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Archive for Saturday, March 6, 2004

Hispanic population growth changing the face of America

March 6, 2004

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The president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, is in Texas this weekend as a guest of President Bush. Reports indicate this will be a quick visit, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that future visits between the presidents of the bordering countries will be increasingly important.

Not long ago, U.S. government officials announced what had been expected for some time, that Hispanics now are this country's largest minority group, surpassing African-Americans.

The tremendous influx, both legal and illegal, of Mexicans, is not likely to slow, and with the large number of Hispanics -- mostly from Cuba, Latin America and Caribbean countries -- in places like Miami, the repercussions are sure to surprise many Americans. Those who live in places like Kansas, where many residents think they won't be affected much by the drastic demographic shift, will be particularly surprised.

A recent article by Samuel Huntington in Foreign Affairs magazine is a shocker, outlining the increasing number of Hispanics and what this will mean to many facets of American life. Huntington is a recognized scholar and chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.

Huntington states, "The persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures and two languages. Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves -- from Los Angeles to Miami -- and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream."

Huntington points out, "America was created by 17th and 18th century settlers who were overwhelmingly white, British and Protestant. Their values, institutions and culture provided the foundation for and shaped the development of the United States. They initially defined America in terms of race, ethnicity, culture and religion."

He continued, "Then in the 18th century, they also had to define America ideologically, to justify independence from their home country, which was also white, British and Protestant."

Still outlining the development of the United States, Huntington points out, "By the latter years of the 19th century, however, the ethnic component had been broadened to include Germans, Irish and Scandinavians and the United States' religious identity was being redefined more broadly from Protestant to Christian."

World War II years brought about additional demographic changes in the U.S. population and, according to Huntington, "Americans now see and endorse their country as multiethnic and multiracial. As a result, American identity is now defined in terms of culture and creed. Most Americans see the creed as the crucial element of their national identity."

Other interesting statements in the Huntington piece:

l "The cultural division between Hispanics and Anglos could replace the racial division between blacks and whites as the most serious cleavage in U.S. society."

l In 1960, the five largest foreign-born populations living in the United States, in order of numbers, were from Poland, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Italy, topping out at 1,257,000 people. In 2000, the top five were from Cuba, India, Philippines, China and Mexico, with 7,841,000.

l "Estimates of the total number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. rose from 4 million in 1994 to 6 million in 1998, to 7 million in 2000, and to between 8 million and 10 million by 2003. Mexicans made up 58 percent of the illegals in the U.S. in 1990; by 2000 an estimated 4.8 million illegal Mexicans made up 69 percent of that population."

l "Most immigrant groups have higher fertility rates than natives, and hence, the impact of immigration is felt heavily in schools."

l "One index foretells the future," according to Huntington, "In 1998, 'Jose' replaced 'Michael' as the most popular name for newborn boys in California and Texas."

l "Miami is the most Hispanic large city in the United States. Over the course of 30 years, Spanish-speakers -- overwhelmingly Cubans -- established their dominance in virtually every aspect of the city's life, fundamentally changing its ethnic composition, culture, politics and language. The Hispanization of Miami is without precedent in the history of the United States."

l "By 2000, two-thirds of Miami's people were Hispanic and more than half were of Cuban descent. In 2000, 75.2 percent of adult Miamians spoke a language other than English at home compared to 55.7 percent of the residents of Los Angeles and 47.6 percent of New Yorkers."

Huntington's upcoming book, "Who Are We," should be a must for those interested in or concerned about population shifts in this country. Fellow Kansans should not think this state and its people are immune from these changes and the steady increase of foreign-born individuals. It will affect all facets of education, business and the manufacturing sector, and much thought needs to be given to how to accept and live with these changes.

As noted at the beginning, Mexico President Fox is meeting with President Bush this weekend, and it is imperative these two leaders work together as closely as possible concerning the huge increase in Mexican immigrants, both legal and illegal.

Bush is reported to be giving serious consideration to backing off plans to require visa-carrying Mexicans making short visits to the United States to be fingerprinted and photographed. If he were to take such action, even in light of the growing number of Mexicans entering our country illegally, it would be seen as a concession to President Fox. In San Diego alone, more than 165,000 people enter from Mexico each day primarily for work and school.

The numbers and what is happening are shocking, and this calls for the best possible thinking and planning. Not thinking ahead and realizing the vast changes in store could result in serious and dangerous problems for all citizens.

To close our eyes to this upcoming dramatic change in the United States would be foolish, dangerous and shortsighted.

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