OUT OF THE BARRIO, by Linda Chavez (Basic Books: $23; 196 pp.). Chavez has impressive credentials: senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, former executive director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Maryland in 1986, editor and writer. She is able to make a fairly predictable conservative argument with elegance and an assured manner--but it is still, finally, an argument that makes liberal hackles go up. Chavez's position is that the 20 million Hispanics living in the United States are not a permanently disadvantaged minority. She believes they are hurt, more than hindered, by affirmative action and bilingual education programs that only keep them from successful assimilation and advancement. Chavez wants to see Hispanics attain their rightful place in this society on their own; she insists they can get there without misguided government assistance. She does not want Hispanics to be considered a minority group like blacks, who, she says, have been surpassed already in terms of achievement. Rather, she sees Hispanic assimilation in terms of earlier immigrant waves--Poles, Jews, Italians, Germans, Greeks--where foreign populations became part of the dominant society without special treatment.

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