Linda Chavez

If the children and grandchildren of Hispanic immigrants still see themselves as a group apart, it's because we've encouraged them to do so. Not only do we ask people constantly to check boxes as to their ethnic identity but also government rewards members of some racial and ethnic groups on that basis. Colleges and universities routinely give preferences in admission to black and Hispanic students. My organization, the Center for Equal Opportunity, has been documenting the degree of preference at public colleges and universities since 1995, and it is both wide and deep, resulting in huge advantages for black and Hispanic applicants. And those preferences extend to employment and government contracting.

But the news on the assimilation front in the Pew Hispanic Center's study is not all bad. As a group, Hispanics overwhelmingly believe in the importance of learning English; 90 percent think English fluency is crucial to succeeding in the U.S. The study found that nearly all U.S.-born Hispanics say they speak, read and write English well, which confirms other studies on language acquisition. Only 1 percent of third-generation Hispanics remain Spanish-dominant, and though the study does not break down the numbers, it is likely these are older Hispanics living in isolated communities.

Nearly half of Hispanics say they think of themselves as "a typical American." Those likeliest to think of themselves in those terms are U.S.-born, English-speaking and middle- or upper-middle-income. Among Hispanics earning $70,000 a year or more, 70 percent think of themselves as typical Americans.

But even in the minds of Hispanic immigrants, America still represents a place of hope and opportunity. A larger proportion of Hispanics than other Americans believe that most people can get ahead with hard work -- 75 percent, compared with 58 percent. And almost 90 percent of immigrants say the United States provides more opportunity to get ahead than their country of origin.

In the end, these attitudes may suggest more about Hispanics' assimilation than what they call themselves.

Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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