Europe's Immigrant Problem

The flood of migrants from the Middle East and Africa into the EU seems unstoppable. Leaders talk of curtailing the human traffickers but the human tsunami may persist for years. Left unsaid is whether million of Syrians, Afghans, Libyans and sub-Saharan African can ever become assimilated Europeans. In the final analysis, adding a few million Germans or Hungarians is hardly a demographic disaster provided they eventually become “good Germans” or “good Hungarians” indistinguishable from native populations. Absent that assimilation, these largely Muslim newcomers will, as EU anti-immigration activists insist, only undermine any EU nation foolishness enough to welcome indigestible refugees.  

This assimilation question is fundamental but it is being ignored and, as we shall see, for good reason -- frank talk is verboten in today’s PC times.

Ample on-the-ground evidence predicts that assimilation will fail. Many Germans daily witness what happens when thousands of middle Easterners dominate a neighborhood -- very un-German filth and criminality. Or visit Malmo, Sweden, or numerous cities in Great Britain, France and Italy to see nearly identical scenes. And many of the refugees are young men with a penchant for violence. And nervousness about this flood far exceeds budget-busing new social welfare expenditures; unease is about cultural and political survival, transforming first world nations into little Iraqs or Libyas. Contrary to what one German leader said, these refugees are not equivalent to the East Germans fleeing westward after the Berlin wall fell.

Let’s now ask whether it is even possible to make “good Germans” or “good Swedes” out of these asylum-seekers.

Begin by asking can nations successfully promote assimilation? Obviously “yes” provided that this is the nation’s aim.  In the US during the first half of the 20th century government, business and organized labor made immigrant assimilation a priority (132-3).  Firms like Ford, local Chambers of Commerce, the YMCA and the tradition-minded Sons of the American Revolution and the Colonial Dames plus countless ethnic and religious organizations all ran integration programs for recent arrivals (Ford required non-English speaking workers to attend 6-8 month English classes). In 1921 The US Labor Department administered these programs in some 3,526 cities. Henry Ford in 1916 organized a pageant where immigrant workers, all dressed in outlandish garb, with strange signs proclaiming their national origin, descended into a gigantic melting pot and from the pot’s other side emerged another group of men, all dressed in identical suits, all carrying little American flags. Even Progressive educators such as John Dewey were pro-assimilation and unashamed patriots.

Israel is today’s leader in assimilation. There some sixteen “Absorption Centers” that provide temporary living quarters (usually for about six months or longer) for new arrivals who take intensive Hebrew classes from experienced teachers. Some centers resemble college campuses with instruction in computer technology. Keep in mind that residents often arrived from third world nations lacking running water, indoor plumbing and electricity. In all cases, the aim is to transform immigrants into Hebrew speaking Israelis able to contribute economically.  

Nevertheless, assimilation cannot be coerced, only encouraged and even then, limits exist. Speaking only Arabic is never a crime nor is it illegal to socialize one’s children to anti-Western values. Indeed, government policies, often justified as compassion, actually impede assimilation -- in the US, for example, this includes election ballots and drivers’ license tests in multiple languages. 

Coercion is especially troublesome where it collides with protected religious values. To be sure, freedom of belief will always be considered sacrosanct, but what if the religion (as is often claimed for Islam) demands behavior inimical to the laws of the host nation? In the US this battle has often involved such separatist groups as the Amish and Jehovah’s Witnesses and the courts have often sided with religious freedom (see here, among many such cases). It is no exaggeration to claim that today’s battles in Europe over Islam can be a throwback to the religious strife of the 16th and 17th century. Does Europe want to import the religious conflict that is now upending the Middle East?

The long-term prognosis for their assimilation is dismal. As noted, many immigrants who arrived decades back remain undigested in part thanks to modern technology that keeps them in touch with their homeland -- the Internet, TV and cheap airfares to return home periodically. Moreover, anti-assimilation forces in EU nations (and the US) grow stronger. There are communal leaders, often Muslim clerics or craven office-seekers, who profit from obstructing integration so as to inflame group-related grievances. Further add bureaucrats whose livelihood depends on “helping” those who refuse speak the native language or need constant guidance to navigate a lifetime of state-supplied social welfare benefits (Islam is now part of the curriculum in some Berlin schools). And let’s not forget Christian groups (and the Pope) who want to feel good about rescuing Muslims while some Jewish leaders compare Hungary’s treatment of immigrants to Nazis rounding up Jews before sending them to concentration camps.

Indeed, the very term “assimilation” is increasingly taking on an unsavory connotation as today’s multicultural-infatuated politics. An ethnic-based nationalism is now equivalent to xenophobia; the principle of “human rights” totally trumps national sovereignty. Who would ever have predicted that a US presidential candidate who called for a campaign exclusively in English would be labeled “divisive”?

Now for the Mother of All Discussion Killers regarding the current immigration tidal wave: the total refusal to draw distinctions among immigrants, labeling some more worthy than others for admission. Can you imagine any public figure even suggesting that Germany should pick and choose among asylum-seekers and then admit those who benefit Germany? Certifiably “hateful” and potentially a criminal offense according to European hate laws. Acknowledging these obvious differences violates the PC rule that one shall not draw invidious distinctions.

Ironically, this sorting process was once commonplace and judged essential to a nation’s well-being. During the early 20th century those seeking to migrate to the US had to pass health and cognitive ability standards and demonstrate that they would not become a public burden. Also rejected were communists and anarchists as being undesirable. In Australia visas are granted to highly skilled workers based upon specific needs (businesses can also sponsor visas). Prime Minister Merkel could easily declare that Germany would welcome all immigrants who benefit Germany and screen each and every one prior to settlement.     

This silence is predictable: it would be denounced as racist. That is, given the link between cognitive ability and the needs of a first-world economy, making the cut would be a tiny handful of sub-Saharan Africans, a somewhat larger proportion of Middle Eastern refugees and a much larger percentage of those from the Balkans and Baltic states. To be blunt, this tidal wave is tolerated owning to fear of being denounced as racist. Current immigration policy embraces the blank slate version of human nature -- with the right environment, anybody could be made into a “good German.”  This view is demonstrably wrong but it does give cover for compassion on the cheap. Who knows, some 23rd century historian may conclude that in the 21st century Europe collapsed due to embarrassment.