Assimilation and Immigration Restriction
By Bryan Caplan
Opponents of immigration normally argue rapid assimilation is wishful thinking. If we admit culturally alien immigrants, they won’t “go native.” They’ll hew to their dysfunctional ways and pass them on to their children generation after generation.
I was struck, then, to read Mark Krikorian’s Congressional testimony on Syria refugees, because he says precisely the opposite:
While the UN doesn’t track the statistic, the likelihood that refugees
who’ve been resettled on the other side of the world will ever move back
is small. It’s not just that the physical distance is greater, though
that is a factor. In addition, the acclimation to developed-world
standards of living and norms of behavior and the assimilation of
children into a new and radically different society make it vanishingly
unlikely that those brought here, as opposed to those given succor in
their own region, will ever choose to go home.
I think he’s right. Syrian refugees and their children will assimilate to their new and radically different society. But why on Earth would he make this concession? Because in our strange political context, it bolsters his case against immigration. As I explain in “Misanthropy By Numbers“:
The ideal approach, though, is to twist positives into negatives. If
the maligned group is hard-working, call them “coolies” or “helots.” If
they’re respectful, call them “slavish” or “docile.” If they’re
frugal, call them “greedy” or “cheap.” If they raise property values,
say “They’re making housing unaffordable.” This makes lazy listeners
feel like you’ve covered all your bases, and deprives your opponents of
their best arguments.
Frustrating, but there is a silver lining. Mark’s claims about immigrant assimilation are now on the record. If he ever complains about immigrants’ failure to assimilate, we can quote his own words back to him – and ask him to explain the discrepancy. Immigrant assimilation can’t be low when high assimilation strengthens the case for immigration AND high when low assimilation strengthens the case for immigration.