Murdock, now a sociology professor at Rice University in Houston, said small-town assimilation seems to work best when the growth of immigrant populations occurs gradually, rather than within a few years' time.
That appears to have been the case in Hennessey, where immigration from Mexico began during the 1970s and continued through several decades.
“The rapidity of the growth is the thing that gets people agitated,” Murdock said.
Jerry Kammer, senior research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., said education and family values also play critical roles in assimilation.
“A big factor is how well the children are doing,” Kammer said. “If the kids are becoming good students, if they're integrating well into the community, if they're not dropping out, if you don't have gang formation, if the teenage pregnancy rate is within modest limits, people tend to be much more welcoming.”
That, too, appears to be true in Hennessey, where three Hispanics were valedictorians of the Hennessey High School graduating class of 2012, and several Hispanic players helped the Eagles secure two consecutive state football championships.
“If the kids are completing school and they're on an upward track, wonderful,” Kammer said. “That's what we want. That's what we pray for.”