If even Harvard professors can figure out what mass immigration is doing to America, can Big Business be far behind? The Washington Postthis week ran an insipid satire [“Hey Professor, Assimilate This!”Letters responding] on Harvard scholar Samuel Huntington‘s forthcoming book on the cultural dangers of mass immigration, but ironically Business Week treats it a bit more respectfully.
“Ironically,” because Business Week is the weekly bible for Economic Man, the creature who has convinced himself that nothing matters—to him and everyone else—but money and who therefore has been all on board for mass immigration as long as there was a buck or two attached to it, as there usually has been. Now, though the magazine’s cover story tiptoes around the subject, between the lines there’s a good deal more skepticism about immigration than you might expect.
The problem the story tries to confront is whether the 39 million or so Hispanics in the United States, who are mostly recent immigrants or their immediate descendants, will “be absorbed just as other waves of immigrants were?” as the headline asks. “It’s possible,” the headline answers, “but more likely they will continue to straddle two worlds, figuring out ways to remain Hispanic even as they become Americans.”
Even that concession is a major victory for those who have argued for years that allowing millions of culturally distinct aliens into the country would create subcultures that clash with the dominant and historic culture of the nation—an argument Professor Huntington has discovered and developed. His own recent essay in the magazine Foreign Policy explains many reasons why “absorption” is not really taking place anywhere near as much as the Open Borders lobby has always liked to claim, and much of what Business Week cites reinforces his arguments.
The story dwells on the problem of language. Yes, Hispanic immigrants and their children learn English, but “a study of assimilation and other factors shows that while the number of Hispanics who prefer to speak mostly Spanish has dipped in recent years as the children of immigrants grow up with English, there has been no increase in those who prefer only English.” One study cited in the article “found that the group speaking both languages has climbed six percentage points since 1995, to 63 percent, and is likely to jump to 67 percent by 2010.” [Hispanic Nation, March 15, 2004]
It’s great to know two languages, but this country has always had one—English—and if it acquires another, the unity and identity a single language helps create and sustain will start to shrivel.
Moreover, as the magazine acknowledges, there now exists a vast subculture that reinforces retaining Spanish as the main language. One Mexican-American family featured in the Business Week story lives in Cicero, Illinois, where Al Capone once ruled and where today 77 percent of the residents are Hispanic and “Spanish dominates.” The more it dominates, the more other cultural habits of the old country are reinforced—what kind of food they eat, what they think about work and family and politics, and what they remain loyal to. That’s the problem.
Business Week can’t resist gloating over all the money to be made off immigration, but it’s also honest enough to admit that Big Business does all it can to assist the cultural fracturing that Professor Huntington warns about. “In its eagerness to tap the exploding Hispanic market, Corporate America itself is helping to reinforce Hispanics’ bicultural preferences,” the cover story notes, by pitching ads to Hispanics in Spanish and appealing to their distinct cultural values and habits. One health insurance company executive told the magazine, “We knew we had to remake the entire company, linguistically and culturally, to deal with this market.”Who’s assimilating to whom?
For decades the entire debate about immigration (such as it was) turned on the question of assimilation—would the new immigrants from countries and cultures radically different from the European traditions of most immigrants of the past be able and willing to adapt to the European core of American life? Your answer to the question largely determined your opinion about immigration. Today, it’s pretty clear that assimilation in the sense the Open Borders crowd insisted would happen isn’t taking place.
“Straddling two worlds,” which is Business Week‘s conception of what will happen, may not be quite as destructive as Balkanization pure and simple, but it’s a far cry from what anyone in this country ever wanted and a lot closer to what the critics of immigration have been predicting for years and what the vast majority of Americans have always known. Harvard, at least in the person of Professor Huntington, has now figured that out. Maybe “Corporate America”is about to learn that too. Can Washington be far behind?