On Monday, ThinkProgress interviewed freshman Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA), who fled Vietnam at the age of 8 after the fall of Saigon to become the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress.
We asked him to respond to comments from right-wing radio host Michael Savage, who said that political refugees “who have never used a telephone, a toothbrush, or toilet paper” come to the U.S. and “bring their destitute ways to this country, and they never assimilate.” “And then their children become gang-bangers,” Savage added. Cao condemned the statements as “racist” and “repulsive.” “I have assimilated, and assimilated well, I believe,” said Cao, who had never used a toilet before coming to America.
On Tuesday, Savage defended his remarks, restating that “most refugees” — “particularly from certain countries” — do not assimilate to the United States:
SAVAGE: We’re arguing over a junior Congressman from Louisiana, Republican at that, who is already attacking Michael Savage for saying what I believe to be true, which is that most refugees who come here, particularly from certain countries, do not assimilate to this nation. … All I have to do is have you go look around a mall, you’ll see many 14-year-olds pushing carriages with two babies because it’s a meal ticket for them.
Savage’s ire seems most directed at non-European immigrants — immigrants like Cao. He insisted that today’s immigrants are “not the same as European immigrants” in the early 20th century, and that the U.S. “must have a dialogue as to which immigrants and from which nation they want.”
Other extreme right-wingers have suggested that only Europeans should be allowed to immigrate to the United States. For example, Pat Buchanan — who warned against the dissolution of the “civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America” — said the U.S. “should favor folks from cultures and civilization that have been assimilated before,” i.e., Europeans.
What’s more, a recent study by the Manhattan Institute found that “immigrants of the past quarter-century have been assimilating in the United States at a notably faster rate than did previous generations.”