How do we decide who gets to be an American?

Founding Director, Pew Research Center
We are the only country that has the capacity to take in people and "make them American," Kohut says.
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: How do we decide who is an American?

Andrew Kohut: Of course the waves of immigration that have freshened . . . refreshed America. You can see it . . . you can see this wave of Hispanic immigration refreshing America, just as the European immigrations of the 20th century refreshed America. And we have such a tremendous capacity to take people in and make them American. The American system is so . . . is so strong that it is an . . . it changes, it reacts, but it also . . . it . . . it . . . it reshapes itself a little bit. But it’s so encompassing, and to a certain extent so welcoming. If you look at the way Americans feel . . . Despite the debate about immigration these days, if you look at it, about the way Americans feel about bringing people in and being an American. The view is if you come here and wanna be an American, and act like an American, you are an American. That is certainly not the view in large parts of the world. And in many . . . many western countries in the . . . in . . . in . . . in the public . . . that’s not the view of the public and many of our allies.

Recorded on: 9/14/07