Immigration and America’s Unchosen Future

What about the United States? Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan noted in his 1993 book, Pandemonium, that the splintering of nations would perhaps lead to the formation of fifty to 150 new nations in the next fifty years. “Some of them in North America? Possibly.” Was he thinking of Canada? Perhaps Quebec is a secessionist possibility, but surely one need not take seriously the strong support in Hawaii and even in the U.S. Senate for a proposed Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act which would create a sovereign government for 400,000 “native Hawaiians” and “allow for the complete legal and territorial independence from the United States.” Or the convening in Burlington, Vermont in November, 2006, of the First North American Secessionist Convention?

What of our own Southwest, a region taken from Mexico by force only six generations earlier and receiving a sustained flow of Mexicans, a unique population of immigrants from a country with a 2,000 mile common border and whose numbers accounted for one-third of all immigrants in the U.S. and 60 percent of all illegals. This northward flow of Mexicans was not tapering off, but had sustained momentum into the future. The Mexican government estimated thirty more years of immigration flow at 400,000 or more a year.

Was this in effect a “peaceful invasion” aiming at irredentism—in Spanish, a Reconquista of territory lost a century and a half ago?

Some Mexican and Mexican-American politicians as well as tenured professors of Chicano Studies at American universities openly and proudly call it just that. Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo in 1995 said to a rally in Chicago: “I have proudly proclaimed that the Mexican nation extends beyond the territory enclosed by its borders and that Mexican migrants are an important, a very important part of it.” (Translated from the Spanish) “California is going to be a Hispanic state, and if you don’t like it you should leave,” said Mario Obledo of the Mexican- American Legal Defense and Education Fund in the early 1990s. “Somos Mexicanos!” shouted the Speaker of the California Assembly (now Mayor of Los Angeles) Antonio Villaraigosa at a 1997 rally: “The question is not whether reconquista will take place, but how and with what consequences?” Mexican writer Carlos Loret de Mola wrote in the Mexico City newspaper, Excelsior:

A peaceful mass of people, hardworking, carries out slowly and patiently an unstoppable invasion, the most important in human history. . . a large migratory wave by an ant-like multitude, stubborn, unarmed, and carried on in the face of the most powerful and best-armed nation on earth.

These political and cultural activities within the Mexican diaspora in the U.S. are minimized by some, under the assumption that Mexican governments are notoriously incompetent and can hardly hold their own nation together, let alone secure a beachhead in El Norte. Yet undeniably the demographics project unprecedented and unpredictable change in many parts of the U.S. Stanford historian David Kennedy wrote in 1996 that it was the first time in our history that one-third of the immigrants to the U.S. came “flowing into a defined region from a single cultural, linguistic and national source—Mexico. The possibility looms that in the next generation or so we will see a kind of Chicano Quebec take shape in the American Southwest.” In 2001, a majority of births in California were Hispanic, as were 72 percent of the students in Los Angeles public schools. “The United States is becoming a Latino nation,” Jorge Ramos asserted in The Latino Wave (2004), a hybrid; not part of Mexico but decidedly, especially in the Southwest, Latinized. Victor Davis Hanson, California rancher and historian, wrote that his home state of California was becoming a place he called “Mexifornia” in his book of that name, a “hybrid civilization” taking form across the entire southwest in which “Spanish is coequal with English, poverty becomes endemic… schools erode, crime soars, and integration and Americanization falter.”

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Otis L. Graham, Jr

Professor Emeritus of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author or editor of more than fifteen books, including “Debating American Immigration, 1882-Present” (with Roger Daniels) and “Environment Politics and Policy, 1960s to 1990s”. He lives in Santa Barbara, CA.

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