Citizenship


The Migration Policy Institute published its top ten migration stories of 2006. Topping the list: Europe’s turn from multiculturalism in immigration policy and insisting on strict assimilation of new arrivals.

In 2006, European politicians dealt multiculturalism numerous public blows, which the media was only too happy to cover. Multiculturalism, policymakers essentially said, has failed to adequately integrate immigrants and their descendants.

Since the late 1990s, Europe’s emphasis on strict integration policy has increased: learn our language, our history, our culture, and live by our laws and values. The UK, which didn’t require a citizenship test until 2005, fully implemented the test this year, and Germany’s regional governments introduced tests on top of the 600-hour, federally mandated language courses.

The article continues with Netherlands’ stricter laws and contraversial DVD, as well as Denmark’s cartoon of Muhammed.

Multiculturalism’s abandonment may seem practical, new immigrant populations not weaving themselves into the fabric of society. But something should be kept in mind: ordinary Europeans do not make an effort to welcome new immigrants. Most North Africans and Muslims in France (many of whom are citizens by birth) are excluded from top professions, and they are pushed to the banlieus (the peripheries of cities) where they live among other immigrants, not ‘typical’ Frenchmen.

The other problem is defining what a citizen is. The Dutch DVD tells immigrants to expect public kissing and topless sunbathing. OK, tolerance should be expected. However, there is no single Dutchman: such a thing exists in the imagination, and differences require tolerance anyway.

Actually, Jack Straw’s comments, quoted in the article, surprised me:

Communities are bound together partly by informal chance relations between strangers, people being able to acknowledge each other in the street or being able to pass the time of day. That’s made more difficult if people are wearing a veil. That’s just a fact of life.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Out in public, identities are challenged as people with differing ideas and comportments confront one another. Acknowledging this seems to indicate acceptance of cultural differences. But the burqa as an obstacle? What is Straw looking for: beedy, deviant eyes?

I’m not against integration, but multiculturalism should, and could, be a policy that allows it to happen, creating an environment in which communities fuse together, their differences, without being destroyed, thinned out until they mix together.

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Interesting phenomenon in immigration to Europe: the use of French overseas territories as  places of entry.  At a congress of French mayors, the mayors from overseas territories complained that they were being overwhelmed by clandestins (aka, illegal immigrants).  And their presence is affecting the public mood, raising hostility.  As one mayor put it:

There is a real sentiment of xenophobia developing in Guyana.  Until now, the people have respected the laws of the Republic.  But the day will come when they will take justice into their own hands.  It suits them to re-establish the authority of the state in the territories. [Translation mine]

Mayotte, among the Comoro Islands in the Indian Ocean, is particuarly overwhelmed, becoming a magnet for would be immigrants from the region.  Many of these come from the Comoros, an indepedent nation in the same chain of islands.  The Comorians, however, could work toward French citizenship by jus soli, their nation having once been part of France.  But they want to be able immediately to claim citizenship on the basis of birth, as the people of Mayotte have.  These municipalities, as well as those in Guyana and Guadeloupe, need more resources for the incoming immigrants; France offers only resources to combat their entry.

Another thought after the 60 Minutes piece: if New Paltz and San Francisco cannot offer same-sex marriages, how can Hazelton legislate immigration?

Now, I’m not saying that if one is allowed, the other must be as well. What I am saying is that the US Constitution–both written and understood–gives no autonomy to municipalities and other public corporations. Only the states are recognized, and they determined what autonomy cities and town enjoy.

This point may seem arcane, but it is relevant. Consider that medieval cities had broad leeway to define who was a citizen–indeed, out notion of citizenship descends therefrom (if we believe Guizot). In modern times, some form of municipal sovereignty remains. In France, the cities are more powerful policy makers (and mayors have been an important sources of presidential candidates). In Switzerland, the residents of cities and towns get to vote on who will be allowed permanently into the community, a necessary prerequisite to obtaining Swiss citizenship. (Unfairly, pictures of candidates are posted on the ballot, and “colored” people are denied citizenship more often than Europeans.)

Considering the critical importance of sovereignty and the relationship of the national government to the states, their silence is profound. They saw no need to enshrine municipalities with policy making abilities, especially those reserved for the national government.

So, what gives Hazelton (or Farmers Branch or any other town) the constitutional right to enact legislation that hangs on issues of citizenship and nationality (and I do mean constitutional)?

Concerning the attempt in Texas to create “birthright citizenship“:

In recent years, however, some who want to clamp down on illegal immigration have seized on the 14th Amendment, saying it was never intended to grant citizenship to children of illegal immigrants.

Contending that birthright citizenship encourages illegal immigration, some critics have dubbed the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants “anchor babies” because they can sponsor their parents for legal permanent residency when they turn 21.

“That’s the reward they get for violating our laws,” Berman said. “That’s got to stop.”

Let’s get this straight: illegal immigration is a modern concept, designed to prevent unwanted types from coming to this country. Before 1900, when someone said that a citizen was anyone born in the country, they meant it! Jus solis is an extension of Stadtluft macht frei, the notion that if you can thrive in the environment of the city for a given period of time, you have earned citizenship.

[HT: Kevin Johnson]