City Journal recently published an in-depth article about the effect of chain migration on Hazelton, Pennsylvania. It’s a startling and eye-opening piece of journalism. Here’s a lengthy excerpt. Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.
With a population long dominated by the descendants of European immigrants, Hazleton has been radically transformed since the early 2000s by secondary chain migration, principally driven by Dominicans—immigrants, both legal and illegal, as well as second- and third-generation citizens arriving from the New York metropolitan area. In 2000, Hispanics made up less than 5 percent of Hazleton’s population; they now account for more than 50 percent. Such rapid and dramatic demographic shifts are rare in U.S. cities. For Hazleton, the consequences have been profound, and the city is struggling to cope.
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Dominicans started moving to New York City in the 1960s, fleeing the Dominican Republic’s political upheaval and mass poverty, just as Congress passed the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, a major policy reform that unleashed family-based chain migration in the United States. Mass chain migration resulted in Dominicans becoming Gotham’s second-largest Hispanic group by 1992. Many moved to northern Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, which transformed into a Dominican outpost, with bodegas, Pentecostal congregations, restaurants, and cab fleets bearing a Dominican cultural stamp. The Dominican New Yorkers tended to isolate themselves in the neighborhood, preserving their island culture with the aid of modern communications. A 2002 SUNY Albany study on Hispanic residential patterns found that, compared with other Hispanic immigrant groups, Dominicans had higher levels of residential segregation. The “average Dominican,” the report noted, “lives in a neighborhood where only one of eight residents is a non-Hispanic white.” Doubtless as a partial consequence of its isolation, the Dominican community has lower levels of income and higher unemployment, and receives public assistance to a greater degree, than other Hispanic groups.
While New York has enjoyed sustained prosperity and plunging crime rates since the mid-1990s, Washington Heights has remained relatively unsafe and impoverished, and its public schools are dismal. Over time, facing these urban woes, more and more Dominican residents wanted to escape. The September 11 attacks intensified that desire.
Hazleton’s low crime rate, affordable housing, stable schools, idyllic neighborhoods, and proximity to New York made it a perfect choice for relocation. In 1990, just 249 Hispanics lived in Hazleton, making up 1 percent of the city’s residents. But the earliest New York transplants loved their new home. “Most people in New York City think life in Pennsylvania as we’re living it is a dream,” a new resident told the Hazleton Standard-Speaker in 1991. “I can sit down in my house, open my door, watch TV to 10 or 11 at night. I don’t have to worry about someone walking in shooting me, ripping me off.” Another Hispanic transplant said that Hazleton should prepare for mass migration. “People of Hazleton have to realize we are going to keep pouring in,” he told the Standard-Speaker. “If not they have to learn we are just as free as they are. They can’t deny us anything. They have to start dealing with us. If they don’t deal with us, push has come to shove, and we’ll deal with them like in New York City.” After the towers fell, Dominican migrants began arriving en masse.
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With Hazleton facing a nearly $900,000 deficit in 2017, Mayor Jeffrey Cusat applied for and received designation from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a financially distressed city. The designation allows Pennsylvania to assist Hazleton in managing its finances and debt. The distress stems from diminished tax revenues, plummeting real-estate values, and the city’s shifting demography, which has led to a surge in demand for services such as public-safety efforts. Rising employee costs and pension obligations have added to the city’s precarious fiscal position. The state’s report on Hazleton’s budget crisis concluded that “the demographic and income changes affecting the city will only compound the future financial challenges.”
Crime has been a big challenge. In 2011, the U.S. Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) released a report on eastern Pennsylvania’s drug and gang threat. It focused on Hazleton as a regional center for illegal drug distribution. According to the report, Dominican drug-trade organizations (DTOs) and gangs started controlling the city’s wholesale drug distribution in the 1990s.
Hazleton’s proximity to I-80 and I-81 made the city an ideal location for Dominican DTOs to centralize their cocaine and heroin operations. The NDIC, which folded into the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2012, noted how “the presence of a long-established Dominican population, along with interstate highways that directly connect Hazleton to other Dominican populations in New York and New England, makes the city a favorable destination for Dominican fugitives seeking a place to operate away from law enforcement pressure in those areas.” In the early 2010s, the opening of a minimum-security halfway house in a historic hotel building in downtown Hazleton worsened the drug-trade problem. When released, halfway-house inmates, it turned out, often committed drug-related crimes or joined local gangs. By 2013, the halfway house yielded to community pressure, closing its facility.
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Of course, Dominicans also take pride in their culture, but their gateway neighborhoods in New York served as an extension of their country of origin; assimilation proved unnecessary. The pattern has repeated itself in Hazleton. The broader Hazleton community has encouraged Dominicans’ political and civic involvement, but the newcomers often remain disengaged in local matters. Hazleton has become an important campaign stop for the Dominican Republic’s leading political candidates, for example, suggesting to many Hazleton residents that their new neighbors, even when U.S. citizens—and many are not—retain stronger ties to their ancestral home than to their city, or even to America. Resentments on both sides have grown.
There’s much more at the link. Highly recommended reading.
The highlighted paragraphs illustrate precisely what the problem is with such migration: it takes place without assimilation. That’s a fatal flaw. If one thinks of a community as a human body, the problem becomes somewhat clearer. In a human body, any outside element that seeks to become established (e.g. a cancer) is recognized as “foreign” and attacked by the body’s immune system. Either it will be overcome (often with the help of medical intervention) and destroyed, or it will win the fight and (eventually) kill the body. In the same way, one simply can’t allow an alien community (which is precisely what we’re dealing with here) to become entrenched within a larger, local community if it does not assimilate into that larger community. If that doesn’t happen, inevitably, conflict will arise; and only one of those communities will be able to survive. The other will be either taken over, or have to leave for pastures new.
There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all … The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic … There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.
It seems that Hazelton has a great many hypnenated Americans. We should be on our guard against the spread of this disease, lest it destroy American society and the body politic arising from it. I’m not in the least against legal immigration – I’m an immigrant myself, after all! – but let assimilation be a mandatory, required element of legal immigration. If it’s not . . . we’ll have far more Hazeltons, and that can’t be good for America.