67% Of Hispanic Immigrants Are Functionally Illiterate—Most Still Can’t Speak English Even After 15 Years

hispanic communities self-segregate, which prevents them from learning English proficiently

2 in 3 Hispanics Living in US Can’t Understand Basic English, Even When They’ve Lived in America for 15 Years

A new study done by the Center For Immigration Studies (CIS) finds that 67% of Hispanic immigrants have a “below basic” understanding of the English language, making them functionally illiterate (in English) in their daily lives.

Even more surprising: English language proficiency was not strongly correlated with the length of time said immigrants lived in the US.

In fact, the study observed almost no difference in English language skills between newly arrived Hispanic immigrants, and those who have lived in the US for 15 years.

And to be clear, this study was not focused on illegal immigrants (migrants)—we are talking about legal immigrants to America, who have been given citizenship status.


And unfortunately, language skills don’t seem to improve much with the next generation.  As per the CIS:

The children of Hispanic immigrants score at the 34th percentile, and 22 percent are below basic. In addition, just 5 percent of second-generation Hispanics have ‘elite’ literacy skills, compared to 14 percent of natives overall[.]

This is ironic given that many states actually provide free English lessons to immigrants as a way to help them better integrate into society.

As well, states like California and Texas spending billions of dollars on secondary language teaching and classes for immigrants (including illegal ones).

How can someone truly succeed in the American economy if they can’t even have basic conversations with other individuals?

And, perhaps more importantly, how does this benefit American citizens?

For a broad discussion on why illegal immigration in particular is bad, check out our comprehensive  article on illegal immigration that touches on many of these questions in detail.

What’s Causing Immigrant Illiteracy in America?

For a point of reference, only 41% of non-Hispanic immigrants lack basic English language proficiency—this is bad, but is still a world apart.

So why aren’t Hispanic immigrants learning English?

It’s because they’re not integrating and assimilating organically—if they were, they’d pick up English along the way.

Instead, many are living in self-segregated communities and cultural enclaves where Spanish (and to a much lesser degree, Portuguese) is spoken ubiquitously.

Such communities are commonly thought to exist only in states like California, Arizona, and Florida (those close to Latin America), but they’re much more widespread than that—for example, the “Nuyorican” community in New York City.

This lack of integration is bad for everyone: it hurts Hispanics who are looking for work, and it’s bad for locals, who increasingly feel like strangers in their own land—cultural dislocation and marginalization is a real problem, and it goes both ways.

It also impacts our political system: these people have the right to vote and determine the outcome of elections, and yet the vast majority cannot even understand what candidates are saying.

This forces them to rely on translators working for incredibly biased networks like Telemundo—no wonder Hispanics vote overwhelmingly democrat.

Their only option for news is the Spanish version of CNN.

If immigrants are to succeed in America, and if America is to succeed, all immigrants must learn English.  There is no other way forward.

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