Home > Society > The Gingrich brouhaha and immigration-related thoughts

The Gingrich brouhaha and immigration-related thoughts

What did Gingrich say? That people who have been here a long time, worked, paid taxes, and caused no trouble should perhaps be set on the path to legalization instead of being deported when caught. A fair assessment, surprisingly brave coming from a Republican presidential hopeful who not only alienates his own base but comes out in favor of people who aren’t even allowed to vote.

This may be as good a time as any to open a new debate about immigration from developing countries to developed ones. We tend to dump immigrants together. Either we’re bleeding-heart liberals for wanting to take in everyone or we’re prejudiced fascists who want to throw everyone out and close borders once and for all. Both positions and a mix of both are understandable. There’s the pervasive political correctness at the heart of all discourse, the fear of being amalgamated with extreme far-right movements, the vague guilt stoked by commentators of every color about looking down on the future-less, nation-less, helpless citizens of the world washing up on our shores for crumbs of the feast they imagine we’re all enjoying, and the natural dislike of most democratically minded people for racist and nationalistic movements.

Yet we hardly address the problem or even allow ourself to have an opinion, except those on the right who embark on rants. The more moderate among us live daily with the consequences of our inability to control unpleasant situations. How about recognizing that there are good immigrants and not-so-good ones? Good immigrants are those who come to a country in the West because for political or economic reasons, they see no future in their own, because they want to make a better life for themselves and theirs, and because there is some degree of admiration for the country to which they immigrate. They want to work, they want to acquire a new language, culture, and the world vision of the country that takes them in without losing those of their origins. They lift themselves up while becoming part of a rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Who are the good immigrants? In the United States, mainly the Hispanics. The construction industry, the hospitality one, agriculture and farming, maintenance, would fall apart without these diligent minimum-pay workers, often exploited, often illegal, whose dream is to become citizens or at least legal residents. There are the Asians who often form the cadres of technology, medicine, and science. The more educated and affluent among Middle Easterners generally fall into this category of good immigrants who do the new country proud.

Not-so-good immigrants, though also moving to a different country because the same factors prevent them from staying in their own, come to foreign shores specifically to take advantage. While playing the system to enjoy social benefits, they have no intention of contributing in any positive way. Not only do they have no admiration for their new home nor the intention of integrating to any degree but they hold everything in contempt. They despise the people—the women are sluts, the men are capitalist pigs, the society has no values, the people have no heart, the country’s history (fill in France, the United States, England, Germany, etc) is one of oppression and colonization, etc. etc. Who are they? Broadly Muslims from Africa in countries like France, from Senegal in Italy, from Southeast Asia in England, from Turkey in Germany. They have numerous chips on their shoulder—despising the country that’s taken them in for its colonialist past and a confrontational stance of entitlement.

Then there are the “roms” (short for the derogatory term “romanichels” to describe gypsies) who invent new scams every day. Their regular m.o. is to panhandle (the bosses picking their teams in the morning, distributing drugged golden retriever puppies or actual babies destined to melt the hearts of passersby) and steal and pick pockets and attack people at ATMs (every single person I know in Paris has either witnessed an incident or been a victim). Sarkozy’s government uses harsh and generally inefficient methods to get rid of them, people look at them with jaundiced eyes, and in the meantime, Paris now has the dubious honor of being the panhandling and petty crime capital of the world. Other French cities follow suit and I imagine other European countries have the problem.

Am I generalizing? Absolutely. Are there good Muslim African immigrants, good and honest “roms,” dangerous Hispanic gangs in the States? Of course. But I find it hard to talk about large segments of the tens of millions of immigrants traipsing across the globe in search of a home and divide them into tens of millions of separate identities, personalities, fates. We’re all different, true, but despite the bromides, we don’t all want the same thing. There are those who take and those who give, mostly unwillingly and through taxes levied by our governments. Compassion is good, helping out the next person and sharing in the wealth—where wealth is there for sharing—is good. But at some point we all become victims and start caring only about ourselves and ours. That’s when the world becomes an even sadder place.

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  1. November 27, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    thank you, saïdeh. so appreciate your words on what can be an incredibly complex issue. my husband teaches ESL to people of a variety of nationalities___those struggling to make a better living and | or care for their families.

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