Monday, September 2, 2013

Immigration Policy and the Proverbial Camel

I received an email newsletter from a friend entitled "The Camel's Nose is In the Tent".  The title refers to the 19th century fable, in which an Arab miller allows a camel to stick its nose into his tent, and then other parts of its body gradually follow, until the camel is entirely inside and refuses to leave. His point was in reference to the large-scale US government sponsored migration of Muslims to the Michigan cities where American workers had fled in the wake of the collapse of the Auto industry and Detroit in general. Apparently, the feds not only moved large numbers of Palestinian and other Middle-Eastern refugees to the area, but also met them practically as they came off the plane with welfare applications thoughtfully printed up in Farsi. The poster objects to targeting a potentially hostile group of immigrants for special treatment.

Another individual shot a note back to the group saying we should be more compassionate with our immigrant brethren and that it was a shame that ethnic hatred is so close to the American heart. While I do think both posters have a point, I don't think that ethnic hatred is "close to the American heart".  Neither do I think that most Muslim immigrants are part of an Islamic plot to take over the United States.

Every wave of immigration into this country has been met with some fear and distrust which, over time, dissipates.  The Irish were despised when they flooded Boston. Now they are considered a vital part of Bostonian heritage and they hold a giant St. Patrick's Day parade there every year. It's been the same with every new wave of refugees we take in. Fear and mistrust of things new and foreign is sort of an instinct with human beings anyway. It's an ancient survival mechanism, that helps us identify potential threats to our security. People don't like change much. It's in our nature. If you don't believe that, move to Saudi Arabia and try behaving just like you did when you lived in the US. You will find that, Americans aren't so full of ethnic hatred as you thought they were. Better yet, try living in Serbia or Boznia if you want to see racial intolerance. Those people have made hating each other into a fine art for over a thousand years.

I think what the first poster was getting at is that there is a problem with how this wave of immigration is being handled. When the Irish came to New England, we did not meet them at the boat with a welfare application in Gaelic. They, at first, clustered in neighbourhoods which proper Bostonians gave over to them, but over time they infiltrated the city at all levels and became a part of it, changing and changed by it. In like manner, the Italians, Eastern Europeans, Jews, Greeks nor Chinese were not met with translators and government subsidies. They were either met with jobs that needed doing for the most part or created their own jobs.

With previous waves of immigrants, Americans did not try to become like them, nor did we take special effort to keep them contained in clusters.  Some clustering does occur, but millions left the "old neighbourhood" and struck out across America looking for their dream.

 We didn't even consider granting my forefathers the right to live by Irish law, Scots Law, English law, Chinese law or Jewish law. They were expected to live by American law, they were expected to speak English and they were expected to work hard to achieve some kind of success. 

Did all of them assimilate?  No.  In Boston and Chicago, there grew to be an Irish mob presence.  The Italian mafia claimed control of territory within the Italian ghettos of New Orleans, Chicago, New York and other large communities where Italian immigrants clustered.  In San Francisco, there were Chinese gangs. In LA, Chicago and New York, Puerto Rican, Cuban and other Hispanic gangs and all sorts of criminal organizations sprang up around cultural and ethnically monolithic communities. This happens because when people flee a country, the government there always takes the opportunity to ship out their criminals while they are at it, so that someone else will have to deal with them.

We treat these criminals like criminals as is right and proper, because they are criminals, not people we must understand. The ethnic criminal class is most active in its own ethnic communities because these kinds of criminals already know how to bully and intimidate their fellow countrymen. It is made worse when we allow immigrants to be shoved together into ethnic ghettos.  Immigrants feel isolated and vulnerable in their enclaves and hesitate to reach outside the confines of Little Italy, Little Puerto Rico, Little Havana or Little Mexico for help controlling the criminals that prey on them.
We have too often tiptoed around the issue, refusing to point out the criminal predators because politicians fear offending "groups" of people who might vote for them as a block. So the immigrant gets stamped, labelled and filed away in an ethnic group to be issued a voter registration card by politicians and to be preyed upon by criminals, gangs and even big business.

The majority of immigrants in our past, however, moved out across the country to become Americans -- not hyphenated Americans, but simply Americans. The problem with the recent wave of middle-eastern refugees, however, is that too many arrived, not under their own steam, but on the US government dime. They were moved into abandoned areas of Detroit and other failed communities where union thuggery and greed, government interference and corporate shortsightedness had collapsed one of the greatest of the world's industrial cities. 

And did we meet them as they got off the plane with jobs? No. We met them with welfare applications in Farsi. The same thing happened in Europe where a burgeoning Muslim immigrant population has gone on the dole en masse and turned vast areas of Europe into semi-autonomous Islamic welfare states within states - Muslim strongholds that siphon off the economic strength of the nations in which they are established. Mosques, instead of places for people to freely worship according to their conscience, too often become centers of sedition and terrorism where worshipers are counselled to disobey and undermine American law and where terrorists are recruited. The United States government has encouraged this attitude by its open fear of offending Muslims. By doing so the government teaches Muslim immigrants that their new homeland will not defend them from retaliation by the thugs that have followed them to the New World. 

This is unfortunate for honest Muslim immigrants who merely wanted to escape the horrors of their homelands. I sympathize with them. I've long advocated that we open our nation to those Muslims who are unhappy in their homeland and who could bring talent and energy and a strong work ethic to our nation.  Many did come and have contributed to our economic strength as previous immigrants did - yours and mine included.

