Today, we wrap up our discussion of Samuel Huntington's Who Are We? by examining how its arguments bear on the construction of policies towards bilingualism and immigration (for background, see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). The task is complicated somewhat by the fact that, as Francis Fukuyama wrote in a review published in Slate, Huntington "puzzlingly makes no concrete policy recommendations concerning levels of immigration, qualifications for legal admission, means of enforcing rules against illegal immigrants, and the like".
Huntington presents a slippery target for critics taking aim at his policy goals, and not only for the reason baldly stated by Prof. Fukuyama. The major problem is that Huntington, throughout his career, has been associated with some well-established themes and schools of thought, and the tenor of Who Are We? seems to run counter to many of them. Fukuyama looks at Huntington through the lens of having previously argued that the Creed has essentially triumphed (a theme from Huntington first), and finds that he can't accept Huntington's arguments about the centrality of religious values except to the extent that they are identical with secular Creedal ones. Alan Wolfe's thinly-disguised contempt for popular opinion shines through in his mystification at Huntington's embrace of it, just as he is mystified that a scholar formerly identified with foreign policy "realism" suddenly seems to be breaking with it. Mark Liberman looks at Huntington, the self-proclaimed "life-long Democrat", and is disturbed to find him embracing positions which appear to be to the right of well-known conservatives.
Huntington's critics are disturbed precisely to the extent that they fail to see the consistency in the project advocated by Who Are We?. Starting from the idea that he wishes to preserve not merely the Creed, but the conditions which makes the Creed possible, Huntington's goal is to preserve not merely the institutions of liberal society (not in the sense of Democratic/Green, but in the sense of popular sovereignty and a capitalist economy), but the long-term social trends that make the American version possible. Francis Fukuyama comes close to recognizing this when he writes that "Had America been settled by French, Spanish, or Portuguese Catholics rather than British Protestants, it would not have been the United States we know, but more like Quebec or Mexico". But then he shrinks back from the implications of this statement, falling back on the dynamism and entrepreneurship of present-day immigrant populations: "The real Protestants are those Korean grocery-store owners, or Indian entrepreneurs, or Taiwanese engineers, or Russian cab drivers working two or three jobs in America's free and relatively unregulated labor market". Oddly, both Fukuyama and Wolfe cite the increasing conversion rates of Catholic immigrants to various Protestant denominations as examples of immigrant assimilation while denying that anything peculiarly Protestant animates American identity.
And so, once again, ideology rears its head. Huntington's view is that one cannot simultaneously hold all three of the following positions: 1) the Creed arose from the unique character of the Anglo-Protestant immigrants who settled America, 2) the Creed is itself a set of secular cultural values, and 3) the Creed is a purely political culture which can be held in isolation from other cultural values. It is possible to believe that the Creed is, as Huntington calls it at the end of one chapter, "Protestantism without G-d", a view which Wolfe and Fukuyama both endorse implicitly in praising the American work ethic and Constitutional values; however, Huntington maintains that these values cannot stand without a mutual, society-wide appreciation of their uniquely religious and historical context.
Thus, we return to the program that concluded Part 1 of this essay: "To return to the notions of salience and substance, religiosity is a key part of the substance of American ideology, especially Christian religiosity. The challenge for making the American ideology salient to American citizens is to find a way to reconceptualize the substance in a way that makes non-Christians comfortable embracing it, without denying the salience of Christianity to the majority." Understanding that Huntington views the three propositions above as ultimately incompatible, suddenly the requisite policy prescriptions become, if not obvious, at least broadly visible.
Domestically, there are three policies of interest: 1) official language use, 2) bilingual education, and 3) immigration. The immigration issue is complicated by foreign policy concerns, and so we will discuss the others first.
Prior to this review, we discussed the issuance and consequences of Executive Order 13166, which effectively mandated that the federal government and its clients become officially multilingual organizations. Applying for driver's licenses and going for physical examinations at doctors' offices are not acts fraught with ideological significance, but mandating the provision of those services in an arbitrarily large group of languages is. So, in a different way, would be creating a list of officially supported foreign languages and limiting translation requirements to members of the list. Certainly in the case of medical services, there are grounds for providing such services out of compassion, but the scope of 13166 is much broader than that. So a Huntingtonian policy on official language use need not be nearly as aggressive as an English-only law; merely rolling back 13166 to cover emergency services, or some other subset of federal policy, would accomplish the goal of setting a tone that encourages integration with the broader English-speaking culture, without compromising the intent to provide assistance to those who need it.
