Two Immigration Models
Fareed Zakaria observes that the United States has had a long history of attracting the best and brightest minds from abroad because of a very liberal immigration policy. He contrasts that with the approach taken by Western European countries like France and Germany, where skilled laborers from abroad are welcomed but given virtually no chance of becoming full-fledged citizens.
Germany was asking bright young professionals to leave their country, culture and families; move thousands of miles away; learn a new language; and work in a strange land — but without any prospect of ever being part of their new home. Germany was sending a signal, one that was accurately received in India and other countries, and also by Germany’s own immigrant community.
Many Americans have become enamored of the European approach to immigration — perhaps without realizing it. Guest workers, penalties, sanctions and deportation are all a part of Europe’s mode of dealing with immigrants. The results of this approach have been on display recently in France, where rioting migrant youths again burned cars last week. Across Europe one sees disaffected, alienated immigrants, ripe for radicalism. The immigrant communities deserve their fair share of blame for this, but there’s a cycle at work. European societies exclude the immigrants, who become alienated and reject their societies.
A fair point. Of course, those who advocate “guest worker” programs in the U.S. mostly do so for Mexicans and others who are now coming in illegally, mostly without intention of assimilating into the culture. Still, his larger point has merit.
One puzzle about post-Sept. 11 America is that it has not had a subsequent terror attack — not even a small backpack bomb in a movie theater — while there have been dozens in Europe. My own explanation is that American immigrant communities, even Arab and Muslim ones, are not very radicalized. (Even if such an attack does take place, the fact that 4 1/2 years have gone by without one provides some proof of this contention.) Compared with every other country in the world, America does immigration superbly. Do we really want to junk that for the French approach?
That’s a powerful argument. While Steve Emerson and others can certainly point to radicalized Muslim communties in the United States (indeed, I pass by such a mosque on my way to and from work) the severity is nothing approaching what we’ve seen in Europe. Of course, assimilation is a two way street, requiring respect for the cultural norms of on the part of immigrant communities just as much as welcoming on the part of the receiving society.