The Great German Immigrant Panic (aka John Derbyshire Is Just Too Aggravating To Ignore)

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Jonathan has a righteous bit of outrage about National Review columnist John Derbyshire’s latest inanity (heavens to murgatroid! there are Hispanics in Iowa!) that I can’t resist piling on to. About a century ago the Derbyshires of the day were tearing their hair out about the way German immigrants were taking over Upper Midwest towns. In Minnesota, there was much hand-wringing over “Stearns County Syndrome,” which consisted of Mueller and Schmidt kids graduating from 8th grade without having learned English.

When I was reporting on Latino immigration in a small town not so far from Storm Lake (10 years ago, by the way–and the town was about 50 percent Latino then, so what’s Derbyshire’s big news here anyway?), a local church lady told me about how her Norwegian parents used to warn the kids not to hang out with the riffraff from across town. “Back then it was Swedes, today it’s the Spanish people,” she said. Then she went off to root for the new boys’ high school soccer team, 50 percent Mexican kids plus a few Bosnians and Somalis. They made the state tournament that year.

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