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Houston, Texas

     Diana Hull certainly knows Houston, whose decline she describes:
     My husband and I Iived in Houston for 32 years where I was a faculty member of Baylor College of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry. My husband is a native Texan from a small town near Abilene. The large Latino population that arrived in Houston from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador has not, in my opinion, made Houston a better or even a more interesting city. It has instead caused the same kind of blight, followed by white flight, that every other influx of poor uneducated people has caused in other parts of the country. To whom does the good accrue from mass immigration into our cities? To the immigrants themselves, many of whom are rewarded for breaking the law after they enter illegally, and to those who benefit from cheap labor. But the very high price of so-called cheap labor is paid for by displaced US citizens of every race, and it can be a high price indeed.
     Those of liberal bent have recently discovered "sprawl", and they claim to be against it. Houston is one of the best examples of sprawl that anyone can find. In the 1950's Houston had a population of about 250,000. There were good public schools and very little crime. By the time we left in 1980, it was becoming increasingly congested and unsafe in the downtown. It took longer and longer to drive to work and come home.
     By 1980, the anglo population had begun its escape to the outlying suburbs. By 1990, the business and professional classes had fled to the west, past the older suburbs into Fort Bend County, where whole new, and often self-sufficient cities were created. The very expensive residential areas in Houston, near the city center, like River Oaks, hired their own private police force because of frequent robberies and even drive-by shootings.
     But the fate of the less affluent, formerly Anglo communities was even more troubling. For example, the close-in city of Bellaire had always been a community of neat modest houses, belonging mostly belonging to tradespeople and white collar workers. But when they tried to leave, many were unable to sell their homes. The reason was that nearby apartment buildings, which had once been attractive and decent places to live, became the destination for tens of thousands of impoverished immigrants, living 10 or more people to an apartment meant to house perhaps 3 or 4 people. As a result, many owners abandoned these buildings and an entire new group of slum landlords took over these properties for a pittance, did few if any repairs, and further decline followed. Many of these new landlords are mainland Chinese and they have bought up Houston slum property as they done in San Francisco.
     After the transformation of this part of Houston, it became known as the "Gulfton Ghetto," one of the major centers for drug dealing in the United States. The police seemed helpless to stop this crime and could only discourage it for a week or two, by a temporary show of force. A day labor site, where many illegals gathered and conducted these drug deals became out of bounds for the INS, who were attacked by the usual immigrants rights groups for alleged civil rights violations. The chief INS officer in Houston told me personally that they had only 25 interior enforcement personnel for the 26 most populous counties in Texas. The above scenario has been, and is being repeated in many parts of the country.
     A multi-cultural mix is only possible between people of similar education, occupation and affluence. Without that social class similarity, self -segregation inevitably follows. If cosmopolitan implies being polished and civilized, I'll take the Houston of the 1950's.

     My comment: Diana Hull's report certainly expresses her concern, which is shared by many WAISers. My concern is even deeper. Can a country made up of myriad minorities function on the international scene, or will it be paralyzed? Will the United States become balkanized, a word whose meaning should be clear?
     Since the American political system requires parties to chase after special groups, in particular minorities, any semblance of a national consensus is being lost. This was made sadly clear in the grotesque confusion over the liberation of Puerto Rican terrorists and the New York votes. Now that the Cuban immigrant vote is becoming divided, we may expect more contortions in the chase after that group.

Ronald Hilton - 12/9/99