Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Integration before Immigration

Stanley Kurtz has a very good piece on why emphasizing family-reunification ahead of a merit-based system for new immigrants can be very dangerous. How can promoting family values be bad one asks? It's an insidious argument used by presidential hopeful Barack Obama (I'd vote for Hillary first)

The socially conscious Norwegians made this mistake ten years ago and are now trying to reverse it.

The dynamic that has made itself felt recently and most clearly that unassimilated chunks of immigrants are bad were in the banlieues of Paris into which the French police barely dared to set foot. In fact these heavily Muslim ghettoes exist all over Europe but not here in the United States where we've congratulated ourselves (and rightfully) on assimilating immigrants into the American culture and values.

However the accelerated family reunification provisions in the current bill not to mention the odious proposed Obama amendment would actually invite and make legal the type of immigration from Muslim countries THAT WE DO NOT WANT.

Kurtz references two other long articles (here and here) he has written which are fascinating and completely worthwhile reading. He draws heavily on the work of a British anthropologist who looked very carefully at the experiences of Punjabi immigrants to the UK differentiating between the Hindus and Sikhs on one hand and the Muslims on the other.

Essentially the practice patrilineal cousin intermarriage among Punjabi Muslims is extremely strong and cohesive and effectively prevents assimilation into the new culture in a process described as "reverse colonization".

Here are the key quotes:

In particular, the practice of cousin marriage has served to create a culturally insulated community of Mirpuri Muslims in Britain. A process of “chain migration,” in which generation after generation of Mirpuri immigrants wed cousins back in Pakistan, has reinforced Muslim cultural continuity by keeping a continuous stream of unassimilated immigrants pouring into Britain. Before describing the impact of Muslim marriage practices, however, Ballard needs to deal with an obvious alternative explanation for differential rates of immigrant achievement and assimilation.
Ballard (who’s done extensive fieldwork in Pakistan’s Mirpur district) estimates that “over 60% of all Mirpuri marriages are contracted between first cousins.” In 2002, Ballard noted that: “At least half (and possibly as many as two-thirds) of the marriages currently being contracted by young British-based Mirpuris are still arranged with their cousins from back home.” [Mirpuri = Muslims of the Punjab area]
The situation was very different for children of Mirpuri Muslims. Among Mirpuris, it’s taken for granted that cousins have a virtual right-of-first-refusal in the matter of marriage. Even in the absence of immigration, it would have been entirely expected that the children of Mirpuri migrants would marry their cousins. How much more so was this the case when a marriage meant a British visa, and a vast increase in wealth — all redounding to the honor of the patriclan? Many Mirpuri migrants had only made it to Britain in the first place with economic help from a brother back in Pakistan. This practice of sharing of resources within the joint family created a powerful moral obligation to repay that financial help by arranging a marriage (and a visa) for the child of the brother who remained in Pakistan.

The British-born children of these Mirpuri Muslim migrants were perhaps a bit less apprehensive than their British Sikh counterparts about the idea of marrying villagers from back home. After all, these young Mirpuris had gotten to know their cousins on those long visits to Pakistan, and some affectionate attachments had developed. Yet the chronic problems of transnational marriages did indeed call forth opposition to such matches from many young Mirpuris. In contrast to the situation among immigrant Sikhs, however, the hands of Mirpuri parents were largely tied. To refuse a marriage with a relative back in Pakistan, when customary rights, financial obligation, and family honor were all at stake, would have been tantamount to a repudiation of siblingship itself. Such a severing of ties could bring retaliation in the form of efforts to blacken the honor of an immigrant and his family — a particularly severe sanction among Muslims.

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