Integration


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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Spanish-speakers are the future of the Catholic Church in America, but didn’t Bishop Lamy know that?  Anyway, Wichita’s churches are increasingly dominated by Spanish-speakers, whom the Church feels inclined to serve.

Within the past century, the population center of the U.S. Catholic church has shifted from the Midwest and Northeast to the nation’s Sun Belt states due to the Hispanic migration, Gray said.

“They bring goodness to the Catholic church in America. They bring new life,” [Father Eric Weldon] said.

Among his parishioners at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Wichita is Alma Rocha, who grew up in Mexico and now lives in Wichita with her family. She prefers to attend the Spanish Mass, saying she can understand more of it than its English counterpart.

Like many Catholic Mexican immigrants, she also feels more comfortable with the livelier Spanish-language Masses in “classic Jalisco” style – replete with three mandolins, a standup bass, and four guitars – which are more reminiscent of the church services she attended as a child in Mexico.

More sedate English Masses feature an organ and choir for music.

“The English Mass is so quiet,” Rocha said as she waited in a car to pick up her children as classes at their Catholic school let out. “I love my people. I love my culture.”

The goals of the clergy are not to provincialize immigrants, but to serve as moral guidance and assistance in integration.

“The Mexican immigrants go to the priest as soon as they can about problems,” Weldon said. “Americanized Catholics go to a therapist, to a psychologist or ignore it and at the last minute – when it is too late – they talk to me. … Because Hispanics go to the priest with their problems first, they rely more on the priest. They need me a lot.”

The Catholic church in the U.S. is preparing its priests and seminarians for a more multicultural ministry, said Bishop Michael Jackels of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. While that may address a reality for American churches, it may eventually strain priests who find themselves having to “double all the things” to meet the needs of English and Hispanic parishioners, Jackels said.

Jackels said he expected demand for Spanish-language Masses to diminish as migrant families become more established in the U.S. That’s what happened with the diocese’s Vietnamese Mass, where attendance has fallen as the children of Vietnamese families born here either speak little Vietnamese or prefer attending English Masses with their friends.

“It is part of the goal not to set up parallel parishes … but to work toward integration,” Jackels said.