For me, this essay brings up an enduring question throughout much of history: “What to do with immigrants or newcomers?” It also leads to the follow up question: “Who should be doing these actions?” The fact is that when a country starts becoming successful, like Germany in the late twentieth century and like the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century, people will flock to that nation. For them, it represents the possibility of opportunity or escape from a potentially bad homeland (refugee). The same thing will happen domestically: if a city starts to boom, and create more job opportunity, people will generally flock to that city. According to this article, Germany is having to face these questions now. As the nation furthers itself as an economic powerhouse, more will want to join in on the bandwagon. In some cases, a newly booming economy needs this flocking in order to keep the momentum going. Germany is not too far from Eastern Europe, and therefore, a large percentage of mixed ethnic populations. For a nation with such a troubled racial past, it can be challenging for them to determine what to do. In the not too distant future, leaders in Germany will have to decide whether they want to assimilate immigrants, allow immigrants to stay but retain their culture, or simply disallow immigration into Germany. The difficult thing is, all answers to the question have their merits; it’s a moral dilemma.
It was a problem for nineteenth-century U.S., and now it is a problem for Germany. Are there any other parts in history that may experience this problem? Perhaps Irish immigration into Britain? Or perhaps North African immigration into Spain?
Tyler, great summary on the article and you raise an interesting question when you ask are there any other countries experiencing this problem with immigration. In fact, you mention that the United States had this problem in the 19th century, but I would argue that the United States, despite its recent struggles economically, still experience waves of immigration today and leaves powerful politicians to solve the “What to do with immigrants and newcomers” question. Whether this is because the idea of the “American Dream” is still out there, I am not sure, but I do know that the United States is a popular destination and many people are conflicted as to what exactly should be done in regards to immigrants.
I would say that it is still a problem in 21st century America, particularly in the case of people immigrating from Mexico and Latin America. In Europe today, Italy is experiencing a huge surge of immigrants from North Africa.
I studied abroad in Denmark last semester, and the Danes have much of the same problem as the Germans–lots of immigrants from the Middle East and Eastern Europe that the native population thought would only be there temporarily. In Denmark, like in Germany, there has been debate over whether to integrate the immigrants fully into society or whether to keep them separated in their own isolated spheres and communities. I think the answer lies somewhere in between, with the integration of immigrants but without making them abandon all of their own traditions, beliefs, and lifestyles. Of course, this is easier said than done.
Given the history of Europe, I think it is important to consider not just the economic and political effects of large-scale immigration, but also how things like this affect our perception and understanding of ideas of nationalism. We already know how nationalism has served to shape past triumphs and conflicts in Europe, but, in this day of globalization and integration, how does a country deal with national identity when it receives such a huge influx of mixed cultures, ethnicity, and beliefs? Is there a consequential “dilution” of cultural heritage within the mother country? Or could it be a cultural “enrichment”? How do minority populations come to identify with the mother country and how do they simultaneously maintain their unique cultural past? How do you quantify and compare economic and cultural affects of immigration in order to make proper decisions about the management of immigration? And more to my point, how does a changed perception of what it means to be a member of a nation affect how that nation exists?
These are all questions that require an extremely active and aware citizenship to answer. Unfortunately, this article makes it seem that the German public is not involved in debating these topics.