Saturday, March 01, 2008

Talking Sense on Immigration

Via Bobvis, I came across Vera's Log, written by an American (Jew?) living in Finland (or lived there in the past, I'm not sure which). The woman has some, um, interesting stories. But what attracted my attention was her writing on immigration:

Not that the US doesn't have immigration-related problems, but in general it is doing much better than Europe. Which makes me wonder: how come all the people who like to advertise the joys of immigration in other countries rarely mention the US, and never mention Israel? These are undoubtedly the two first-world countries that have accepted the most immigrants with the best success.

One can wonder whether the better integration is the result of higher tolerance, or the higher tolerance is the result of better integration - I suspect that both are to some extent the case - but I think that both ultimately stem from the fact that the US doesn't usually take shit from its immigrants. Public assistance for refugees is not for life, unless the refugees are elderly; the immigrants who commit more or less serious crimes are deported regardless of what awaits them back home; and if you want to teach your children your native culture, language and religion - well, it's a free country, your time and your money. Americans will often welcome the immigrants and mean it, they will hire the immigrants, but if the immigrant cab drivers decide that their religion doesn't let them transport passengers carrying alcohol, Americans will also explain to them in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable.

I never really thought of us here in America as living in a libertarian paradise, but then I guess its all relative:

Europe, on the other hand... I know the situation firsthand in Finland, but I follow it in the rest of Europe, and it's quite similar, with some differences, but the general impression is that Europe wants to accept the most unacceptable things and tolerate them through the clenched teeth. Nobody seems to expect the refugees to integrate, or to work, and many of them don't, because the public assistance is forever. Half of the population of some immigrant groups don't have jobs, or know the local language, but damn, we gotta teach them their native language, culture and religion, and arrange their own time in the swimming pools. Europeans keep the violent refugee criminals here, because to deport them is somehow considered equal to death penalty (why? most refugees are not in an imminent danger of death), and then complain that refugees commit a lot of crime.

This is an important point. Many commentators (neocons, mostly) supporting immigration will point to the Irish, the southern and eastern European immigrants of the turn of the previous century and say, see, nativists complained about them, too, and here they are, successfully integrated, unremarkable Americans except for their surnames, and even those aren't so remarkable anymore.

There are several problems with this narrative; for one thing, it skips over a lot of detail: the New York Draft Riots, Sacco and Vanzeti, various ethnic mafias. But what I want to focus on here is that we aren't the same country anymore. And it's not just multiculturalism, "diversity", and affirmative action, although these play their role.

Back then, immigrants either succeeded and thrived, or they failed and went home . . . or starved. And nobody missed them. We just don't allow that anymore. We don't allow people to live the kind of life that even our legal minimum wage will buy. Never mind the direct transfer payments or EITC; we socialize all manner of services that are disproportionately consumed by immigrants: public education, medical care (in ERs), police protection (Latin immigrants and their offspring commit more crime), etc. Today, failure doesn't mean starvation. Failure means government subsidy.

This is not a call for returning to the nineteenth centure, and it wouldn't matter if it was: we are never going back. But given that we aren't going back, we must realize that the engine of assimilation no longer works as it once did, and our immigration policy must adapt to this reality.

Vera continues . . .

It is, IMO, an immigrant's responsibility to integrate into a new culture, but if you feed them indefinitely, don't deport them for serious crimes, and try to encourage them to retain their culture as much as possible, is it any surprise when many of them live on welfare, commit crimes, and don't even bother to learn the language?

Unfortunately, none of this is likely to improve, in either Europe or America. We just aren't willing to practice the kinds of discrimination that motivate immigrants to assimilate to mainstream cultural, behavioral, and economic norms.

1 comment:

Vera said...

I don't think the permanent welfare is likely to change anytime soon, certainly not here in Finland. As for cultural assimilation and deporting the criminals, I can see some signs of a coming backlash.

In the US the immigrants are still expected to learn English. The Mexican immigrants are so numerous in some parts of the country that they don't bother to anyway, but Americans still want and expect them to.

But in general you have a good point: "the engine of assimilation no longer works as it once did, and our immigration policy must adapt to this reality".