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Commentary: Education Could Further Enhance Immigrants' Contributions

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From "Consider This With Fred Fiske:"

I guess the Hispanicization of America started with Xavier Cugat about 70 years ago, when Americans became attracted to Latin American music and started to dance the rumba, the cha cha and the merengue. Now, when we ask our grandchildren what they'd like to eat, they say "burritos," "tacos" or "paella"...

You’ve heard of the "graying" of America? Well the "browning" of America is now much more obvious. In 2009, about 16 percent of our population was Hispanic. The Pew Research Center estimates that in 2050, 29 percent of the population will be Hispanic. Whites will be a minority of 47 percent and their minority status in cities and schools will come even earlier.

In terms of political influence, Hispanics are already strong in California and Texas, they're expected to have considerable clout in elections tomorrow. As they come of age and register to vote, their impact will increase. Ours is a nation which has been enriched by successive waves of immigration--the English, the Germans, the Irish, the Italians. Latinos are probably changing America more visibly than any of the other groups.

Most Hispanics who've come here—legally or illegally—have sought a better life on our shores. Most, according to Pew, have not had a level of education which is necessary for better paying jobs, so they've been especially hard hit by the unemployment problem of recent years. Many Latin American countries are now experiencing greater economic growth and social progress. So the number of their citizens who seek to emigrate in the future will slow down.

The best thing that we can do for those in the United States is to try to educate at least future generations so that they may be able to move to the middle class economically. It's through an expanded middle class that we can provide the increased consumer spending economists say is necessary to get our economy back on track.

It's been said that we're a nation of immigrants. In the past 10 years, 60 Americans have been awarded the Nobel Prize. More than one-third of those recipients were immigrants. They add a lot more to our culture and our welfare than burritos or the merengue.

What do you think? Join The Conversation and contribute to the Commentary Forum.

Fred has been a fixture on Washington's air waves for more than 60 years. His commentaries will air every Monday at 5:44 p.m. and 7:44 p.m.

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