they are correct while fighting a toxic battle that lately has escalated to exchanges of inflammatory and very unpleasant messages. Yet the political red tape has not afforded any real solutions. This debate will persist to divide if we continue to fail to grasp the one thing that assures unity and makes immigration work: assimilation.

The multiculturalism and diversity that Americans once embraced has been sadly weaponized by those who shortsightedly disagree with the benefits of integration, assimilation and the overall notion of Americanization. Our current immigration system is broken not only because it lacks human and material resources. It’s fundamentally inoperable because we have neglected to embrace and implement that one thing that works. The genius of American culture has always been the capacity to take immigrants and turn them into Americans, the process by which many ethnicities, languages and religions become one under one flag.

I am a grateful part of this experiment and one that can speak from experience about the symbiotic gains that can result. Ironically, the system has hurt the very people it is trying to protect by allowing the impractical desire for political correctness to stand in the way of cultural adaptation and fusion.

Assimilation doesn’t mean that immigrants must surrender their religion, language, values, traditions, foods or festivities; it means that the guest should try to understand, respect and ultimately experience the culture of the host country, not the other way around. Assimilation doesn’t mean that you need to forget who you are or where you came from. It allows you to keep all those elements while affording you the wonderful process of experiencing a new culture and learning new traditions and idiosyncrasies.

I can tell you from experience that the process of integration is not always easy; it requires sacrifice, and there will be struggles as we step out of our comfort zone to learn something new. But the more you understand and accept the language, history and culture of the host country, the easier time you will have surviving and thriving as you become part of something bigger.

There is a magical moment that occurs in the life of a migrant when he or she starts to accept and actually enjoy their new normal, ideally reaching the ultimate goal of appreciating and loving this new home. You can become a U.S. citizen when you receive your naturalization certificate, but you only become an American when you genuinely start loving this country. I wish all immigrants will be able to reach such a grand goal regardless of which country they live in.

Immigration without assimilation is a recipe for disaster to the concept of having a unified nation working cohesively toward common goals. The folks on the left constantly reminds us that we are a nation of immigrants, failing to state the second half of the equation: immigrants who must assimilate and adapt to become one nation. If America becomes a country of non-assimilating immigrants, we will fail the wonderful idea of having a true melting pot. Instead we will end up with a country plagued with dissenting parallel societies with very little in common that become progressively intolerant of one another.

In Europe, immigration without emphasis on integration is delivering disaster. Migrant crime is rising, and violence is becoming more common. France, Sweden, Germany and other nations have taken millions of immigrants, many of whom have no intention of becoming Frenchmen, Swedes or Germans. It will be less than smart for America to follow the same path.

I am convinced that the immigration-based weariness and reluctance that fuels a portion of the conservative population stems directly from the fact that many of the refugees and immigrants — who are very lucky recipients of this country’s kindness – don’t always choose to adapt or show appreciation and gratefulness for all they received, instead depicting a certain entitlement and even disgust towards the very country that has given them so much. Some of these folks have even become prominent politicians.

A related note about our very own Congresswoman Ilhan Omar: It is unfortunate that her career has started with so much drama and animosity while providing little or no value to the state or country. She was a refugee the U.S. protected by bringing her to this country and nurtured with housing, food, healthcare, education and endless opportunities. Her anger and condemnation toward traditional American values and its main ethnic group are repulsive. As an immigrant, I can tell you that she does not represent me despite her self-appointed title of being a champion for minorities and immigrants. In fact, as a member of those groups, I feel embarrassed by her ungrateful actions for a nation that has given her so much.

Our schools, colleges and other public institutions need to stop thinking that assimilation is taboo and that, by overprotecting a certain group or minority, we are actually helping them. We cannot afford the notion of immigrants becoming permanent tourists taking advantage of the sympathy and resources of this country while not participating or willing to adapt to its language, culture or traditions in the name of political correctness or a flawed understanding of inclusion. It is unrealistic and foolish to try to force a system where an immigrant that lives in Minnesota should behave, act and feel as if they are still in Somalia, Russia or Ecuador.

There are inherent responsibilities that a foreign national need to accept and embrace when they make the voluntary choice to come to this or any other country. Assimilation is the truest form of inclusion, and it has created the greatest multicultural society the world has ever seen. We should celebrate fusion rather than outlaw it. Let kids at schools celebrate Halloween again. Call Christmas by its name. Let’s be proud and safeguard our traditions while at the same time being receptive of new ones, and let’s allow natural adaptation to do what it does best.

After all, America is sustained by one simple truth: E pluribus unum (out of many, one).

Juan Macias lives in Savage with his wife and two daughters and he works as an engineering manager for a defense company in the Twin Cities. He actively participates at the local government and is interested in education and STEM activities within the Prior Lake-Savage Area School District.

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