Editor’s Note: July-August 2008


Call it the "Tale of Two Immigrations," but the immigrant story varies depending on which country people come from and where they decide to settle in the Chicago region. In some suburbs, the presence of immigrants has been billed as a selling point. In other suburbs, advocates say the response to immigrants has been hostile.

Latin American immigrants have gotten a different reception than their European and Asian counterparts.

As we discover in "Suburbs slow to get on board" by reporter Fernando Dí­az, many suburban communities have been slow to provide comprehensive services to the rapidly growing immigrant populations in their communities. As Dí­az notes, it's difficult to assess immigrant integration in these communities. Some places are slow on providing translation services. Others don't offer much protection against human rights and housing abuses. But it's clear that immigrants in Carpentersville, Elgin and Waukegan have gotten a colder reception than their counterparts in Naperville.

Residents in some suburbs have resisted immigrant integration, veiling their opposition as concerns over illegal immigration, a crowded job market and crime. Those concerns are raised about Latino immigrants far more often than they are about white and Asian immigrants.

In the case of Carpentersville, Elgin and Waukegan, people are more likely to see immigrants of Latin American descent and to hear those immigrants speaking Spanish. In each of the suburbs, Latin Americans account for more than 80 percent of the foreign- born population. However, in Naperville and Skokie, most immigrants are from Asia and are fluent in English. In Niles, the immigrants are mostly from Europe and are also fluent in English. We've rarely heard any debate about the influx of immigrants in those suburbs, even though the foreign-born population is substantial.

This year's historic presidential campaign has shown us a lot. But mostly, the hype, hope and hooplah tell us that America is changing–"like it or not. Shortly after 2050, racial minorities, collectively, will outnumber non-Hispanic white Americans, according to estimates by the U.S. Census. And many of those racial minorities will come from someplace else.

If residents of the Chicago region can send a black man to the U.S. Senate–"and, potentially, the White House–" surely they can figure out how to reserve judgment of their neighbors who speak different languages.

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