He starts by talking about the program in Germany a few years ago to try and lure Indian high tech workers to compete with the U.S. and Silicon Valley. The strategy was to offer what was called a "German Green Card," but it was in fact simply a souped up version of the existing Guest-worker (Gestarbiter) program that had in the past brought millions of Turks to Germany.
The program failed, because Indian high tech workers can smell a fake. But there is a small logical problem in Zakaria's argument. Can you spot it?
Many Americans have become enamored of the European approach to immigration -- perhaps without realizing it. Guest workers, penalties, sanctions and deportation are all a part of Europe's mode of dealing with immigrants. The results of this approach have been on display recently in France, where rioting migrant youths again burned cars last week. Across Europe one sees disaffected, alienated immigrants, ripe for radicalism. The immigrant communities deserve their fair share of blame for this, but there's a cycle at work. European societies exclude the immigrants, who become alienated and reject their societies.
One puzzle about post-Sept. 11 America is that it has not had a subsequent terror attack -- not even a small backpack bomb in a movie theater -- while there have been dozens in Europe. My own explanation is that American immigrant communities, even Arab and Muslim ones, are not very radicalized. (Even if such an attack does take place, the fact that 4 1/2 years have gone by without one provides some proof of this contention.) Compared with every other country in the world, America does immigration superbly. Do we really want to junk that for the French approach?
For me, the flaw here is that he jumps from Germany to France, where there is a very different kind of immigrant problem, which has nothing to do with Guest workers. While some of the French
The question we need to be asking is why legal immigrants in the U.S. have generally done better at integrating/assimilating, and moving up the social ladder, than their counterparts in Europe. It might have to do with immigration rules, or it might have to do with simple demographic and spatial issues (the spread out nature of American cities means there is less ghettoization). Or perhaps it might just be that America is a more welcoming society... I don't know.
Anyway, Zakaria's heart is in the right place. He ends with the (wise) suggestion that the U.S. needs to expand its legal immigrant pool to satisfy the demand for labor that is currently performed by illegals:
"The income gap between the United States and Mexico is the largest between any two contiguous countries in the world," writes Stanford historian David Kennedy. That huge disparity is producing massive demand in the United States and massive supply from Mexico and Central America. Whenever governments try to come between these two forces -- think of drugs -- simply increasing enforcement does not work. Tighter border control is an excellent idea, but to work, it will have to be coupled with some recognition of the laws of supply and demand -- that is, it will have to include expansion of the legal immigrant pool.
Can't disagree with that. Unfortunately, such a proposal is not on the table; in our xenophobic times, any politican even suggesting it would be committing a kind of political suicide.