It's not the Mexicans, it's the world economy, stupid!

In an article mentioned here yesterday (The Hispanic Challenge, Foreign Affairs, March-April), Samuel P. Huntington argues that so many Mexicans are immigrating to the US, are so resistant to assimilation into America's mainstream Anglo Protestant culture, and can make such a strong historical claim to the areas where they are concentrating (the formerly Mexican territories of California and the Southwest) that they are threatening the whole American way of life. He doesn't say here what the Anglo Protestants ought to do about it; no doubt he is saving that for his coming book on the subject. I shudder to think.

My first impulse was to dash off an op-ed and send it to, maybe, the Los Angeles Times (where I had an op ed on a related topic last year). But I've thought better of that idea. After all, Huntington's fears are not new, and neither is my answer, developed in my book Hispanic Nation. In a nutshell, (a) the numbers of immigrants are hardly unprecedented -- we had more at the turn of the previous century, (b) nor is what nativists' interpret as resistance to assimilation -- in the 1880s, German speakers were talking about establishing a Deutschtum in the United States! They meant a region where German language and culture would dominate, and lots of "Anglo" Protestants feared they would do it. And (c), no large immigrant group in the US (Irish, Italians, E. European Jews, Chinese) simply "assimilates" in one direction into American culture. They change American culture, broadening it, introducing new diet, body-language, spoken languages, religious and other beliefs. And the threat of Mexicans reclaiming as sovereign Mexican territory the lands lost to the US in the 1846-47 war is nil.

But none of this will impress Huntington and others who think like him and who are arguing more out of fear than science. Instead, I hope to develop another argument, quite different and on a much larger scale. I now think this will be my next nonfiction book after we finish the one on Latin American urbanism and architecture.

It is an argument that I first presented in a paragraph in the final chapter of HISPANIC NATION, when I was refuting the anti-third-world-immigrant arguments of English-born Peter Brimelow in his Alien Nation. I want to consider my statement there as a hypothesis, to be confirmed or disconfirmed by economic and demographic evidence. Either way, the examination is bound to help us understand much better these enormous processes that we sometimes call "globalization." Here's what I said, on pp. 237-8:
One cannot, as Brimelow proposes, promote American prosperity by stemming immigration from the poorer countries, because the two phenomena are tied together as parts of the same system. U.S. prosperity is in part dependent on foreign investment by U.S. corporations to create large-scale export industries in poorer countries; these new or enlarged enterprises destabilize the local economies, forcing smaller local enterprises to fold and displacing their entrepreneurs and workers and, by their effects on farm and land prices or their consolidation of larger landholdings, also displace formerly self-supporting peasants. Since the new foreign-based enterprises do not have room for or cannot use the skills of all these displaced entrepreurs, workers, and peasants, those people join a growing pool of potential emigrants. At the same time, entrepreneurs based in the United States, especially in the electronics, clothing-manufacturing, and other industries, are continually creating low-paid entry-level jobs here which absorb some immigrant labor and encourage further immigration. Thus, no drastic slowdown of immigration to the United States is likely without a collapse of the U.S. economy.
I think that has the makings of an interesting book.