This government, however, in its fear of terrorists, has sought to feed the crocodile in hopes it won't eat us. I think that is disrespectful and patronizing toward the Middle-Eastern immigrant community. Instead of following our own immigration laws and protocols, we've tried, instead, to pacify the beast we fear with welfare payments. Moving non-union workers into Detroit might be a good idea, if what you want to do is rebuild the workforce and revitalize the industrial base there. But moving welfare recipients into the area only continues a long-standing policy in Detroit of force-feeding a dead horse. The city of Detroit has received more federal dollars in the past 30 years than almost any other city in America and look at the results.

It is not more government money to support immigrants on welfare that Michigan needs. If federal "investment" actually worked, Detroit wouldn't be the half-dead, collapsed and bankrupt wasteland it is today.

We don't object to the camel any more than we object to all the other escaped beasts of burden that have come to our shores seeking opportunity and freedom. Our forefathers all worked hard to give their descendants opportunities that they never had. That's how it works. In that respect, camels are a useful addition to the national enterprise. What we do object to, however, is to allowing the camel into the supply tent where it may destroy our reserves and drain our economy to no useful purpose.

Just feeding livestock is only useful if you plan to slaughter them for food. Of course, we would never do that. There is no profit in that. Unless, we change some rules to free up American free enterprise to do what it does best (put people to work) and unless our government is willing to be tough on those who abuse their newly found freedoms, then all we're doing is feeding increasingly fat camels to no purpose.  

This is not a slur. I'm not calling Muslims camels. I'm going with the metaphor from the original post's subject line. That is all. The same principle applies to donkeys, horses, elephants, mules and oxen. Unless whatever you are feeding is willing to work toward self-sufficiency and to pull its share of the load, then these individuals are merely a drain on our resources and we are wrong to encourage their continuing dependence, especially when these people used to fending for themselves.
I do not trust a government that uses our finite resources to pay off groups of people to show up at the polls and vote for the status quo every couple of years. I don't trust a government that thinks it can tax and regulate its way to prosperity. We are sending the wrong message to a group of folks whose culture has for millenia respected strength above all.  The quickest way for a ruler in an Arab country to fall is to look weak. Ghaddafi found that out as did Hosni Mubarak. When we look weak and accommodating, we invite the disdain and disrespect of the Islamic culture, even those whom we have taken in and blessed with our largesse.

When the leader of the strongest nation in the world bows to lesser leaders, even in an attempt to show politeness, we make ourselves weak in their eyes.  Japan thought we were weak and it got us Pearl Harbor. Al Quaeda thought we were weak and it got us 9/11.  Russia thought we were weak and tried to "bury" us and we got an expensive "Cold War" that lasted four decades. 
Muslims are thoroughly confused by us.  George W. Bush looked strong when he took out Saddam Hussein. Iraqi babies were named after him in the wake of the Iraq war. Obama, on the other hand, looks weak and indecisive.  Now the Iraqis are confused. Is America strong or weak?  They have no respect for a weak America, whatever weapons it may possess. A small woman may hold a gun, but has she the will to use it?  

In this volatile world where weapons of mass destruction are everywhere, it is a dangerous thing to look weak. Our government's ingratiating itself to the Muslim immigrant population is a serious mistake. Theirs is still a "strong man" dominated, almost tribal culture. Yes, treat them with respect as the government should with all its citizens and legal immigrants.  But don't try to use a Neville Chamberlain conciliatory style of diplomacy and governance with them. It sends the wrong message and threatens our security.

I think with respect to the issue of immigration that it is always a mistake to create designated areas in which to place immigrants. Far better to spread them throughout the culture than to bunch them up in areas. We should never treat immigrants to America as groups, but should work with them as individuals, encourage them to blend with the mainstream rather than to create subcultures and ghettos. We've seen the destructive results of isolating new Americans into ghettos and enclaves. They quickly develop a siege mentality, feeling surrounded by a culture they do not understand and hardly participate in. To those outside the immigrant communities, these ethnic enclaves assume the look of invading armies. 

They speak a different language because they are in a place where English is not required, further isolating them from their American neighbours. When immigrants fail to become part of us, they not only miss out on the good things about American culture, but we also miss out on the contributions their culture can make to the American experience.

We have focused so much on our differences through multi-cultural programs and sensitivity training for Americans that we have neglected providing training for incoming Americans to teach them about American culture. In my home state of Texas we learned that if we offered Spanish-speakers the opportunity to learn English, they flock to the classes because knowing English is seen as the key to prosperity by immigrants, both legal and illegal. We taught classes, sponsored by local banks in money management and how the financial system works in America and we saw family incomes rise and increased investment in the communities in which they work.  We saw family cohesiveness improve; crime and gang activity decline.  

We see greater participation by immigrant Americans in small towns and culturally mixed communities as opposed to mono-cultures in the colonias.  Instead of pumping government money into the colonias, we ought to be moving folks out of the colonias and into mainstream communities where they can more easily be seen for who they are rather than as an invading army that speaks differently and has different traditions.  We need a return to the melting pot rather than making our nation into a big sampler tray with each ethnic, political and cultural group tucked neatly into its little corner of the tray where they can be more easily identified and "handled" by politicians.

The melting pot gives us common goals, dreams and aspirations. That is what makes America strong. The tragedy of the Muslim migration is that we keep putting them all in tight groups that protect their identity as strangers in a strange land rather than scattering them amongst us all and making them our friends and neighbors.

Tom King
© 2013

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