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Cool Blue

Joined: 21 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 8:24 pm    Post subject: Prosperity and Opportunity Best to Integrate Immigrants? Reply with quote

January 15, 2007

Give me your tired, your poor -- NOT
North America's open door may soon be closing, says IRSHAD MANJI

In the coming months, globalization will accelerate in a weird way. It won't just be American culture invading European life. Rather, Europe will be exporting its attitudes to America -- at least when it comes to immigration. The new U.S. Congress will soon consider laws to keep out the very people whom the Statue of Liberty proclaims she wants: the tired and poor. Historically, America has loved its wretched, starving newcomers. They've been the only ones desperate enough to believe in the American dream. By believing in it, many have achieved it.

However, these potential millionaires pose a political problem. They may be tired but they still have the energy to toil 20 hours a day for little money. To America's bloated middle class, that's a threat. While the unions complain that immigrants are undercutting wages, the non-unionized charge that immigrants are stealing jobs from "real Americans." Ethnicity creeps into economics and makes for a European-like fear of the future.

Still, globalization distributes power in several directions. Which means many immigrants will be fighting back. Be they Mexicans in California or Moroccans in Holland, I already hear them expressing a message of defiance: "You need us as much as we need you! When we're allowed to work legally, we can pay our taxes. We can finance social assistance, hospital beds and pensions -- all the things that you first-world types need because of your low birth rates, aging populations and expectation of material comforts. For your own sake, give us jobs instead of grief."

I sympathize with this argument. Maybe it's because I, myself, am a refugee to Canada. My family and I fled Idi Amin's Uganda in 1972, settling in Vancouver. Throughout childhood, I watched my mother delay gratification, and sweat for the next dollar -- to the point where my sisters and I spent every Christmas vacation alone because mom, a manual labourer, earned double the pay during those "holiday" weeks. She slaved and saved so that we wouldn't have to do either. Mom taught us the dignity of making our future bigger than our past.

To be honest, I'm not sure I would have absorbed this lesson had I been raised in Western Europe. There, family lineage often matters more than personal initiative. Where one comes from usually outweighs where one would like to go. No wonder countless Muslim labourers who have been living in Western Europe for generations continue to be called immigrants, despite being bona fide citizens.

In North America, the opposite is typically true. What makes somebody acceptable is not so much her skin colour or faith as her willingness to compete and accomplish. Many aboriginal Canadians and black Americans would disagree. Yet, many more Asians would agree. Just ask the Indian and Chinese newcomers who made up one-third of Silicon Valley's scientists and engineers during the 1990s technology boom.

Fast forward 10 years. As incredible as it sounds in the era of the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay, dozens of Muslims in the Netherlands have told me that they would rather live in North America because of how it treats social status. Here, you don't have to be born into status; you can still earn it.

If earning one's keep is the key to achieving dignity, then Europe will have to understand that egalitarianism is the wrong ideal for immigrants and their host societies. Egalitarianism is a fancy word for equality of result. While equality of result sounds compassionate, it's only a shortcut to compassion.

On a recent visit to Copenhagen, I repeatedly heard the joke that "our borders are closed but our coffers are open." Denmark's unions have managed to stop immigrants from entering certain trades so that workers can preserve their high incomes. But in an egalitarian gesture, union leaders convinced the Danish government to give skilled, unemployed immigrants almost the same amount of money that workers are earning. That way, they assumed, discrimination would be avoided.

It turns out that egalitarianism itself is fuelling discrimination. Young, jobless Muslims tend to feel stripped of their ambition. Employers haven't developed an incentive to take them seriously. A year ago, a group called the Democratic Muslims of Denmark was formed to fight radical Islam. They do more than denounce reactionary imams. Among their strategies is one to organize career fairs for Muslim youth who need hope.

Perhaps the United States and Western Europe should take a hint from Islamic civilization. Between the eighth and 14th centuries, Muslims led the world in innovation precisely because they engaged the imagination of outsiders. The harvest? Several hundred years of creativity in agriculture, astronomy, chemistry, medicine, commerce, math, even fashion. It's when the Islamic empire became insular, to "protect" itself, that the motivation to remain robust, and the talent to do so, disappeared.

That's why my heart breaks at the growing Europeanization of America. I gladly acknowledge that the U.S. has much to learn from its European cousins on issues such as women's rights and the environment. But if politicians in Washington are going to tell foreign arrivals they can't work hard and stand tall, they should send America's most enduring immigrant, the Statue of Liberty, back to her native land. France, like much of Europe, could use her spirit in the months ahead.

IRSHAD MANJI is a senior fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels and author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Wake-Up Call for Honesty and Change.
Cool Blue

Joined: 21 Sep 2006
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Location: Ontario

PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This isn't the first time that I've read the opinion that North America won't have the problems that Europe has because our culture allows for easier movement up the social ladder.

Joined: 02 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That may be - I would argue that its due in part to less comprehensive welfare networks. Immigrants have to work harder in North America, as they lack inherited wealth, family support, and copious government assistance. I think that's a good thing, personally.

Furthermore, the US and even Canada are much more melting pots than most European countries - while we do absorb some parts of immigrant culture, they generally take on more of 'us' than we do of 'them'. I have more thoughts on the successful cultural integration of immigrants, but that's almost another topic.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 1:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Historically, America has loved its wretched, starving newcomers

Well, not exactly!

Historically, many immigrant groups suffered a great deal of discrimination and hardship that they didn't deserve. Fortunately, in those days Americans still believed in the restriction of powers of the federal government in the US Constitution. And so they were unable to "legislate their discrimination." Well, most of the time.

Today, however, things are much different. Today Americans believe that the government should have the power to proclaim an official language (you'd think they'd learn from Canada), ban the display of foreign flags, fine businesses and arrest business owners that hire illegal immigrants, and deport millions and millions of illegal immigrants.
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Prosperity and Opportunity Best to Integrate Immigrants?

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