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Immigration Rhetoric: 'Untied States of America'

President Bush recently warned against the "harsh, ugly rhetoric" in the debate over immigration. Author Juan Enriquez says the brutal language being used in that debate threatens to tear the country apart.

Enriquez writes about those divisive factors in his book The Untied States of America: Polarization, Fracturing, and Our Future. (Read an excerpt.)

"How we treat each other today, what we call each other today — not just brown/white but religious/non-religious, Northern/Southern — is going to resonate for a long time, and those are things that can make countries become impermanent," he says.

"Countries are actually very fragile entities," Enriquez says. "Three-quarters of the flags, borders and anthems in the world did not exist 50 years ago. It's a lot easier to split a country than it is to keep it.

"Some of the symbols that we hold most dear, like flags, are myths that only exist as long as our grandchildren are willing to support them. And the day that our grandchildren say, 'You know, I'm not willing to die for that particular flag,' that particular flag goes away."

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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