Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Immigration and Culture

Speaking of immigration, let's step across the pond to Europe and see what's going on there.

So I surf around to MSNBC and this headline jumps out:
Integration questions stir passions in Germany
Experiment seems to have failed; government scrambles to find solutions
One could simply file this in the "where have you been?" category of catch-up journalism. Michael over at DowneastBlog has been talking about this since about forever, and scaring the bejesuts out of anyone who hangs around his site for long.

But that won't do, for the piece in MSNBC is about Germany, and so let's just see what's going on there.

Here are some excerpts
Germany, like the Netherlands, France and Belgium, has a large Muslim population which, by and large, clings to the language and traditions of their home countries.

Unemployment is rampant both among immigrants and native-born Germans, and violence in schools with large immigrant student bodies has caused many teachers to be worried for their safety

The Muslims came as "guest workers", and it was all supposed to be temporary, the article explains. But the companies who employed them got used to the cheap labor, and...well, you know the story. First the worker stays, then his immediate family comes, then grandpa and grandma, the cousins....
The immigrants settled together and neighborhoods slowly began to reflect their new inhabitants. Signs were hung in Turkish, supermarkets sold Turkish products and stands selling kebabs — a traditional meal in a sandwich similar to a gyro — popped up in nearly every German city.

“They came in the sexual revolution and they saw the communes — men, women and children living together. It was a shock for these people, so of course, they put up borders,” said Seyran Ates, a lawyer who works with immigrant women. “It was automatic. They felt, they don’t want us here, and on the other side, we don’t want to be like them; they are immoral,” Ates said.
Predictably, there has been no assimilation. Most of these immigrants don't speak German, and their children do poorly in school. Actually, no, that's not right. The children have proven to be a royal pain in the %$#, the article is just too polite to spell it out in such terms.

But if language were all there was too it, there wouldn't be a problem.
“Being integrated means more than speaking German,” said Angenendt, who says that Germany needs to recruit more skilled workers to survive in the future. “There’s no discussion of how to bring people into the labor market.”

Perhaps provoking the already tense relationship between the government and its immigrants, the German parliament is now debating the implementation of citizenship tests. Germany has one of the lowest citizenship application rates in Western Europe and its laws to become a citizen are much stricter than in the United States, for example.

Yet Germany has no choice but to find a solution to better integrate immigrants and their families. Falling birthrates, along with steady immigration mean that in several decades the country will come to rely more and more on immigrant labor.
Hmmm. So "integration" is all there is to it? That sounds simple enough.

History and Culture

But of course that's not all there is to it. For all the problems we're having here in the states with Hispanic immigration (legal and illegal), our newcomers are from a Western culture. Their forefathers experienced the Renaissance, the Reformation and Enlightenment. The scientific method is not an alien concept to them. And as corrupt as Mexico is, they don't run around cutting people's heads off and planting bombs on airliners.

As if this wasn't enough, Germany, like much of the rest of Western Europe, doesn't have as much experience at absorbing newcomers as we do over here.

Complicating all this furter, we're all infected with unholy trio of multiculturalism, diversity and tolerance, which makes the job much more difficult.

The article passes all this by, which is to be expected. But this is why we have the blogosphere, so that we can discuss the issues that might offend the sensibilities of the MSNBC editor.