National Identity in a Multicultural Nation: The Challenge of Immigration Law and Immigrants

Samuel Huntington’s provocative new book Who Are We?: The Challenges to National Identity is rich with insights about the negative impacts of globalization and the burgeoning estrangement of people and businesses in the United States from a truly American identity. The daunting question posed by the title of the book is well worth asking. After commencing the new millennium with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. military torture of Iraqi prisoners, indefinite detentions of U.S. citizens declared by the President to be “enemy combatants,” and a massive domestic “war on terror” that has punished and frightened Arab, Muslim, and other immigrant communities, many Americans have asked themselves the very same question. Professor Huntington’s fear is that the increasingly multicultural United States could disintegrate into the type of ethnic strife that destroyed the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, or, in less dramatic fashion, divided Quebec for much of the twentieth century. Forming a cohesive national identity with a heterogeneous population is a formidable task but, as Professor Huntington recognizes, critically important to the future of the United States.