New salvo in assimilation debate
Mar. 14, 2004
Harvard prof draws flak for
position on Mexican 'peril'
BOSTON - A prominent Harvard professor is drawing flak for an article that
argues that Mexicans and other Hispanics are not assimilating into mainstream
culture and warns that the "United States ignores this challenge at its peril."
Professor Samuel P. Huntington, chairman of the Harvard Academy for
International and Area Studies, writes in the current issue of Foreign Policy
magazine that the United States could become "two peoples, two cultures and two
Huntington foresees "the end of the America we have known for more than three
centuries." And he writes, "Americans should not let that change happen unless
they are convinced that this new nation would be a better one."
Huntington's article, which draws distinctions between past waves of immigration
to the United States and current Hispanic immigration patterns and looks at the
growing Hispanic population in the country, was greeted with dismay by some
The article is "data-free" and unsupported by the evidence, said Professor
Rodolfo O. de la Garza of Columbia University.
"This is really sad because this is the kind of thing we expect from xenophobes.
He is a man who's made important contributions to the study of politics both in
America and abroad, but his analysis now has just gone nuts," de la Garza said.
"There is absolutely no basis, none, for saying that Latinos are not
participating in mainstream America. It is an argument without documentation,"
de la Garza said. "All of the serious analysis on this subject shows how much
Latinos join the American mainstream."
In a letter submitted to the editor of Foreign Policy, Andres Jimenez, director
of the University of California's California Research Policy Center, said he
felt the article was "misinformed, factually inaccurate, inflammatory, and
potentially injurious to public policy because of the potential for its being
used as a further baseless rationalization for anti-immigrant . . . politics."
Huntington argues, among other things, that immigration from Mexico is different
from other immigration waves for a variety of reasons, including Mexico's
proximity to the United States and the sheer scale of legal and illegal
immigration from that country.
"Demographically, socially and culturally, the 'reconquista' (re-conquest) of
the Southwest United States by Mexican immigrants is well under way," he writes.
"This trend could consolidate the Mexican-dominant areas of the United States
into an autonomous, culturally and linguistically distinct, and economically
self-reliant bloc within the United States."
Huntington has been in the news before. His 1996 book, The Clash of
Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, received wide attention after the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The book raised the specter of a Western civilization headed for conflict with
other cultures, such as Islamic culture. That book also had its critics.
Huntington was out of the country and wouldn't be commenting until his new book,
Who We Are, which was the source of the article, is published, said his
assistant, Beth Baiter.