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Even Alexander Calder's "Flamingo" took part in Chicago's pro-immigration march

Immigration Solution
Not Guests. Not Illegals. Citizens.

Why do Muslims in Spain and England feel compelled to blow up trains and buses, Muslims in France feel compelled to riot and Muslims in Holland to murder in the name of Allah, while Muslims in the United States seem content to grab their piece of suburbia and, at worst, vote Republican (as they overwhelmingly did in 2000, but, quick learners that they are, not in 2004)? The question lends itself to many answers, some of them emblematic of the difference between Europe and the United States in one regard: The United States has generally done an admirable job accepting and integrating its immigrants. Europe hasn’t.

Understanding that difference offers useful perspective on this matter of undocumented immigrants in the United States, if we’re to resolve it honorably. It helps to realize that, compared to Europe, this country doesn’t have an immigration problem, documented or undocumented. Rather, the United States has a choice. It can expand on an opportunity it’s been extending to immigrants and benefiting from throughout its history. Or it can give in to nativist feelings against immigrants and go Europe’s way of two-tiered societies: natives on one side, immigrants on the other. I’m not making a distinction between “legal” and “illegal” immigrants. It’s an artificial distinction that ultimately means nothing, as Europe’s case again proves. It’s not whether they’re legal or illegal. It’s how they’re treated across the board. The murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004 is instructive in that regard.

Van Gogh was a brilliant, flamboyant, often repugnant celebrity who’d made some 22 films, had his own talk show, his own newspaper column and legions of enemies, Christians, Jews and Muslims especially: He made an art of the Dutch knack for brutal, offensive sincerity. He had two bugaboos: Religion, and those who’d use religion to take Holland back from its tolerant present to its repressive, Calvinist past. Those closest to fitting that bill these days happen to be the more radical of Holland’s Muslims, who are Calvinists with Quranic subtitles.

On Nov. 2, 2004, a young Dutch man called Mohammed Bouyeri, the son of a Moroccan immigrant, calmly walked up to van Gogh, who was biking in Amsterdam, shot him, cut his throat and stabbed a letter onto van Gogh’s chest. At his trial, Bouyeri said it was his duty to kill van Gogh because he had made a movie with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, that other Dutch celebrity and Somali native, insulting the Propher Muhammad. (The letter pinned to van Gogh’s chest was addressed to Hirsi Ali, and said she’d be next.)

Amsterdam's Dish City

Bouyeri was born in Holland and was a good student. He got involved in his community before falling under the influence of a Syrian imam, one of those roving fanatics who peddle religious hate the way saner salesmen peddle kitchenware. The imam had fertile ground to ravage: The Arab (mostly Moroccan and Turkish) communities of Holland are virtual cities unto themselves, if not ghettoes, where the old country’s ways and prejudices trump Holland’s — down to “honor” killings of girls who have Dutch boyfriends.

Why so? Because in the 1950s and 1960s, when Europe was booming, Holland, like Germany, France and other European nations, invited “guest” workers by the tens of thousands to fill jobs natives didn’t want. The guests were expected to go home. They never did. But they did summon their families. Neither they nor their children, who did become citizens, were extended the benefits of integration. Europe, having profited from its “guest workers” behind a veil of hands-off tolerance, had created monster communities of alienation — “dish cities,” as they call them there, for all the satellite dishes that pipe in Arab television channels and culture and stave off local values and norms. Bouyeri was the product of one such dish city, as were France’s rioters (England’s and Spain’s cases are a bit more complicated). That’s not to excuse Bouyeri in the least — he’s a murderer, period — or the dish cities’ rejection of their host country. But Holland created a problem for itself when it confused tolerance with acceptance.

The United States hasn’t had Holland’s problems because immigrants aren’t brought here as guest workers, but as eventual citizens, with all the expectations and benefits of citizenship. They participate in society from the start, they integrate, they quickly are no longer “they,” but “us.” However immigration is reformed, that principle must hold, including, if not especially, with undocumented immigrants: For now, they’re America’s guest workers. The country profits from them while deriding their humanity. Sending them home isn’t an option except for the unrealistic demagogues. Nor is continuing to force them into “dish cities” of their own. Antithetical as this sounds, the solution to the problem is to make illegal immigrants legal, because the supposed problem they pose today, and it isn’t much of one, pales compared to the problem we’re incubating if they’re kept on the fringe.

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