In his 1996 bestseller "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order," Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington raised eyebrows around the world by declaring that a global conflict of cultures, primarily Christianity versus Islam, would define the 21st century. Now, in the latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine, Huntington warns that "the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially Mexico, and the fertility rates of these immigrants compared to black and white American natives." In this apocalyptic vision, the United States itself may well be headed for a crackup as Mexicans and other Latinos form their own political enclaves instead of embracing what Huntington calls Anglo-Protestant values.
But does the fact that the name Jose replaced Michael in 1998 as the most popular for male newborns in California and Texas really spell the end of the American way of life? Huntington's warning is provocative, sweeping -- and utterly unconvincing.
As Huntington sees it, the proximity of Mexico and regional concentration of Mexicans in the American Southwest imperil the United States. Certainly Mexicans dominate illegal and legal immigration; perhaps 5 million are in the U.S. illegally, and Mexicans make up one-fifth of legal immigrants currently here. But Huntington wrongly ascribes separatist tendencies to what he calls a Mexican reconquista of chunks of Southwest territory that the U.S. grabbed from Mexico in the 19th century.