Returning to Huntington's views on "ampersands", many of his concerns can be resolved by simply taking existing laws seriously, a more revolutionary concept than it sounds. As Huntington noted, acceptance of foreign government identification cards for services normally requiring citizenship constitutes de facto nullification of those requirements. Enforcing citizenship requirements does not necessitate a California Proposition 187-style deputization of doctors, teachers and policement as immigration officers; it does, however, require a willingness to turn people away in the absence of reliable documentation, a theme we'll return to in discussing immigration policy. To take the example of driver's licenses, we might note that in most states they remain exclusively the privilege of citizens. American-born citizens presumably are brought up speaking English; naturalized citizens are either presumed to have learned enough English to pass a basic examination, or to be too old to acquire adequate English skills (the law permits naturalization of permanent residents after 15 years in the absence of successfully passing the English test). The notion that a test in English permitting a privilege with life-and-death consequences is an unreasonable imposition on people who theoretically have undertaken to learn English is itself a mocking of the idea that English was learned. To the extent that American society requires mobility, and this represents a handicap to the economic opportunities of non-English-speakers, Huntington might well rejoin that this is an excellent method for deciding between the validity of his analysis and Geoff Nunberg's. If Nunberg is right, this sort of policy reform should ultimately only serve as a barrier to those immigrants who are too old to learn English; if Huntington is right, the number of citizens driving illegally should skyrocket.
This brings us in turn to the question of bilingual education, specifically the "transitional" variety. As we saw in Part 3, bilingual education does not seem to have produced worse results in California than English immersion has. It also does not seem to have produced signficantly better. Here, Huntington's critics hand him too easy a victory on the merits. If it is the case that transitional programs are failing as many as 90% of their students over three-year periods, then insisting on holding onto those students for as much as a decade basically constitutes acceptance of Huntington's claim that we have de facto acceptance of foreign languages as official instruments of domestic policy. The impulse to continue teaching these students other subjects in their native language while trying to transition them to English is grounded in admirable intentions -- if the students exit school wholly incompetent in the humanities, math and the sciences, they have been truly misserved -- but proponents of such programs need to acknowledge that this act is an ideologically significant one regardless of intent. The signal sent by transitional bilingual education programs is exactly that sent by mandating the provision of translation services in all federal agencies -- we'd like you to try to learn English, but we'll absorb most of the costs of your failure to do so.
Again, this is a situation where Huntingtonian policies can be articulated without appeals to blind nativism. Simply limiting the period that students may spend in bilingual education would provide something far more valuable than any number of studies on new teaching methods -- an incentive. Disappointing though it may be, not all students earn "A"s in every subject. The impulse to keep students in bilingual education indefinitely is grounded in the idea that this outcome is illegitimate if a student's language skills are not up to par, an idea which is not manifested in keeping subpar native English speakers in intensive language programs until they are deemed "ready" to tackle literature. The fact that we do not engage in any such policy with native English speakers is adequate grounds for questioning why we do so with non-natives.
Finally, this brings us to the question of immigration as an ideological matter. Huntington provides quotes from more than a few Mexican officials indicating that illegal immigration to the U.S. is highly welcome, if not actually government policy. There are a variety of reasons for this, many due to the structural problems of Mexico's government; Huntington quotes Vicente Fox's foreign minister, Jorge Castañeda, as saying that "[immigration] has not been a problem in binational relations but, rather, has been part of the solution to other, graver problems", and again that "forcing Mexico to deter its citizens from emigrating...will make social peace in the barrios and pueblos of Mexico untenable". In other words, the relief to the Mexican government provided by not having to provide social services to emigrants, combined with the fiscal relief to citizens provided by remittances, yields a powerful incentive to turn a blind eye to the problems created for the United States.
