67% Of Hispanic Immigrants Are Functionally Illiterate—Most Still Can’t Speak English Even After 15 Years

hispanic communities self-segregate, which prevents them from learning English proficiently

2 in 3 Hispanics Living in US Can’t Understand Basic English, Even When They’ve Lived in America for 15 Years

A new study done by the Center For Immigration Studies (CIS) finds that 67% of Hispanic immigrants have a “below basic” understanding of the English language, making them functionally illiterate (in English) in their daily lives.

Even more surprising: English language proficiency was not strongly correlated with the length of time said immigrants lived in the US.

In fact, the study observed almost no difference in English language skills between newly arrived Hispanic immigrants, and those who have lived in the US for 15 years.

And to be clear, this study was not focused on illegal immigrants (migrants)—we are talking about legal immigrants to America, who have been given citizenship status.


And unfortunately, language skills don’t seem to improve much with the next generation.  As per the CIS:

The children of Hispanic immigrants score at the 34th percentile, and 22 percent are below basic. In addition, just 5 percent of second-generation Hispanics have ‘elite’ literacy skills, compared to 14 percent of natives overall[.]

This is ironic given that many states actually provide free English lessons to immigrants as a way to help them better integrate into society.

As well, states like California and Texas spending billions of dollars on secondary language teaching and classes for immigrants (including illegal ones).

How can someone truly succeed in the American economy if they can’t even have basic conversations with other individuals?

And, perhaps more importantly, how does this benefit American citizens?

For a broad discussion on why illegal immigration in particular is bad, check out our comprehensive  article on illegal immigration that touches on many of these questions in detail.

What’s Causing Immigrant Illiteracy in America?

For a point of reference, only 41% of non-Hispanic immigrants lack basic English language proficiency—this is bad, but is still a world apart.

So why aren’t Hispanic immigrants learning English?

It’s because they’re not integrating and assimilating organically—if they were, they’d pick up English along the way.

Instead, many are living in self-segregated communities and cultural enclaves where Spanish (and to a much lesser degree, Portuguese) is spoken ubiquitously.

Such communities are commonly thought to exist only in states like California, Arizona, and Florida (those close to Latin America), but they’re much more widespread than that—for example, the “Nuyorican” community in New York City.

This lack of integration is bad for everyone: it hurts Hispanics who are looking for work, and it’s bad for locals, who increasingly feel like strangers in their own land—cultural dislocation and marginalization is a real problem, and it goes both ways.

It also impacts our political system: these people have the right to vote and determine the outcome of elections, and yet the vast majority cannot even understand what candidates are saying.

This forces them to rely on translators working for incredibly biased networks like Telemundo—no wonder Hispanics vote overwhelmingly democrat.

Their only option for news is the Spanish version of CNN.

If immigrants are to succeed in America, and if America is to succeed, all immigrants must learn English.  There is no other way forward.

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5 Comments on "67% Of Hispanic Immigrants Are Functionally Illiterate—Most Still Can’t Speak English Even After 15 Years"

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The limit of your language is the limit of your world. It’s really simple: understanding the language in the country in which you dwell is a survival tactic. I can not imagine relocating to a foreign country without first learning the language spoken there prior to moving there. I reside in California, which has been flooded with Hispanics, and it is not uncommon to to into a fast-food restaurant to find it staffed exclusively with Mexican employees – and they speak Spanish, not English! Subsequently, many of them do not strive to learn English. What better way to learn a new language than to use it?

Spencer P Morrison

I wholeheartedly agree. Were I to move to Argentina, I would be speaking fluent Spanish ASAP. It’s impossible to integrate without knowing the language. Language is the most important glue that holds people together, without which we’re divided.

Tower of Babylon is an important piece of wisdom today’s people are ignoring at their own peril.


Some California school districts that used to teach high school classes in Spanish have abandoned the practice after a UCSB economics professor pointed out to the school board (of which he was a member) that this actually harmed the hispanic students by reducing their opportunity to learn English and thus their ability to integrate into mainstream society and reap the associated economic rewards.

This proves that democrats ARE, in some cases, capable of learning from the unintended negative consequences of their misguided virtue signalling, and changing course.

John Baxter

I can probably agree with most of what you’ve written. What I take great issue with however, is why in the world would you depict Puerto Ricans in your photo? Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and as such, everyone born in PR is a U.S. citizen. A citizen doesn’t immigrate, a citizen moves to a different state. You go on to throw some data in pertaining to California where “there” you will find illegal immigrants. But you threw Puerto Ricans into your ignorant mix as you probably think that Puerto Ricans are a different type of Mexican. Your piece would have been better received if you would have kept it generic and just stated non-citizen Latino immigrants…that would have been more accurate. But to show not only Puerto Ricans but to show them only, points more to your ignorance on the subject. It appears that you’ve collected your own data and came to your own conclusions. For the record, Puerto Ricans assimilate very well into U.S. society. Many have achieved fame such as Supreme Justice Sonia Soto-Mayor, actors Benicio Del Toro and others. Get the facts straight.

John Whitaker

It’s a stock photo of the Puerto Rican day parade in NYC, which I chose mostly out of convenience. But it does highlight the fact that even they (US citizens), have assimilated incredibly poorly (in their own country, no less).

Although not included in the data I cited, most Puerto Ricans in NYC don’t speak English, and we’re talking about 3rd generation people in a lot of cases.

My point is that this problem is beyond their legal status: whether illegal, legal, or US citizens, Hispanics have serious integration problems due to self-segregation, which removes any need to learn the local language.

It’s the “Chinatown” dilemma that’s to blame. But to say that Puerto Ricans assimilate “very well” into US society is strictly incorrect. They are still a very distinctive group, and that’s precisely my problem.

Multiculturalism is destructive, and that’s just the way it is.