New salvo in assimilation debate
Associated Press
Mar. 14, 2004
Martin Finucane

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 languages."

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 Hispanics.

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.