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Mr Clash of Civilisations, Samuel Huntington, is not just terrified by the Muslim menace to America, he also feels threatened by what he sees as the enemy within: Hispanic Americans. God help America, he warns, if Spanish-speaking immigrants continue to flock there: out will go the Anglo-Protestant virtues that make it great, in will come the Latinos’ different – read "inferior" – ways. Yet visit Miami, as I am doing to speak at the Poder Forum on immigration, and you will see that the most Latino city in the mainland US is hardly the cesspit of Huntington’s nightmares. It is a thriving all-American success story.

Miami was once a quiet retirement town. Now, thanks to immigrants from Cuba and elsewhere, it is the business capital of Latin America and a major destination for international tourists. But Huntington worries that Miami is so Latino-dominated than it is no longer American at all. Spanish, he says, is driving out English. He quotes a Cuban-born sociologist who says that “In Miami there is no pressure to be American. People can make a living perfectly well in an enclave that speaks Spanish.” Yet Huntington is also dismayed by a study which finds that in Miami families who speak only Spanish have average incomes of $18,000, those who speak only English earn an average of $32,000, but that bilingual families take home over $50,000 on average.

It is shocking – truly shocking – that people who speak an extra language earn more than those who speak only one. Whatever next? People with a college degree earning more than those without one? But the fact that bilingual families apparently earn three times as much as those that speak only Spanish is surely a powerful incentive for Spanish speakers to learn English – as indeed they are doing.
The plain truth is that even in areas where Latinos predominate, America’s defining institutions remain intact. The US Constitution remains in place. Democracy and other aspects of the American political system still apply. Capitalism is thriving. People are still free, the media uncensored, private property protected, the courts uncorrupted. Miami is a powerful example of how immigration is transforming America for the better, not destroying it.

Posted 27 Apr 2006 in Blog

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