Harvard author’s remarks on ‘threat’ of Hispanic immigration spark student, faculty commentary

In his upcoming book Who We Are, controversial Harvard professor Samuel Huntington calls Hispanic immigration a threat to the United States.

Huntington states in an excerpt from the book, printed in Foreign Policy magazine, that Hispanic immigration “threatens to divide the United States into two people, two cultures, and two languages,” and that Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, ultimately “rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream.”

Octavio Ramos, a graduate student in history who immigrated to the United States in the aftermath of the communist takeover of Cuba, took exception to Huntington’s statements.

“In a land that professes to be the land of freedom, why would anybody be fearful of any type of diversity?” Ramos said. “Fear of diversity is the essence of being xenophobic.”

Ramos felt that the idea that Hispanic immigrants and their descendants reject the English language is absurd. In fact, both of his children, who were born in the United States, took instruction in Spanish in order to learn to speak it.

Huntington teaches classes in politics and security studies at Harvard and has authored several books throughout his career, most notably The Clash of Civilizations. In addition, he served as a national security and foreign policy advisor to Presidents Carter and Clinton. His theories are often a topic in classes at UM.

Dr. June Dreyer, chair of UM’s political science department, remembers Huntington from her days as a graduate student at Harvard.

Dreyer recalls that this is not the first time his theories have raised debate, particularly an argument from The Clash of Civilizations.

“He certainly doesn’t shy away from controversial statements,” Dreyer said. “I think his 12 civilizations theory has been totally debunked.”

Natalie Rico, junior, felt that Huntington’s statements concerning Hispanics retaining the Spanish language were unfair.

“I think what this gentleman has a problem with is that we don’t lose our language,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t adopt the [English] language – it’s that we still have a very strong culture and we don’t lose that.”

Jackie Fernandez, junior, agreed.

“I don’t think that makes us any less American,” Fernandez said.

Paul Crespo, lecturer in the political science department, expressed a different sentiment.

“As a Hispanic, former Marine, I see value in some of his arguments,” Crespo said. “I see how these issues could be problematic, and they shouldn’t be disregarded out of hand as simply racist.”

Crespo added that Hispanic culture has become so prevalent in the United States that it perhaps it is simply not as necessary to assimilate in the old-fashioned ways.

“I think the issues Huntington addresses need more study,” he said.

Scott Wacholtz can be contacted at s.wacholtz@umiami.edu.