American Studies Blog Week 3
With an awareness of the issues raised by Huntington, find, post and analyse any TWO websites dealing with Hispanic/Latino immigration, one PRO, one ANTI. Compare how they address the issues. Look for advocacy websites, with a strong point of view, not news reports.
In his paper, “The Hispanic Challenge”, Samuel Huntington, a conservative political scientist, makes it clear that he fears that if Mexican immigration were to continue at the current rate, America would no longer retain its nature as an English-speaking country with a core Anglo-Protestant culture, but would instead become a nation of two cultures and two languages: an English-speaking America and a Spanish-speaking America. He provides several reasons why this would be the case, the main one being the scale of Hispanic immigration, which has led to Mexican-Americans no longer considering themselves a minority, and thus no longer feeling the need for cultural assimilation. How far do the two websites under discussion here reflect these fears about the impact of Hispanic immigration and what policies do they recommend for dealing with the issue?
The American for Immigration Controls (AIC), founded in 1983, describes itself as an “American non-partisan grassroots activist organization”. Its general aim it to stop and deport what it calls “illegal aliens” who sneak across the border into the United States from Mexico. It strongly advocates the strict enforcement of current immigration laws and secure control of the border by the federal government so as to “secure our nation from terrorists, drug smugglers, and illegals”. It believes this can be achieved if the government increases funding and manpower for law enforcement organizations and US border control. The AIC has very similar views to Huntington, asking how many more immigrants America could “educate and assimilate into our land” without “destroying the cohesiveness of our language and culture”. It claims that the “The great American “melting pot” has begun to melt down” and criticizes Senator Ted Kennedy and the Johnson administration for passing the 1965 immigration law that brought about huge waves of immigrants. It concludes by stating that if action is not taken to stop immigration, “the United States will be united no more!”
The American Immigration Council (also AIC) is a pro-immigration organization whose self-proclaimed mission is to “strengthen America by honouring our immigrant history and shaping how Americans think and act towards immigration now and in the future”. In addition it claims to exist so as to “promote the prosperity and cultural richness of our diverse nation”. It hopes to achieve this by means of education through the information it provides, and by supporting immigration policies/laws that reflect what it believes are American values and that honour fundamental constitutional and human rights. It defines its fundamental position as the belief in the dignity of an individual that should know no boundaries and a conviction that America’s moral and ethical values must be reflected in the way the country welcomes immigrants. It clearly has no concern about the possibility of the U.S. becoming divided into two separate communities by greater Hispanic immigration, and it does not put the enforcement of border security at the top of the agenda.
What is interesting to note about both websites is that they seem to ignore the issue of the political aspects of this debate, and focus instead on the practical and ethical issues created by Hispanic immigration, legal or illegal. But the impact that Hispanic immigration has had on the U.S. in terms of politics is evident, as seen in the importance of the Latino vote to Obama’s election and re-election as President. Hispanic voters tend to favour the Democratic party rather than the Republicans because the Democrats have historically had a more relaxed attitude to immigration, which is still the case today. It could be said that conservatives such as Huntington and the AIC website are aware of this, but nonetheless they do not overtly make such views public, and resort instead to masking their political concerns by focusing on the possibility of two different nations arising in America, so as to induce fear among their supporters and sway public opinion in the Republican party’s favour.
So we can see that Hispanic immigration is a key issue not only in terms of cultural assimilation but also in the field of politics. This makes it an even more controversial and complicated issue. Nonetheless, an article from the Immigration Policy Centre (IPC, the research arm of the American Immigration Council) is very persuasive in arguing that the enforcement of laws is not a solution. It rightly claims that those who lobby for the enforcement of laws fail to recognize or rather ignore the fact that the current immigration laws do not work, and that it is only reform of immigration policies that will stop illegal immigration. I agree that the problem is fundamentally a practical one and that any solution to dealing with Hispanic immigration must be workable, given the huge number of illegal immigrants already living in the U.S. Their presence makes the U.S. already a divided country (between citizens and non-citizens), which Huntington says he fears will be a future possibility. The real problem is how to solve the problem of those already inside the country illegally in a way that does not encourage even more Mexicans to want to cross the border in the future. Mass deportations aren’t a realistic option here. The best way to do this would be to make Mexico a more attractive country to live in, and the U.S. could probably do more to help. It is these kinds of practical solutions that need looking at, rather than people just supporting or opposing immigration as a principle, possibly with the hidden aim of promoting a political agenda.