Monday, November 10, 2014

"Immigration - Assimilation or Division?"

                     Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Immigration – Assimilation or Division?”
November 10, 2014

The world is more global than ever. Cell phones and texting mean we are always in touch. The internet brings the world to remote places, and staves off ignorance. YouTube means that whatever one does may be recorded, for better or worse. Products may be designed in the U.S., parts manufactured in Eastern Europe and assembled in China and then distributed around the world from Brazil. Apart from some extreme nationalists and a few xenophobes, most people welcome the legal, free movement of people, goods and services this entails. Yet politically motivated immigration policies threaten the future of Europe, the inviolability of the EU, and they place at risk the unity that has defined the United States for over 200 years.

At home, President Obama has said he will sign an executive order, before year-end, to grant amnesty to millions of immigrants residing illegally in the U.S. His threat of unilateral action raises several questions. First, the House did pass a bi-partisan immigration bill that now sits in a drawer in Senator Harry Reid’s desk. So, why did Mr. Reid not bring the bill to the floor? Keep in mind, any Republican bill will not make it to Mr. Obama’s desk until after the first of the year. Why does Mr. Obama threaten to take such action before year-end? Two, if amnesty is so popular among Democrats why did they not run on the issue in the latest election? And, three, what are Mr. Obama’s motivations? Why is he concerned for the millions of illegals in the U.S.? Is his interest humanitarian or economic, or is it cynically based on the possibility of adding to a pool of future Democrat voters?

In Europe, a tiff has risen over inter-Union migration policies, particularly between those of David Cameron (who would limit the free movement of people within the EU) and Angela Merkel (who feels such movement is integral to the principles of the EU). The debate has reached the point that could cause the UK to leave the European Union. Would that be a good idea? In times of slow economic growth, protecting one’s own economy becomes, understandably, paramount. The downside, however, is that such policies foster isolationism and nationalism – both traits that worry anyone who has studied the first half of the Twentieth Century.

Assimilation, which worked well in the United States until a few years ago, depended upon the natural inclination of immigrants to become fully naturalized – to learn English and to assume the customs and habits of those who were here. By the second generation school children little cared whether their playmates were of French, Japanese, Mexican or African heritage. As far as most children were concerned, their school friends were American. It has only been in the last twenty or thirty years that we have become hyphenated Americans, instead of just Americans. While there are those that believe such descriptions allow people to hold on to their heritage, such branding is principally for the convenience of politicians and marketers. We are a “melting pot.” We are a welcoming nation. However, we are also a nation of laws and customs. And we are an English-speaking nation. To not require that new immigrants learn English is to condemn them to a life of servitude.

In Europe, such acclimatization was never possible. The French have always been French, as have the Germans, Italian and Spanish. England’s and France’s colonial legacies allowed more movement than other European nations, but Ceylonese or Egyptians in London always remained more Ceylonese or Egyptian than English, as have Algerians in Paris. Emigrants to Western European countries were often those who sought political asylum, or were forced by war. Those who journeyed to the United States usually came to escape despotism, to seek freedom of expression and religion. They also came to reap the rewards of their own productivity.

It is the failure to assimilate that worsens the situation, especially in Europe, but increasingly so in the U.S. A few years ago Angela Merkel said that the onus was on immigrants to do more to integrate into German society.  “This multicultural approach has failed, utterly failed,” she once said. Now, with Germany at risk of falling behind in global economic competition and with a shrinking population, she has amended her views, encouraging a wider opening of her borders. Nevertheless, there has been little if any integration of Muslims into European social networks. They live in their own ghettos. They speak their own language, adhere to their own customs, and, in many places, obey their own laws, even when Sharia law conflicts with the Napoleonic Code or English common law.

In the United States, the consequence of government policies has been to practice a similar form of de facto segregation. Despite the burden that a lack of knowledge of English poses, in both a financial and social sense, the ability to speak English is no longer required to become naturalized. It is taught in many schools as a second language. In Connecticut, instructions in voting booths are printed in Spanish as well as in English. To our detriment, we have become a bilingual nation. It has been this unprecedented influx of immigrants from one part of the world that worries those in America who would freeze our borders. We should be selectively welcoming to those who want to live here, but we should actively recruit those with the aspiration to improve their lives and, thereby, ours. We want contributors to, not consumers of, our social welfare system.

Politically correct immigration policies negatively affect both continents. The U.S. is faced with hordes of illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Central America. Europe confronts massive Muslim immigration from Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. While European Muslims and illegals in America represent only about six percent of their respective populations, their birthrates are far higher than the norm, suggesting those percentages will increase – that today’s problems will intensify. When politicians open borders too wide, for political reasons, the risk is that when the pendulum of reaction swings back, as it surely will, it will travel too far in the other direction.

It has been political correctness that has created this mess. It will take commonsense to avoid worsening the division that has already ensued.

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