- A rapid, originally unforseen growth of Hispanic immigrants --- partly a push-pull matter of economic failures and population explosions in Mexico and Central America on the one side and the demand for cheap labor by business in this country: plus a related quest for Hispanic votes by Democrats and Republicans alike --- has caused new problems . . . these, whatever the economic benefits. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Different studies arrive at different conclusions. That said, the remaining problems are three in number:
1) The growth of income inequality at a time of major economic flux and dislocations in this country as the US has moved into a stage of a Knowledge-based economy amid powerful globalizing forces. Factor out the huge immigration since 1965, and the trend toward inequality totally disappears. Note that the surprising slow-down in job creation since the end of the recession in 2001 is an aggravating influence, reinforcing the nature of this problem.
2) Legitimate concerns about illegal immigration, which the government now admits is somewhere between 8 and 12 million;
3) A loss of control over our borders at a time of legitimate worries about terrorism; and, even if long-term in nature, the problems of poor school performance on the part of new Hispanic populations at a time when a Knowledge-based economy requires ever greater levels of professional expertise.
PART I: MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS IN FRANCE AND WEST EUROPE
French Cultural-Religious Strife
As to the foreign immigrants you ran into who proved helpful, their help must have been particularly gratifying. Believe me, few Parisians would venture out onto the metro that late at night. Still, however satisfying your own personal experience, the political realities are pushing in a far different direction.
The recent elections to a government-sponsored Islamic Council showed that fundamentalists got about 40% of the vote. Encouraging at first sight, this statistic is in line with the general thrust in Muslim immigrant circles, where a generation gap is clearly evident: the younger Muslims, above all those born in France, are more fundamentalist and alienated than the older generation that came in the 1950s through the 1970s.
What is now ensuing in France --- efforts by the French government to rein in the growth of fundamentalism, especially in the public-school system (itself created as an anti-clerical force in the late 19th century as part of the wider struggle against clerical Catholicism, which led to church-state separation in 1905), and backlashes and street demonstrations --- is only the first of what will very likely be an extended cultural and social combat, politically charged, that will go on for decades. The street demonstrators protesting the government's efforts to ban all religious symbols in French schools are almost all young and fiery in their rhetoric, including --- as the deuxieme chaine TV itself noted --- lots of shocking Jew-hating slogans.
[ Note in passing something that surprises Americans and most Europeans. France, traditionally, is a country of considerable immigration over the last century. Probably a quarter to a third of French citizens today have grandparents or great-grandparents who immigrated there right before and after WWI. Most of the original immigrants were from East Europe, Russia, and Armenia; they quickly assimilated to French life and had no trouble finding work, not least because French population growth after 1815 was very slow compared to the rest of Europe. New waves of immigration came in the late 1950s and early 1960s, mainly Mediterranean European peoples of various ethnicity who moved out of the former French-speaking colonies of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia when they obtained independence. From then on, the waves of immigration --- legal and illegal --- have been mainly Arab, with some tropical Africans as well.]
The Political Fall-Out in France and Elsewhere
What's going on in France --- with the largest Muslim communities --- is symbolic, even if in more graphic ways, of what will be going on all over the EU. France, remember here, has 60 million people. The Muslim minority is about 10-15%, taking into account illegals: roughly 6-9 million, increasingly young, and increasingly growing in number. The Jewish minority is about 500-600,000, less than 1%, and increasingly old. More generally, in the EU as a whole, the Muslim minorities number somewhere between 20 - 25 million, and their numbers are swelling too, not least owing to illegal immigration and a far higher birth rate than among the stagnant birth rates of the native European populations.
The political fall-out is easy to document. Almost all the big breakthroughs of right-wing populism, from Volks-Blaam in Belgium and Le Pen's National Front in France and the Haider's Freedom Party in Austria --- all extremist and racist, though the Freedom Party's record in coalition is more nuanced --- to the more responsible Danish People's Party or Pim Fortuyn's breakthrough in Holland until his death two years ago, can be traced back to two concerns, both related: growing immigration that has provoked backlashes, and growing crime and a sense of insecurity that mainstream parties simply refused until recently to confront. In Italy, Berlusconi's conservative coalition has a couple of parties that are close to being outright racist too, at least on their extremes.
In Austria last week, a small TV chain sponsored an unusual reality-program in line with this backlash in the EU, not all of it racist, but some of it . . . especially in Austria. A prosperous, second-generation Austro-Turkish family agreed to exchange family members with a down-and-out native-Austrian family for the weekend, with television cameras present. In the upshot, the vicious racism that lurks in much of Austria was vividly brought out. Needless to say, the EU populations aren't generally used to controversial issues like this being featured in their media: in Austria, the tv chain was denounced for revealing the sordid side of Austrian life.
