Prepare The Dueling Pistols!
January 14, 2005, 04:00 AM
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Were it not for the fact that settling disputes at twenty paces fell out of favor two centuries ago, I would—to preserve the honor of immigration reform groups and also of my Italian immigrant ancestors—challenge New York Times education columnist Samuel G. Freedman  to meet me at dawn.

In his January 5th column "Dominicans Take Their Place As an American Success Story." Freedman—who is also a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the 1997 recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists outstanding journalism educator award—slimed Americans who favor a thoughtful immigration policy. And he took a pretty good shot at Italian-Americans.

Presumably, Freedman set out to write a straightforward column about the achievements of 17 Hostos Community College graduates. As reported by Freedman, the group—which gathered for a pre-Christmas reunion with former teachers—was largely Dominican.

Freedman wrote that one former student, the son of barber with only a second grade education, is now a corporate auditor.

Another who knew only a few words of English ten years ago is currently the director of testing for York College in Queens.

But then, after heaping praise on these Dominicans, Freedman fell into an emotional spasm. He wrote:

"In the 39 years since the US reopened its door to large-scale immigration, it has become sadly routine to hear and read criticism of these arrivals from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean basin, and Latin America as somehow more clannish, less devoted to America and the English language than their European forebears in the period from roughly 1850-1920. Any cursory look at the nativist lobby's publications and Web sites would lead one to believe that post-1965 immigrants, especially Hispanic ones, present nothing less than a threat to the republic."

And:

"…Dominicans may be the modern day equivalent of the Italians…the upward mobility through public education and small business ownership follows the same trajectory."

Of course, Freedman is absurdly wrong to suggest that the tiny handful of, as he puts it, "unheralded successes of Dominican immigrants in higher education…" is a clear signal that Dominicans are taking their place among the "legendary ladder of upward mobility for earlier waves of newcomers."

Imagine if I wrote that 15 convicted Dominican drug dealers doing hard time at Riker's Island represent an accurate sampling of that country's total population.  

I can tell stories of individual successes among my Latino ESL students too. But that doesn't alter my opinion that, overall, the influx is a disaster for America.

And amazingly, buried at the very end of Freedman's article is this devastating refutation of his entire thesis:

"Between 1980 and 2000, even as Dominican immigrants became more likely to earn a high school diploma, the share of American-born Dominicans whose formal education ended with a high school diploma dropped markedly—from about one-third to one-fifth…Those numbers tell a chastening story about what happens when the immigrant drive doesn't lift a family into the middle class and the next generation adopts the most self-destructive attitudes of poor, urban America, about how doing well in school is just for chumps."

In other words, Dominicans overall are becoming a new underclass.

Maybe a New York Times editor who didn't go to Columbia Journalism School made Freedman put this in.

It just hasn't affected his raging imigration enthusiasm.

Freedman does cite a new study "Against All Odds: Students in Higher Education in New York", by Ramona Hernandez, Director of the Dominican Studies Institute at City College of New York and herself a Dominican. [Not available online].

According to Freedman's optimistic analysis of Hernandez's statistics, American-born Dominicans 25 or older with "some college" doubled from 1980 to 2000 to 35%. Among Dominican natives now living in New York, 17% have "some college."

But check the tortured math. According to my calculations, Hernandez's figures translate to 65% American-born Dominicans and 83% of U.S.-resident Dominican natives without any college education.

What "upward mobility" awaits those under-educated Dominicans?

Even more interesting is how Freedman never mentions Hernandez's earlier study released in October 2003, "Dominicans in the US: A Socioeconomic Profile, 2000."

Among the sobering facts then detailed by Hernandez:

  • The mean annual per capita household income for Dominicans in 1999 was $11, 065—half the average national per capita income and significantly less than the average per capital income of African-American families and slightly less than other Hispanic households.

  • The poverty rate of Dominicans in New York—32%—is the highest of any major ethnic or racial groups. Many of those living in poverty were female-headed families. (A Center for Immigration Studies 2000 report found that the national percentage of Dominicans in poverty is more than 60%).

  • The unemployment rate for Dominican men and women "greatly exceeded" the national unemployment.

  • The Dominican labor force is "very young and mostly unskilled." Accordingly, "the average earnings of Dominican men and women are substantially lower than those of other workers in the nation."

  • Nationwide, the overall Dominican educational attainment is "among the lowest" of any ethnicity. Only 50% of Dominicans over 25 have completed high school.

After reading Hernandez's report only one conclusion can be reached: Dominicans in America are, on the whole, doing poorly.

The Dominican "American Success Story" touted by Freedman's simply doesn't exist

Yet the numbers of Dominicans who entered the U.S doubled between 1990 and 2000 from 520,000 to 1 million. Add to that the 400,000 Dominicans that were born in U.S.

Arguments to control immigration from the Dominican Republic—and other countries with similar economic profiles—are entirely logical and appropriate.

A final point: To suggest that Dominicans are "the modern day equivalent of the Italians" is really a stretch—even for a professional immigration enthusiast.

I must remind Freedman that my Italian ancestors came to New York legally. They were legally employed at every job they ever held.

None received one thin dime in government support.

And Italian immigration was cut off in the 1920s—something I never heard my relatives complain about (or even mention, by the way).

That cut-off, and the fact that pre-welfare state immigrants who failed in the workplace went home, helped all the 1880-1920 Great Wave immigrants assimilate.

Which is why we need another cut-off now.

It would behoove Freedman to take more than a "cursory" look at immigration reform websites and try to learn something.

A tall order. But suggest it to Freedman anyway: sgfreedman@nytimes.com or feedback@samuelfreedman.com

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.