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Monday, July 9, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Via McClatchy: Why do terrorists attack Britain time and again?

So why do attacks keep happening here [Europe]? And why, since the horror of 9-11, has America avoided another assault?

Karl-Heinz Kamp, the security policy coordinator at Germany’s prestigious Konrad Adenauer research center, said it was easy to understand why.

“The U.S. has a historical advantage; America is still the land of opportunity to the whole world. The people moving there believe the American dream of social mobility,” he said. “In Europe, we’ve historically treated our immigrants as hired help, and waited for them to finish the work they arrived for and go home.”

Bob Ayers, a security and terrorism expert with London’s Chatham House, a foreign-policy research center, thinks that immigrants to the U.S. actually become Americans, giving the United States a huge advantage in avoiding homegrown al Qaida terrorists. Europeans encourage immigrants to retain their native cultures, causing them to be ostracized more readily.

“The Islamic population in the United States is better assimilated into the general population, whereas here, in Germany, in France, they’re very much on the outside looking in,” he said. “When people get disaffected, sadly, there’s not much loyalty to country in that sort of situation.”

There is quite a bit to this–in Europe is it is difficult, if not impossible, for first-generation immigrants to achieve citizenship in their new country-indeed, it is often a trial for second and third generations to do so. Many in the anti-immigration faction often malign the application of the 14th Amendment that results in all being born on US soil automatically gaining US citizenship, but that provision does simplify a situation that otherwise would be radically complicated and it is one that automatically offers hope to the progeny of all who immigrate to the US. Yes, there are problems that emerge, such as children who are citizens and parents who are illegally in the country, but that beats the kinds of problems we have seen in recent years in places like France and Britain. Hope is a very important human emotion, and knowledge of the security of one’s children is a driving force in our behavior. In the US an immigrant (legal or illegal) knows that any of their children born in the US will have citizenship, and therefore a significant amount of security. Such a situation creates a forward-thinking attitude that is infused with hope. This is not the case for most (all?)* immigrants to Europe.

If the concern is that migrant groups will not assimilate into the culture, it is rather obvious that in Europe, where citizenship is either impossible to achieve or is extremely difficult to acquire, that assimilation is more difficult over time and that the only option for immigrants to is to live in semi-autonomous enclaves.

Now, I would agree that part of the appeal of Europe is that it is easier to get to than is the US (there’s that whole ocean thing)–however, the 7/7/05 attackers in London were home-grown types. And, indeed, the primary concern in the UK has been about existing communities and the ability of Islamists to radicalize those groups. If one considers all the pent-up frustration (and sometimes not so pent-up) of North African immigrants in France of late, one can see how it is easier in Europe to radicalize members of those populations. These are problems we don’t have in the US.

h/t: Kevin Drum.


* I am not an expert on the citizenship laws of various European states, but am aware that guest-worker policies have long created a situation in which first generation immigrants have no chance of citizenship in many locales. Germany, for example, has long had such policies. I want to say that in the German case that citizenship doesn’t become easy until the third generation, but it has been a while since I reviewed those rules. I am unaware of any 14th Amendment-like policies in Europeans countries (i.e., where birth alone confers citizenship regardless of the legal status of the parent).

If anyone has specific knowledge of citizenship rules for migrant workers and their children, please feel free to share.

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7 Responses to “Terrorism, Immigration and Integration”

  1. MSS Says:

    I suspect a simpler explanation: Country of origin.

    Most of the Islamist terrorists are Pakistani or Arab Muslims. Arabs in the US are disproportionately Christians; there are very few Arab Muslim communities in which potential terrorists might be bred and hidden. Most American Muslims are either native-born African-Americans or are from South and Southeast Asia (where radical Islam is less established). There are hardly any Pakistani communities in the US.

    Meanwhile, the UK has a huge Pakistani immigrant population and it is within those communities that most of the cells have formed or hid. There are also substantial communities from the former British colonies in the Arab world.

    Also, on many indicators, Britain’s Muslims are better integrated than America’s. One of the shadow ministers of the Conservative Party is a Muslim, for example. When will the Republicans have one of their leaders a Muslim? And there are several Muslim members of parliament in the UK, and nothing especially controversial about that. It was rather controversial in some quarters here when the first Muslim (native-born and African-American) was elected to Congress just last year.

    Are UK immigration laws as strict as you characterize? There is indeed no equivalent to the 14th Amendment. But there is the Commonwealth, and citizens of those countries (which include Pakistan) do have certain privileged access.

  2. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    All valid points.

    I wonder (because I really do not know) what the Commonwealth benefits are. To what degree is an about movement and residency and how much of it is about citizenship?

    I think that the issue about one’s children’s status is key.

    It is something to look into.

  3. james Says:

    Can’t help very much as to the UK, the issue has never really come up for me. But – from my passport – there are various types of citizenship and national status, in addition to British citizen: British national, British Dependent Territories citizen, British Nationals (Overseas), British Overseas citizen, British protected person and British subject. None of these, apart from British citizen, result in right of abode in the UK. I’ve not much time (exams) or I’d look into this further…

    As far as Portugal is concerned, acquiring Portuguese nationality seems to be fairly easy, even for first generation immigrants. Marriage to Portuguese person after 3 years will do it, or meeting a number of conditions such as:

    residam em território português ou sob administração portuguesa, com título válido de autorização de residência, há pelo menos, 6 ou 10 anos…;
    conheçam suficientemente a língua portuguesa;
    comprovem a existência de uma ligação efectiva à comunidade nacional;
    possuam capacidade para reger a sua pessoa e assegurar a sua subsistência; …

    As a rule, children born here automatically earn Portuguese nationality, even if both parents are foreign (happened to me.)

    Sorry about copy-pasting in Portuguese but I know you’ll understand it…

    Regards.

  4. Tom Connor Says:

    Ireland had a law written into its constitution allowing citizenship for anyone born while in the country and this law was a disaster during its last decade before being rescinded. A truly enormous number of London-resident young women (mostly young African women but also some other) slipped into Ireland during the last stages of pregancy since there is no passport control with the UK, quickly had their baby in a hospital in Ireland, and then demanded citizenship for their child, and associated legal residency for themself. It was such a huge wave of people doing this that 1 out of 3 births in Dublin during the latter stages of the law’s existence were in this category.

    Ireland had to go to enormous trouble and expense to re-write the constitution and have the changes to the law endorsed by national referendum. The tens of thousands of young women and their children who had gotten in before the changes are still there and unlikely to ever leave.

  5. Political Mavens » Terrorism, Immigration and Integration Says:

    [...] Cross-posted from PoliBlog: [...]

  6. Political Mavens » Terrorism, Immigration and Integration Says:

    [...] Cross-posted from PoliBlog: [...]

  7. masaccio Says:

    My sister married a Brit, and in order just to be legal there all of her immediate family had to give her affidavits of net worth, apparently to show that she wasn’t a Trojan Horse, just waiting to let us in to go on the dole.


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