Immigrants in U. S. and Europe Vastly Different

Posted on February 15, 2015

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I am going to explore the obvious here, but sometimes the obvious is, well, so obvious that we tend to ignore it.

At its simplest level, the major streams of modern immigration into Europe are vastly different from the major streams of modern immigration into the United States. Most of the immigrants going into Europe are Muslims. Most of the immigrants arriving in the U. S.—legal or not—are Christians from Latin America.

Most of those Muslims are from the crumbling and long gone empires of the British and French in Africa and Asia, with a smattering coming from the old Italian and German empires in that part of the world.

Most of the immigrants into the U. S. are coming, on the other hand, from the left overs of the old Spanish Empire in the New World, which ended—in case you don’t remember from your world or global history course—in the early nineteenth century with the Latin American Wars of Independence. The new nations tended to—but not always—follow the example of the American Revolution.

Spain was a staunchly Catholic Christian nation which left a deep historical and spiritual legacy in Latin America, in places like Mexico and Guatemala which are contributing so much to the immigrant stream transforming our country. Just one quick example. By 2025 a majority of Californians will be of Hispanic heritage. That’s a game changer.

I am not particularly a convert to the “post-colonial” history syndrome, although many of my professional colleagues are. Its premise is that in the vacuum of authority and civility left by the retreat of the old European colonial empires, disorder ensued. The new nations of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia failed to structure a working governance and peaceful society, and much of the blame is laid at the doorstep of the old European empires. Much ink has been spilt on the debate of who is to blame for the messes, from Nigeria to Pakistan.

Unless you just visited from Mars, it is obvious that the Muslim culture is undermining European culture and values. There is not a lot of middle ground between the caricaturists of Charlie Hebdo, pushing the limits of freedom of speech and Islamic fanatics demanding absolute conformity to Sharia law.

The well respected Pew Religion and Public Life Project summarized the growing presence of Islam in Europe.

“Over the past two decades, the number of Muslims living in Western Europe has steadily grown, rising from less than 10 million in 1990 to approximately 17 million in 2010.”

And from this growth, to state the obvious, “tensions have arisen over such issues as the place of religion in European societies, the role of women, the obligations and rights of immigrants, and support for terrorism.”

“Fairly or unfairly,” the Pew report observes, “these groups are often accused of dissuading Muslims from integrating into European society and, in some cases, of supporting radicalism.”

The highest percentage of population is Muslim is 6.0% in Belgium, with the lowest, 0.2% in Portugal. France, the United Kingdom, and Germany all have between 4.7% and 5.7%, and in absolute numbers contain the largest numbers of Muslims, from 2.9 million in the United Kingdom to 4.2 million in Germany. These numbers are growing, and the projections show continued increases.

By contrast, Hispanics in the U. S. already represented more than 16% of the overall population in the census of 2010 and that number is growing, in both absolute and relative terms.

More than three quarters of the Hispanic population lived in the West and South as of 2010.

Again, following the Census, “Hispanics accounted for 29 percent of the population in the West, the only region in which Hispanics exceeded the national level of 16 percent [and] Hispanics accounted for 16 percent of the population of the South, 13 percent of the Northeast, and 7 percent of the Midwest’s population.”

About 70% of new immigrants from Latin America are Catholic, 20% Protestant, and the rest a hodgepodge of beliefs, from the followers of Santeria in Cuba to one supposes plain old atheists.

The growing Hispanic population does not threaten the faith of the Christian majority in the United States, but, in fact, reinforces traditional religion and values in this country and even strengthens it with new vigor.

While there are small strains of radical Hispanics in the U. S. who want to maintain strong cultural and political ties with their roots in Latin America, most Hispanics want to be part of working America. They want to share in not only economic opportunity (read jobs), but also in the political freedoms and other opportunities that make Americans what they are, from education, civil liberties, equality and, yes, even the blessings of a government that appears to want all people to have all things. That subject perhaps for another column, for it does sound kind of Marxian rather than Jeffersonian.

The streams of immigrants transforming both Europe and the United States are radically different. Europe is struggling to survive as a culture and civilization.

The U. S. is dealing with immigration as it always has: as an invigorating infusion of talents and desires who bring with them, admittedly, problems with promises, especially with such a tide of illegal immigrants. But the promises far outweigh the problems and even our politicians will find a way through to a solution.

Finally, we are still a Christian nation, even with same sex marriages, the rise of the LGBT community, and other issues that keep us balancing the rights of individuals enshrined in the Bill of Rights, with the moral and spiritual high ground of Christianity. Both have their place.

The growing Hispanic population simply joins the clamor and public discussion as they become Americans, embracing American values by and large, not subverting them like the Muslim communities are doing in Europe.

This column published as “Immigrants in U. S. and Europe Vastly Different,” in my OpEd column, The Port Rail, in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015