PART II: THE LARGER HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: CLERICAL VS. ANTI-CLERCIAL POLITICAL CLASHES IN EUROPE
Another reason for the cultural-religious combat in France, especially its strife-ridden and symbolic nature, is the historical setting in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There, as elsewhere in Latin Europe in that 150 year period --- meaning Italy, Spain, and Portugal --- the sharpest ideological conflicts weren't initially between aristocrats and the new industrial middle classes or between both of them and the emerging industrial proletariat and socialism, but instead between clerical and anti-clerical forces. The Catholic Church had officially condemned modern liberalism, capitalism, and democracy in the 1860s and 1870s, and so the struggle between democrats and non-democrats was played out against that cultural-religious backdrop. There wasn't even a public-school system in France until the 3rd Republic, created in the mid-1870s, until the Republic's supporters moved in the next decade to create a non-church school system that was purposefully anti-clerical and intended to create a sense of national solidarity among all Frenchmen. The initial military threats from the Right were all allied with the church hierarchy until the struggle ended in 1905, with a separation of Church-State. Believe it or not, in the whole history of the 3rd Republic, 1875-1940, not one practicing Catholic ever held a major Cabinet post. That's whole deeply rippling the church and anti-clerical struggle extended. Only after WWII did it generally end there.
That's France. And Elsewhere in Latin Europe?
In Spain in the 1930s, the vicious civil war between left and right in the late 1930s --- caught up in the ideological extremism rife throughout almost all of Europe by then (fascism, Nazism, clerical-fascism on the right, and militant socialism and Communism on the left, plus anarcho-syndicalism in Spain itself) --- pitted clerical and anti-clerical forces too. Only in the Basque region of the northwest, which remained faithful to the Republic in the civil war between 1936 and 1939, did the local Church hierarchy, support the Republic. Again, only after the Franco era ended in 1975, did that conflict itself more or less end.
Similar church and anti-clerical conflicts, slightly muted, were played out in Italy during the turmoil after WWI, followed by 23 years of fascist rule and WWII, with Mussolini's regime coming to terms with the Church in the late 1920s . . . exactly as Hitler did in Nazi Germany by the mid-1930s.
East and Central Europe: Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Anti-Clericalism
In East Europe, where Catholicism or Orthodoxy prevailed almost everywhere, a similar breakdown between the forces of the Right, allied with fascism or outrightly fascist, and the forces of the left --- some moderate liberals in the middle, socialism, and communism (plus some radical peasant movements) --- could be found in the 1930s and through WWII. The presence of the Soviet army throughout East and Central Europe after WWII then imposed Communist dictatorships everywhere. In Poland, the Church reflected Polish nationalism and its two hundred year struggle for liberation from Tsarist Russia and, after 1945, Russian Communism, and hence the clerical and anti-clerical conflicts there faded as a result.
In Yugoslavia, the vicious wars between Serbs and Croats in the 1990s --- later with Bosnian Muslims --- pitted three ethnicities that all spoke Serbo-Croatian: Serbs, however, are Orthodox, Croats Roman Catholics, and the Bosnian Muslims trace their religion back to Ottoman invasions in the late middle-ages. During WWII, the Croats set up a particularly brutal, mass-murdering Nazi-puppet government that, together with Bosnian Muslim SS-forces, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Serbs and the small Yugoslav Jewish population. Toward the end, Serb forces in turn slaughtered a large if smaller number of Croats. The horrendous massacres of the Bosnian and Kosovo wars of the 1990s were partly a replay of these religious and ethnic hostilities.
American Constitutional Wisdom: Keep Religion and Public Life Separate
All of this extremism, strife, and violence in European history underscore the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. Almost all were moderate in religion in 1789, and most were probably Deists, rather than religious in an established Protestant or Catholic manner. They understood the desirability of strictly separating religion from politics and public life; that's set out in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The USA that emerged was and remains the first wholly secular Republic in the world. Wherever religion gets entangled in politics, the resulting conflicts are quickly moralized and left overburdened with symbolically charged slogans and denunciations that are almost impossible to compromise.
Note that in the Middle East, all of the Islamic countries --- save Turkey --- clearly state in their constitutions that they are Islamic states.
PART III: THE US AND WAVES OF IMMIGRATION AND COMMUNAL VOLUNTEERISM
The Immigrant Legacies
Humorous as your remarks about bottom-up DNA types leaving Europe in the past for the US, there's no doubt something to the claim that waves of immigrants, beginning with Puritans in the very early 17th century, followed by waves in the 18th century of English-Catholics and then Mid-landers, were all essentially what could be considered "Dissenters" . . . a term applied to those who were non-Anglican, the official State-Religion in Britain. All showed an unusual capability to organize local communities and voluntary associations amid an absent central state . . . located in Britain 3000 miles away, initially, with the Crown-Representatives as governors in the colonies by the late 17th century having to face local colonial parliaments.
The next waves were from Ireland in the 1840s and 1850s, poor Irish peasant fleeing starvation, locating in urban ethnic-communities or moving on to the frontier. A fairly large number of German-speaking professionals, academics, and business people arrived in the same period, fleeing the repression that swept through Central and East Europe after the failure of the 1849 revolutions there. Waves of Italians, East Europeans, Russians and Russian-Jews, as well as Chinese and Japanese followed over the next few decades . . . with the native-born Americans then reacting in a backlash, often with the support of earlier immigrants like the Irish and Italians, to choke off Asian immigration in the first decade of the 20th century, followed by the immigration act of the early 1920s that sought to limit immigration to Northern and Western Europe. That act remained in place until the mid-1960s, with the ethnic-bias was removed.
