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Cultural Assimilation Ought To Be an Imperative, Not Elective, In Immigration

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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.

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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The liberal international order has not crumbled yet

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Since 2017 when Donald Trump took office, the “liberal international order” erected in 1991 has been under serious challenges raised by the United States’ relative decline, the Trump administration’s isolationist policy, and on top of that, the outbreak of COVID-19. Indeed, this order is greatly plagued, which is evidenced by its dysfunction. Against this backdrop, its endurance in the upcoming time is questionable. Nevertheless, the liberal international order has not collapsed yet. It will even revive, and endure in the post-pandemic era.

The victory of Biden 

Notwithstanding facing great threats, the liberal international order is far from crumbling. On the contrary, it is gradually reviving. In the Western world, countries are making effort to reform their order that is on the verge of collapse. This is true in the US – the world democracy’s leader. Joe Biden’s victory against Donald Trump may be a positive signal for the US and the global democracy. As a strong advocate for values including democracy, multilateralism and international trade, at no doubt, President Biden will be opposite to Trump in his policy, both domestic and foreign ones. Indeed, during his first 100 days, Mr.Biden has implemented some meaningful things. Regarding the pandemic, he has a stricter approach than his predecessor’s: Mandatory mask wearing, a $1.9-trillions bill, historical vaccination campaign, to name a few. All of Biden’s actions have been so far effective, when the new cases and deaths are steadily declining, and the number of vaccinated people is substantially high. This lays a foundation for Biden to reinvigorate his country’s ruined democracy and governance system, as his efficiency in countering COVID-19 may help him regain American people’s trust on the future of American democracy.

In terms of foreign policy, President Biden has some radical changes compared to that of Trump, which might be favorable to the Western world. At first glance, Biden embraces multilateralism much more than his predecessor, with the hope of saving the American global leadership. He supports Washington’s participation in international institutions, which is illustrated by the rejoining of WHO, Paris Agreement and several multilateral commitments. In tandem with this, Biden values the US’ alliances and strategic partnership as vital instruments for the US’ hegemony. Unlike Trump’s transactional approach, Biden prioritizes early and effective engagement with allies to tackle regional and global issues, especially major ones like NATO, G7. In Asia, he also seeks for further cooperation with traditional allies such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand and deepening partnership with Vietnam, Singapore, India and ASEAN countries.

More importantly, President Biden’s policies towards the US’ competitors and “rogue states” are far different from Trump’s. Granted, despite seeing China as the biggest threat to the American global leadership, Biden adopts a more flexible and multilateral policy. His administration looks to cooperate and compete with China, which implies a different trajectory of the US-China relationship in the upcoming time. Additionally, as noted above, instead of unilaterally escalating tensions with China as Trump did, Biden has been forging relations with traditional and potential Asian allies to contain China together, given China’s increasing assertiveness. With regard to Iran, Washington is now working on the Iran Nuclear Deal with other six parties, promising a potentially positive future on the relations of Iran with the US and the West. The bottom line is, a radical change in Biden’s foreign policy will be a clear message to the world that the US will still try to save the liberal international order and make this world safer for democracy.

The European Union is recovering 

Things are happening in the same pattern in Europe. European leaders are also closely cooperating, both inside and outside the bloc, to defeat COVID-19. That said, they are ardently supporting multilateralism. So far, the EU has spent billions of dollars in vaccine development as well as humanitarian support, demonstrating its solidarity in the battle against COVID-19. As such, if EU leaders can successfully lead their bloc out of the current crisis, they can reform this currently plagued institution in the post-pandemic era. Not only seeking further intra-bloc cooperation, but also European leaders are working with other major actors around the world to substantiate the global battlefront against COVID-19. Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her country and China to jointly develop COVID’s vaccine in an open, transparent way, and to a further extent, maintain good and stable bilateral partnership, regardless of two sides’ differences.

Similarly, the EU has been putting the Transatlantic relationship among the priorities of its foreign policy agenda. After Biden’s election, the European Commission has proposed refreshing the US-EU alliance and establishing a Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council, being seen as an informal tech alliance with the US to prevent China from dominating this critical sector. The Transatlantic relationship is perhaps one of the pillars for the liberal international order, given its long history and its contribution to maintain the global stability. In the last decades, this axis has been damaged by numerous issues, from economic to security, which is one of the main causes for the decline of liberal international order. Thus, a fresh Transatlantic relationship is conducive to the re-emergence of this order. In this respect, the EU’s effort to strengthen the Transatlantic alliance, despite being questionable in terms of feasibility and outcome, is still paving the way for reinvigorating of liberal international order. More notably, the most recent G7 Summit has illustrated the Western’s solidarity, when there is a convergence in most issues related to global governance and maintaining the Western-based order. This may be a harbinger of the liberal international order’s revival, at least in a foreseeable future.

