Lecture details importance of immigration
Rice University Sociology Professor and Kinder Institute Co-Director Stephen Klineberg rebuked Texas’ austere immigration policies and emphasized the potential of increased diversity in Houston in a presentation Wednesday afternoon in the UH Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall.
“No city has benefitted more from immigration than us,” Klineberg said. “America’s future is here in Houston now.”
The Harvard graduate recounted 30 years of demographic and economic surveys in Harris County composed by the Kinder Institute. In the wake of the oil business bust of the mid-1980s, Klineberg said, the new source of Houston wealth will be biotechnology and nanotechnology. Houston’s diversity will play an integral role in realizing this future.
Citing statistics showing rapidly increasing minority and immigrant populations in Houston, Klineberg described current US immigration policy as “immoral and dysfunctional,” and said that embracing and properly educating the immigrant labor force is necessary for the nation’s advancement.
“This is a done deal,” Klineberg said. “Close the borders tomorrow, build your fence so not another immigrant will ever be allowed to come to these shores; no force in the world will stop Houston diversity.
“Every business in Houston that doesn’t figure out how to capitalize on the burgeoning diversity of (the city) will find it harder to advance as the 21st century unfolds.”
Following his lecture, he engaged the 15 attendees in some brief Q-and-A. When asked if the US can effectively take advantage of diversity at a time when many minority children receive substandard education, Klineberg referenced Houston’s Knowledge Is Power Program as one possible formula for success.
“If we don’t turn (substandard education) around now in this generation, it’s very hard to envision a successful America,” Klineberg said. “If we don’t do this we will become a Third World country and a Third World city.”
The presentation kicked off a month-long series hosted by Janice Hutchinson and the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies, on topics such as, “Race: Are We So Different?”
Hutchinson will host additional lectures on Wednesday, as well as Nov. 9, 16 and 30 in PGH room 232. The lecture series was created in conjunction with a corresponding exhibit on display until Jan. 1, 2012, at the John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science.
Klineberg joined Rice University’s sociology department in 1972 after receiving degrees at Haverford College, the University of Paris and Harvard.
He has received 10 teaching awards including the George R. Brown Lifetime Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The creator of the now 29-year-strong Houston Annual Survey, Klineberg ended his presentation with survey results showing increasingly progressive attitudes toward an ethnic society.
“We have a tremendous challenge to ensure that we can build a truly successful, inclusive, multiethnic society,” Klineberg said.
“With your education at UH you have a responsibility to reach out to kids and show them what’s possible.”