Monday, August 4, 2008

History: Given enough time all immigrant groups can and will assimilate!

Zippy Catholic argues forcefully and reasonably over at 4-W (or W-4) that the success of Ellis Island immigrant assimilation to this country is no indicator that Mexican immigrants as one example, or Muslim immigrants as another, or any combination of those and other groups immigrating to this country currently will result in the same level of success as the Ellis Island immigrants. Zippy's basic (and reasonable) argument is this, success in one instance and under a given set of circumstances does not necessarily equal success in another instance under a different set of circumstances, which makes sense. To argue to the contrary is, as Zippy notes, a complete nonsequitur.

Now, personally I think it's completely legitimate to question the current orthodoxy which says that the Ellis Island example is unquestionably a shining example of successful immigrant assimilation, not to mention what that, granting the premise for the sake of argument, has to do with the ability or the desire of today's immigrant groups to assimilate in America, and America's determination to force them to assimilate.

Here's the way one commenter to the thread, "Blackadder", challenges Zippy:

The reason people tend to bring up previous waves of immigration is that many of the predictions of the dire consequences that will result from current waves of immigration were also made about previous immigration. If the supposed nasty consequences of immigration failed to materialize in the past, this should give us reason to be skeptical about whether they will happen this time around.

This is like the old argument against American involvement in the Vietnam conflict which states the following -- "everyone said that if America didn't involve itself in that conflict, that communism would overtake the world. That didn't happen, therefore American involvement in Vietnam was ill-founded, stupid, a waste of time and effort, and too expensive in terms of lives lost, American and otherwise." Yes, people actually make this argument. Now, I'm not defending America's involvement in the Vietnam conflict here, but you can see the similarities in thinking right? What is never considered by these people, and what we cannot know since America did get into the Vietnam conflict, is what might have happened had America not gone to Vietnam. The fact that we did enter that war materially changes everything. Likewise, making the simplistic observation that "the supposed nasty consequences of immigration failed to materialize in the past," without taking into account that the Ellis Island wave of immigration did not continue unabated, among other things equally important, is, well, simplistic at best, and disingenuous at worst.

The clear fact of the matter is this, America cannot remain America under current levels of immigration; that those "nasty consequences" that we immigration restrictionists warn about, most definately will materialize if the current wave of immigration to America from third-world countries is not drastically reduced, and soon.

I have also left a comment in the thread that you might want to check out.


Rick Darby said...

Introduced ethnic groups can assimilate with host groups (although not necessarily quickly or smoothly) if they have certain things in common with the host group: a shared historical memory (almost all Europeans were influenced by Greco-Roman civilization, even if only in being defeated by it); reasonably similar legal systems and respect for law; the concept of nationhood, as opposed to tribalism; and — uncomfortable but, I believe, true to say — race.

It's useless to proclaim that different races "ought" to be able to live side by side successfully. Everyone's horse ought to come in first at the racetrack, too. When the future of your country is in the balance, you have to look at what actually happens when different races live together.

Occasionally it seems to work out, but there's always more than meets the eye. Hawaii is cited as an example. I spent some time in Hawaii, and it is true that (at least at the time) Polynesians, Anglos or haoles, Japanese, and Chinese got along. But I learned that they each had their own part of society that they controlled: one group ran corporations, one real estate, one small business, etc. And from what I read occasionally, the "native Hawaiian" movement is getting pretty steamed about other groups.

Singapore? It's pretty peaceful, but probably because they live under a benign dictatorship. Brazil? All that criminal violence and corruption surely has a racial dimension.

But there's no reason we need mass immigration. We needed to import impoverished immigrants to build the railroads and work in factories, not because those were "jobs Americans wouldn't do," but simply because there weren't enough hands on deck. We have more than enough people to do all the jobs available now — there just aren't enough people who'll work for the substandard wages that businesses want to pay. Even that may change as we possibly head into the next great depression.