Non-Western world is struggling 

The dynamics outside the Western world is also changing in a more favorable direction. Many non-Western countries, once were effective in combating against the pandemic, are now struggling with a greater threat. Taiwan, in spite of being praised as one of the most successful states in the battle against COVID-19, is currently facing another wave of pandemic when the new cases in this island are surging recently. Other successful stories, let us say Thailand, Japan or South Korea, are questionable of maintaining their momentum in preventing the virus, showcased by their relatively inefficiency during this new wave, in implementing strong measures and getting their people vaccinated. This raises question about these countries’ model of governance, which was used to be praised as a better alternative for a plagued, dysfunctional Western one, thanks to its merits in helping those above-mentioned states contain COVID-19.

Major non-Western blocs are in the midst of COVID-19 crisis as well. The clearest example is the BRICS. Except China, all other countries in this bloc have been tremendously suffering from the pandemic. Due to this, they are far from being recovered quickly. This failure in dealing with the virus undermines the bloc’s previous effort in establishing its position as a major, effective one, not to mention building a new, non-Western international order. This is also the case with ASEAN, as the organization was sharply divided by COVID-19. There are countries doing well with controlling the pandemic such as Vietnam, Singapore, but the Philippines and Indonesia are unable to do so, making this bloc suffering from institutional sclerosis without having any coherent COVID-19 policy. Therefore, non-Western blocs and countries are far from being more efficient than Western ones, implying they are unable to come up with any better international orders than the current liberal international one.

More importantly, Western values underpinning the liberal international order are universal. This is noteworthy when arguing for the long-lasting of Western order, as its existence and endurance mainly hinge on the universality of Western values. These values have been embraced by many countries for a very long time. Hence, despite being deteriorated in recent years, they cannot be easily changed. On the other hand, non-Western values are also not as highly embraced as Western ones. China, desiring to topple the US, is initiating numerous projects and agreements to spread its values around the world, making the world less Western and more Chinese/Asian. Nonetheless, Beijing has yet achieved any remarkable achievements in making their values more widespread and embraced by the rest of the world. Even worse, its image has been tarnished due to its rising assertiveness. Its projects in developing countries, especially BRI-related projects, have been notorious for a large number of problems related to environment or local corruption, and it is raising strategic uncertainty in the region by its increasing militarization, particularly on the South China Sea. These movements have turned China into a “malevolent” major power, hindering its process of disseminating and socializing its values to the world.

It is also worth noting that although Western values have declined, they have been proven to be benevolent for this world. Most recently, it is Western countries that have successfully developed good COVID-19 vaccines to save themselves and save the world from this unprecedented health crisis. Non-Western countries, for instance China and Russia, have their own vaccines, but they are not as welcome as other developed countries in the West in the vaccine race, because their vaccines are relatively less effective than Western-produced ones. Democracy, liberty, lassaiz faire are values that help Western countries or ones embrace such things able to produce massive amount of effective vaccines, and more broadly to develop a strong science and technology foundation. Producing and distributing vaccine for the rest of the world would make the West become a savior, which is good for saving the liberal international order.

Without doubt, the liberal international order has been in its worst time since 1991 when it reached its heyday. However, thanks to its merits, the liberal international order will not die. Instead, most countries will jointly save it, because they have been benefitting from this order for a long time, and will be so in the future. The order’s founding members are recovering, and cooperating closely to reform it, as well as there are no better international orders that can replace the existing one. Given these circumstances, the liberal international order would re-emerge as a dominant form of ordering this world after the pandemic, and would be perpetuated.

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Who benefits more from the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva?

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With the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva around the corner, the question is who actually benefits more from the meeting in the small Swiss town.

Mainstream media and right-wing foreign policy thinkers alike have argued that a joint press conference would “elevate” President Putin to the level of the American President.

Ivana Strander, the Jeane Kirkpatrick fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, argued that the upcoming Geneva summit is actually “a gift” to Putin.

In a CNN story, Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak mention that “officials who have been involved in arranging past US meetings with Putin say the Russian side often pushes for a joint press conference, hoping to elevate Putin’s stature by having him appear alongside the American leader”.

Whether as a subconscious bias or an actual reflection of attitudes, prevalent is the idea that coming close to the US President is a privilege that other leaders can only dream about. But who gains more from the upcoming summit?

In fact, it is the American President who is vying for other leaders’ approval and acceptance once again after a humiliating period – not the other way around. American is emerging from Trumpism, which revealed the other, ugly face of America. Trumpism is not gone and the other face of America is still there.

This week, US President Joe Biden is eager to show the world that America is “back”. In meetings with the G7, NATO countries’ top leaders, the NATO Secretary General, the Queen of England, and President Putin in the same week, Biden is asking the world to forget the last four years. And he is not doing this from the position of power or superiority. That’s why assuming that other heads of state, be it Putin or anyone else really, can only gain by coming close to the superiority of the American President is a misplaced and misguided. The US President is asking the international community to take America back – not the other way around.