More to the point, all these immigrant communities --- which fragmented American ethnicity --- stressed self-help and communal-based voluntary associations. That was true, too, of the black urban areas that emerged in first the South after the civil war and later in the North after 1900. The flight of the black middle classes out of the central-city areas, loosely and wrongly described as ghettos, starting in the 1960s left those urban areas increasingly bereft of black businesses, professionals, churches, and voluntary groups (mostly religious for historical reasons). That was a major reason, though hardly the only one, for the rapid growth in the 1970s and 1980s of a large urban underclass and growing violence and crime. Fortunately, the return of educated middle class blacks to these areas in the 1990s --- especially as violent crime declined notably --- has had a vigorous economic impact and revived African-American community organization. A movement into those areas too of Asian immigrants, despite frictions that came to a head in the L.A. riots of the early 1990s, has had a further invigorating economic impact.
California, the Southwest, and Hispanic Populations
Since 1965, when the immigration act was initiated, almost all immigrants have been from Mexico and Latin America and Pacific and South Asia.
Hispanic minorities, of course, existed in the areas seized from Mexico in the war with that country in the late 1840s, but contrary to general gut-level rhetoric, there were few of them in any of the territories taken at the time. In California when the war broke out in 1846-47, the total population of all groups --- native Americans, Californos (Spanish-speaking ranchers, missionaries, and some skilled workers), Asians, Europeans, blacks, and European-Americans --- was 20,000, the size of the University of California at Santa Barbara right now. The Californos --- officially citizens of Mexico who had come to California in the 18th and early 19th century --- numbered about 5000, and had been in rebellion against Mexican government authority since the mid-1820s.
Mexico itself, I should add, was in a state of turmoil until the mid-1830s when the original federal constitutional system, with lots of local autonomy, was replaced by a centralized, highly corrupt and inefficient dictatorship. The local Californos had tossed out four Mexican governors; and when the American settlers in the state declared for independence and union with the US, the Californos themselves split: those in the North supported the US-federal cause, those in the south fought briefly against an American army.
Only in the territory of New Mexico, which covered New Mexico and Arizona and was seized in the war that Mexico lost, was there a sizeable Spanish-speaking population. Most returned to Mexico. Those who remained, about 50,000, were generally prosperous ranchers and miners or skilled workers, plus cowboys, and they number among the most affluent and politically influential New Mexico inhabitants today. So when did large numbers of Mexicans arrive in this country? Only when the brutal, long-lasting Mexican revolution and civil war erupted in 1911 and continued, off and on, for almost two decades. Well over a million Mexicans fled the carnage and settled in Texas and the Southwest. The biggest influx has been since the mid-1960s.
The initial waves of African-Americans were different, of course: involuntary, brought here as slaves. At the time of the Revolution in the 1770s, they seemed to be about 10% of the 4 million population; and today their percentage of the 290 million Americans remains the same, though a wave of voluntary immigration of African descendants started to arrive in the early 20th century out of the Caribbean. As for the native-American populations, the Ameri-Indians, a fascinating, up-to-date study of their numbers, skills, and fate can be found in this Atlantic Monthly article: highly readable and highly recommended: Charles Mann, "1491"
New Ethnic Conflicts
Though almost all the recent waves of immigrants have assimilated to American life, there's no finessing the problem caused by the rapid unforeseen numbers out of Mexico and Central America. Surveys show that most Americans still support legal immigration. Increasingly, the issue of illegal immigration --- almost all Hispanic --- has moved to the fore of the political spectrum: witness Bush's recent planned legislation for guest-worker programs. Later on in this series, we'll take up these problems and the political conflicts that have been unfolding over them. Note that if you add the 8-12 million illegals to the 38 million legal immigrants since 1965, all the trend towards income inequality in American life --- as we'll see --- can be explained entirely by the impact on the wage levels and income of the bottom 40% income-earners.
Note that even if an effective guest-worker program is instituted, it will do nothing to deal with the problems of a population explosion in Mexico, economic problems there --- including unemployment and poverty --- and the failures of the Fox government so far to do much to ensure that Mexican economic development in the future will be sustained by essential legal, administrative, political, and business reforms of a sweeping sort.
Two other major problems relate to the huge Hispanic influx.
The first, created by the 9/11 terrorism and the prospect of more, is getting effective control of our borders. The other problem -- which we'll take up -- is whether the school performance of the children of unusually hard-working but poorly educated Hispanic immigrants isn't creating the basis for a future urban underclass.
So all in all where are we with Germany and France. Is the conflict of a year ago a distant memory? Seems to me that the leadership of Germany and France chose who they would stand with. While trade and tourism can and should flourish, will our government, led by Democrat or Republican, ever trust the governments of Germany and France again? Thoughts welcome.