It is in this area that Huntington's policy ideas veer away most strongly from "realism" (as a notional foreign policy approach, not as a failure to recognize facts on the ground). Realist policy acknowledges that the United States' relationship with Mexico has costs, and attempts to mitigate them through ever-increasing expenditures: bilingual education, mandatory translation services, relaxation of citizenship requirements for college admissions (and perhaps soon, even for voting). Nowhere in Who Are We? does Huntington advocate closing the borders to legal immigration; in repeatedly bringing up the quasi-official nature of illegal immigration as Mexican policy, however, it is clear that he believes this is the level where the issue needs to be engaged. A Huntingtonian immigration policy would do what no administration has done yet, and pay foreign governments the compliment of taking their rhetoric seriously. Rather than simply tolerating continued expansion of costs, the United States might move to reduce foreign aid by amounts proportional to the costs imposed by other countries. Such a policy could not be adopted lightly, as it would provoke inevitable retaliation in a variety of forms -- noncooperation on unrelated initiatives, tariffs on American goods, expulsion of American citizens from foreign countries. Even placing such an item on the foreign policy agenda might be enough to produce much-needed changes in the idea that the United States is merely a sinkhole for other countries' internal issues.
Immigration ideology is not only a problem of foreign policy. As with foreign leaders, Huntington advocates paying domestic activists the compliment of taking their statements seriously. He cites a pair of professors, William Flores and Rina Benmayor, on the notion that Hispanics should avoid cultural pluralism, because it means that "in the public sphere, except in those sanctioned displays of ethnicity, we must put aside those identities and interact instead in a culturally neutral spaces as 'Americans'". It is hard to imagine a clearer call for the Balkanization of America. A similar cry against assimilation can be found in the founding document of MEChA, a Mexican student organization, in which the ownership of Aztlan, meaning the southwestern United States, is held to belong to "those who plant the seeds, water the fields, and gather the crops and not to the foreign Europeans".
Yet again, though, the Huntingtonian prescription is not a xenophobic one. Insistence on a core American identity is a very different policy from actively repressing the celebration of other cultures. Insistence on carrying on offiical business in a common language does not at all commit Huntington to a prohibition against speaking foreign languages at home, or to arranging neighborhoods in ways that make speaking English a burden rather than a benefit. It does commit him to speaking out against statements which place the notion of being American in scare quotes, and to politically marginalizing those who see America merely in terms of the privileges it bestows upon them, without recognizing the obligations and ideological commitments that make its society possible.
At last, we return to the uncomfortable question of Huntington's insistence on the primacy of Anglo-Protestantism to American identity, which would seem to call all of the above into question. Huntington explicitly rejects the notion that Creedal values like democracy represent simply an optimal social contract; Japan and France are democracies, but we would hardly speak of that fact as central to a Japanese or French Creed, in no small part because their national identities are constructed on robust foundations of language, culture, and a shared history that dates back millenia. It is precisely the heterogeneity and youth of American society that makes an appreciation of the specific historical context that gave rise to America so critical to its continued maintenance. Making this a priority requires deference to some principles of political philosophy at the expense of others. "Under G-d" in the Pledge of Allegiance is, in the Huntingtonian view, necessary even if it runs roughshod over present construals of the First Amendment. The same might be said of lighting the National Christmas Tree, or the annual White House Easter egg hunt. Even more than any specific ideas, they constitute a symbology of American identity, and can be embraced by Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and even atheists, not as coercion to become Protestants, or to live enviously of Anglo-Americans, but as representative of the particular historical facts that make American heterogeneity possible.
Mark Liberman professes to be confused by the generally liberal Huntington's shift to principles more conservative than those held by actual conservatives. There is no mystery, however, once it is understood that Huntington has weighed the merits of competing liberal principles, and has made hard choices to defend those he views as the core, at the expense of those which are more peripheral. In this light, federal mandates for translation might be necessary political compromises, even important concessions to present reality, but Huntington argues that we should recognize them as such, rather than elevating necessity to the status of principle. There are competing visions of America, with different conceptions of what is essential to its identity, but their defenders have not done the work, nor taken the risks, to articulate the hard decisions behind them, or the compromises they require. Who Are We? is a book that deserves such replies.