Responses to Michael Smerconish's Dec. 9 column on immigrants and assimilation.

Ken Horton

Wayne

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Michael Smerconish is probably correct when he asserts that many earlier immigrants assimilated more quickly than today's immigrants ("What we lose now that newcomers don't assimilate," Dec. 9). However, this was because the tolerance of natives was even less then than it is now.

Entire political parties - one was the Know Nothings - were founded on the principle of intolerance of immigrants. Not changing your name could mean discrimination in the workplace or in the education of your children, and could even put life and limb at risk. So of course people changed their names.

Fortunately, we are now a greater nation, and have laws that prevent such discrimination. Our new immigrants behave differently because our nation has recognized that forcing them into some stereotype of what an American should be violates their basic rights as Americans.

S. Reid Warren III

Elverson

I don't believe for one moment that Latinos do not want to be assimilated and live the American dream. But will the rest of us permit them to and encourage them?

So far, our representatives in government, at both the local and national levels, have dodged their responsibilities to work on solutions. Cheap-shot sloganeering for political gain and blaming are not working. Calling immigrants "illegals" instead of seeing them as parents and children wanting a better life accomplishes nothing.

The country needs leadership in this area, but it is nowhere to be found.

Teresa M. Albert

Willow Grove

As a first-generation American, I am of the fervent opinion that no one should enter this country illegally and strict immigration laws should be enforced.

However, Michael Smerconish's column smacks of discrimination. Smerconish is strangely fixated on U.S. census data showing many more Hispanic names, insinuating that he'd rather not have the Garcias moving in next door to him. Smerconish seems hell-bent on insisting that those with Hispanic surnames change to something more American-sounding. To me that is decidedly un-American.

Eleanor Balsley

Galloway

Our forefathers didn't assimilate. Their children did.

I am the daughter of German parents who came to this country legally in the early 1900s. Yes, they altered their names. They spoke some English, which they'd learned in their native country, at home after my sister and I were born, but in their circle of friends they spoke only German. Their circle comprised, exclusively, native Eastern Europeans.

These parents, including mine, never really assimilated, but their kids sure did and it happened the day they started school. These kids didn't want to be different; they wanted to fit in. Some were embarrassed by their parents' accents and they were the ones who would help their parents through difficult translations. These kids truly assimilated.

So don't worry about whether hard-working Hispanic immigrants will assimilate. Their kids will do it for them, and our nation will be the richer for it.

Madelyn Alvariño

Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Michael Smerconish erroneously presents the idea that Hispanics must "Americanize" their surnames in order to be good "Americans" and be "assimilated." It is important to note that Spanish surnames and culture have been an integral part of America since Christopher Columbus - who was working for the Catholic kings of Spain - arrived in this continent on 1492.

The first settlement established in the New World had a Spanish name,

La Española

, which is the island of Haiti/Santo Domingo today. As the Spaniards discovered new territories, these were named in the Spanish language. For example:

Florida

,

California

,

Laredo

,

San Antonio

,

Los Angeles

,

Santa Ana

, and many more. North Americans seem to forget that

San Agustin

(St. Augustine), the first and oldest continually populated permanent European settlement in North America, was founded on Sept. 8, 1565, by Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Áviles. He was also the first governor of Florida, the colony originally formed by Juan Ponce de León. It was 42 years later, in 1607, that the British arrived in Jamestown.

The melting pot is not "cracked and broken." Instead, it has been replaced by a salad, a very tasty and diversified one.

Martin Mastascusa

Philadelphia

Michael Smerconish proclaims he is no xenophobe, yet he supports the "tradition" of Americanizing one's name upon immigrating to this country. Apparently he believes that there is an assimilation problem occurring because Hispanic immigrants are not adopting English surnames. English was not the first language of all the original settlers, and some Garcias and Rodriguezes have roots in this country as deep as those of any Smith and Jones.

Not all of the tired, huddled masses who came to this country felt that Americanization meant giving up one's name. Perhaps Smerconish would like to change his own name to something more "American" like Smith.

The reality is that he doesn't have to. True Americanization means accepting people as they are - independent of race, religion, ethnicity or name. And that is a tradition worth continuing.