Martin Finucane, telegram.com (Worcester MA), Mar. 1
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 Prof. 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 and anti-Mexican 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.
Gabriela Lemus, policy director at the League of United Latin American Citizens, said she found the article “misguided,” “very alarmist and very divisive” and rife with unsupported assumptions.
Hispanic immigration to the United States during the 1990s was “really phenomenal,” she acknowledged.
But she rejected what she said was Huntington’s suggestion that Hispanics had come to the United States to “divide and conquer.”
“I honestly from the bottom of my heart do not believe that that’s the case,” she said.
“I do believe, that, while we may not be assimilating at the same rates as we have in the past, little by little we are assimilating,” she said.
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 attacks.
His thesis was that global politics would be dominated by “the clash of civilizations,” rather than conflicts among nations. 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.
A spokeswoman for Simon & Schuster Inc., which is publishing Huntington’s book, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. A spokesman for Harvard didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
Carlos Lozada, managing editor of Foreign Policy, said the magazine published the article because of the importance of the topic and the prominence of the author.
The article has already generated a stream of letters, which will be printed in the next issue of the magazine, Lozada said.
“Professor Huntington has had such an impact on academics and policy that our readers benefit from gaining more insight into his world view and perspectives,” he said. “As far as the merits of the article itself, we’ll leave that to the readers.”