The recent unveiling of the RAISE Act, an attempt to reform America’s immigration system to make it skill-based and reduce legal immigration to half, created much brouhaha and media frenzy. The Left went ballistic and called the Act racist, xenophobic, anti-American, and anti-immigrant. The Right praised the Act in that it makes America’s immigration process less counterproductive to American economic interests.

While the Act hasn’t been signed into law yet, I was surprised that it didn’t address two key issues. The RAISE Act does very little, if any, to rein in the H1B visa program, used extensively by tech companies to hire cheap overseas labor and replace American workers. Not only do these imported workers end up renewing their visas several times, their employers, over time, sponsor them for green cards, an upgrade that is not a part of the H1B scheme. The foreign hires aren’t especially high-skilled and don’t necessarily assimilate in the work environment, but they end up undertaking the journey to American citizenship. Cheap overseas labor also puts a downward pressure on wages in the tech industry. The upshot of all this is that the H1B scheme countervails the central objective of the RAISE Act. Further explanation on this can be found here and here.

The other issue is that of a subliminal sort; one that can’t be easily measured or monitored and the effects of which take a long time to manifest. A country is a sum total of its cultural values and principles that it holds dear. Other attributes like quality of life, standard of living, wealth, opportunities, political stability, and economic growth all flow from culture.

Immigration affects not only the economy, but also the culture. The degree of and type of effect depends upon the extent of assimilation, which in turn boils down to the native culture of the immigrants. Immigrants entering European or North American nations find it easier to assimilate if they are from similar cultures. This is evidenced by an article assessing assimilation into American culture during the Age of Mass Migration, where immigrants were predominantly from Europe.

It is very plain that people sharing common cultural threads like social mores, dietary practices, religion, folklore, and heritage will find it easy to socialize with one another and enter the melting pot. Asian, African, and Middle Eastern immigrants on the whole, have radically different cultures, histories and heritage, dietary practices, and religious affiliations – all of which raises deep concerns about assimilation. And the concerns escalate, when the West has been besieged by the ideology of multiculturalism, where in, immigrants are encouraged not to assimilate and where all cultures and societies are considered equal.

The past few decades have seen the mushrooming of ethnic enclaves across European and North American nations, where immigrants, older and recent arrivals, huddle together to create societies that resemble the ones they left behind. The UK is a great example of ‘enclavi-fication,’ where Muslims immigrants, predominantly, from Pakistan and Bangladesh have turned, what used to be quaint English towns, into mini-South Asia.

These self-styled Islamic settlements that dot the landscape of many western countries, are not only cosmetically abstracted from the host norms, but they also function differently from host societies. Many of these culturally insular settlements, popularized as 'no-go zones,’ enforce Sharia law. Some of the extreme elements organize Sharia patrol, in which members of the groups go around policing people on matters of propriety.

Honor killings, not an exclusive hallmark of Muslim societies, have started cropping up in Europe and North America. In Germany, honor killings seem to be prevalent among the Turkish community, while in the UK, they cluster around the South Asian diaspora. While the US is better at assimilating immigrants, it too has been grappling with honor killings with an estimated 23 – 27 occurrences per year, 91% of which are due the victim becoming ‘too westernized.’ Stephanie Baric, who served as executive director for AHA Foundation in 2015, attested that the rising incidence in honor killings is due to a massive influx from South Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, where this practice is the norm. AHA Foundation was founded by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an FGM survivor and women’s rights activist, to shed light on honor violence, female genital mutilation, and forced marriages.

Some immigrants and second-generation native-born individuals from these radically different cultures seem unfit to live in western societies, where values like free speech, religious tolerance, separation of church and state, and equality are the norm. The Charlie-Hebdo attacks and the Copenhagen café shootings are evidence of intolerance to the free speech clause - a corner stone of western civilization. 2016 was an especially bloody year for Europe, with several terror attacks committed either by immigrants and asylum seekers from the MENA region or by second- and subsequent generation native-born members of middle-eastern origin. The motives for the attacks are a testament of incompatible values, lack of tolerance to criticism and differences over opinions, and an unquenchable thirst for martyrdom. 

Britain has its own strain of homegrown terrorism in the form of Anjem Choudary, a native-born, well-educated, British, Islamic hate preacher. He has a growing support of not just people of Middle-Eastern, North African, and South-Asian ancestry, but also some white British converts, who clamor for the replacement of the British common law system with Sharia and converting Britain into an Islamic state.

