Leon F. Bouvier's letter {Nov. 3} warns that we should not romanticize immigration because it will "guarantee a very different United States in the 21st century." To which I must respond, what would be so bad about that?

As someone who lives in a middle-class neighborhood in Northern Virginia and works in an immigration law firm, I have few romantic illusions about immigrants -- they are neither better nor worse than anybody else in this country; they have to work harder to make it here.

Nor am I particularly alarmed, as is Mr. Bouvier, that "90 percent come from Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia." Nobody should be surprised by this statistic. Just take a walk through Shoppers Warehouse off Duke Street: there are more languages spoken and skin tones in the aisles than there are brands of beer on the wall. A little disconcerting for some, perhaps, but not nearly as ominous as the pattern of de facto segregation that one sees in grocery stores located in the very wealthy suburbs and the inner cities.

The fact is that Michael Barone's recent article {Outlook, Oct. 18} was largely correct in observing that immigrants have traditionally brought with them viable skills and a work ethic that allow them to rise quickly into the middle classes. This is as true today as it was in 1909 -- the sole difference is that the new immigrants are not white, which seems to bother Mr. Bouvier because he fears that they will not be assimilated, as were the previous ones.

Which is why I strongly suspect that those who fear that new immigrants won't completely assimilate -- that is, speak only English, eat brand-name foods and vote Republican -- are really frightened that America in the 21st century won't be as easily "pasteurized" by traditional mass politics and mass merchandising.

So, to Mr. Bouvier and the rest who want us to turn away the stranger at our door, I say it is a good thing that America will change a lot in the coming years. Immigration does guarantee that a very different society develops. The alternative is that America stays as bland and pale as a bottle of Miller beer, vintage 1987.

MARK G. LEVEY Washington