President Putin doesn’t need the US President’s acceptance – Putin already got that. That happened back in 2018, in Helsinki, when President Trump sided with Putin over the US government’s own intelligence agencies, by rejecting the idea of Russia’s meddling in the US presidential elections. Trump slapped across the face and humiliated the US intelligence community in front of the whole world. Ever since, the US intelligence community has tried to figure out ways to prove Trump wrong and show him otherwise. And they have gone to incredible lengths, only so that they can get their pay pack of a sort, and prove Trump wrong. So, Putin already got what he wanted. He doesn’t need more “elevation”.

What’s also striking is that in Geneva, the UN is absolutely missing from the action. Geneva is the home of numerous UN agencies and international organizations, and not one is actually involved, which speaks volumes to questions of relevance. It is the Swiss government from Bern which is organizing the Summit. The UN is nowhere to be seen which is also indicative of the current Biden priorities.

If Trump was about “America First”, then Biden is about “America is still number one, right?”. But as the United Kingdom learned the hard way recently, it is sometimes best for a declining power to perhaps elegantly realize that the rest of the world no longer wants to dance to its tune, or at least not to its tune only. Discussions about how much Putin gains from coming close to the presence of the US President are misguided. In trying to climb back on the international stage on crotches and covered up in bruises, America is not in a position to look down on other big powers. And as regards who benefits more from the Summit, it seems like one side is there with a clear request asking for something. My understanding is that it is Biden who wants Putin to hand cyber criminals over to him. Putin still hasn’t said what he wants from Biden, in return.

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Trump’s legacy hangs over human rights talk at upcoming Biden-Putin Geneva summit

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Two days after the NATO Summit in Brussels on Monday, US President Joe Biden will be in Geneva to hold a much anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders are meeting at the shores of Lake Geneva at a villa in Parc la Grange – a place I know very well and actually called home for a long time. The park itself will be closed to the public for 10 days until Friday.

A big chunk of the lakeside part of the city will be closed off, too. Barb wire and beefed up security measures have already been put in place to secure the historic summit. The otherwise small city will be buzzing with media, delegations and curious onlookers.

I will be there too, keeping the readers of Modern Diplomacy updated with what’s taking place on the ground with photos, videos and regular dispatches from the Biden-Putin meeting.

The two Presidents will first and foremost touch on nuclear security. As an interlude to their meeting, the NATO Summit on Monday will tackle, among other things “Russian aggression”, in the words of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Last week, Stoltenberg said that he “told President Biden that Allies welcome the US decision, together with Russia, to extend the New START Treaty, limiting strategic weapons, and long-range nuclear weapons”. To extend the treaty is an important first step for Stoltenberg. This will be the obvious link between the two summits.

But Biden also has to bring up human rights issues, such as the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny and Putin’s support for the jailing of Belarusian activists by Lukashenko. Human rights have to be high on the agenda at the Geneva Summit. And indeed, Biden has confirmed officially that pressing Putin on human rights will be a priority for the American side.

Biden and Putin are not fans of each other, to say the least. Both have made that clear in unusually tough rhetoric in the past. Over the years, Biden has said on numerous occasions that he has told Putin to his face that he doesn’t “have a soul”. Putin’s retort was that the men “understand each other”.

Right at the beginning of his Presidency, earlier this year, Biden also dropped the bomb calling President Putin a “killer” for ordering the assassination of political opponents. The Russian president responded to the “killer” comment on Russian television by saying that “it takes one to know one”. Putin also wished Biden good health, alluding to the US President’s age and mental condition which becomes a subject of criticism from time to time.

Understandably, Putin and Biden are not expected to hold a joint press conference next week. But we weren’t expecting that, anyways.

For me, this Summit has a special meaning. In the context of repression against political opponents and critical media voices, President Biden needs to demonstrate that the US President and the US government are actually different from Putin – if they are any different from Putin.

This week, we were reminded of Trump’s legacy and the damage he left behind. One of Trump’s lasting imprints was revealed: Trump had the Department of Justice put under surveillance Trump’s political opponents. Among them House Democrats, including Congressman Adam Shiff, who was one of the key figures that led Trump’s first impeachment that showed that Trump exerted pressure on Ukrainian authorities to go after Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

In the context of Trump’s impact, President Biden needs to show that there has to be zero tolerance towards the cover up by the US government of politically motivated attacks against voices critical of the US government. If President Biden wants to demonstrate that the US government is any different from Putin’s Russia, Secretary of State Blinken and FBI director Chris Wray have to go. Biden has to show that he won’t tolerate the cover up of attacks on political critics and the media, and won’t spare those that stand in the way of criminal justice in such instances.

Biden is stuck in the 2000s when it comes to Eastern Europe, as I argued last week but he needs to wake up. President Biden and the US government still haven’t dealt effectively with Trump’s harmful impact on things that the US really likes to toot its horn about, such as human rights and freedom. Whether the upcoming Geneva Summit will shed light on that remains to be seen.

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