In 2016, Mr. Choudary and one of his accomplices were sentenced to prison for supporting ISIS and encouraging their followers to be in lockstep with the militant group and its ideology, if they are ‘true’ Muslims.

Self-segregation and lack of assimilation can also affect economic opportunities, employment, upward social mobility, and prosperity – some of the reasons why so many third-worlders want to make western countries their home. Unemployment data from the UK between July 2013 and June 2017 reports higher total unemployment rates (roughly twice or thrice) for peoples of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Black/African/Caribbean descent as compared to whites. One may impute this to racial or ethnic discrimination, but this argument is made feeble by the fact that people of Indian descent report an unemployment rate that trails the white unemployment rate by just a few percentage points.

While it’s difficult to obtain similar data broken down by ethnicity and religion for the EU, a 2010 discussion article provides some insights. It presents data (table 1.4) highlighting labor market situation in France broken down by ethnicity.  The unemployment rates for 1st, 2nd, and 1.5 generation immigrants are significantly higher as compared to the French natives. The only data fields, where the unemployment rates plummet and come close to those of the French natives, are ‘Southeast Asians’ and ‘2nd generation mixed populations.’ France is notorious for its ethnically segregated enclaves and it’s escapades with multiculturalism.

Interestingly, Hungary that took a hard line on multiculturalism shows a completely different picture of unemployment data (table 1.5), with the Arab minority population recording some of the lowest rates. The Chinese minority performs incredibly well with a rate of just 0.68%.

Another set of data (table 1.6) that points the needle of blame to self-segregation than to discrimination is on the unemployment rate of the Roma minorities of Romania and Hungary. The national governments’ effort to assimilate the self-segregated Gypsy settlements having gone to vain, this population has experienced skyrocketing unemployment.

2016 unemployment data from the US bureau of labor statistics broken down by race for foreign-born individuals reveals that foreign-born Asians experience the lowest rate of unemployment followed by whites and Hispanics. Foreign-born Blacks are the worst hit with an unemployment rate of 6.1%. The economic correlation between segregation and unemployment is further fleshed out by findings of a report from the Lewis Mumford Center that suggests that Asians are far less likely to self-segregate than are Hispanics and Blacks.

Another piece of information making the economic case against ‘enclavi-fication’ is a scientific journal article measuring effects of ethnic-owned and run workplaces on the earnings of the ethnic workers they hire. The findings reveal that, on average, an immigrant gets paid lesser in a self-segregated, co-ethnic business enclave than an immigrant working in the mainstream economy.

Clustering together in ethnic enclaves – residential or business – cuts off immigrants from the mainstream culture and the experiential learning that socializing with natives over time leads to. The resultant exchanges not only acquaint and gently break the immigrant into accepting his or her new cultural identity, but they also unearth a wealth of economic opportunities, thus, staving off the need to get on welfare.

A lack of assimilation and allegiance to the new culture can lead to resentment in the minds of the natives. This in turn can lead to a sharp rise in anti-immigrant sentiment, which on the backdrop of a schismatic society seems justified. The downside of this turn of events is the portrayal of immigrants as a monolith and the commandeering of the sentiment by fringe groups to push through a hateful and divisive narrative.

Immigration is a very decisive and game changing tool in the culture, politics, and economy of a country. A prudent immigration policy will make sure that the host country benefits economically from immigration, without undermining its cultural and social values and norms. A need to integrate and assimilate should not be a preferable outcome, but an imperative of the immigration process.

Following are some recommendations in designing an immigration system that puts weight on cultural assimilation.

  1. Immigrants should not only be able to support themselves and their dependents, they should also show willingness and capability to assimilate culturally.
  1. A review of immigrant’s native culture and societal values should be brought into the vetting process while assessing ability to assimilate.
  1. Mass immigration and chain immigration should be summarily discontinued forever.
  1. A careful review for cultural compatibility of different societies from around the world should be carried out and immigration from incompatible countries should be banned all together. However, immigrants from these countries, who wish to immigrate, should be able to demonstrate themselves as outliers from the mainstream culture of their countries.
Saurabh Malkar

An ex-dentist and a business graduate who is greatly influenced by American conservatism and western values. Having born and brought up in a non-western, third world country, he provides an ‘outside-in’ view on western values. As a budding writer and analyst, he is very much stoked about western culture and looks forward to expound and learn more.

Mr. Malkar receives correspondence at saurabh.malkar[at]gmail.com. To read his 140-character commentary on Twitter, follow him at @saurabh_malkar

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