Exploring the Social Imagination

Friday, January 9, 2015

Immigration and Integration, what about it?

I want to talk about immigration and integration. Before I do, I want to share my experience living abroad. I lived in Poland for quite some time and I have Polish blood. What does it mean to be Polish? It means knowing that you a certain kind of people, with a certain language, and from a certain place. For me, being Polish means that you celebrate certain holidays and eat certain food on those days. Poles live in Poland or they go back there a lot. They have family buried there. Because, they are from there. Many Poles today, work and live in other places, but they know who they are and they stick together. Those that work and live in Poland have a better situation today than those who lived under communism, imposed on Poland by outside forces. What is good about living and working in Poland today is that as a Pole, you can find work in your own country, you can buy a house in your own country, you can become known as in important in your own country. And, today, you can find new faces in your own country - Poland. Those newbies are integrated in. That means they are educated on how to live in Poland and on how to be Polish. Of course, there are some EU criers that think newbies should be left to their own culture. But Poles ask, then why come here if not to be Polish. They say they come for a better life, good say Poles, so be Polish. They say we want to be who we are. Poles ask, so how can you be here, like it here among Poles, who are Polish.  They say we don't have to be Polish to be here. Poles have said ok to that. But, then they say, we want our cultural heritage here, we want to celebrate who we are here in Poland. Poles say ok but ask what does that mean? You don't like us, you don't like Poles. Why do you come here if you don't like us, if you don't like Poland and what we do as Poles do here in this place our home, our Poland the one where we were born and our parents born and our grandparents buried. They say, don't worry, we won't bury any of our own here, we will send them back home. Oh, ok.... what a minute - so you do have a home.  This is what I suppose the Brits and Belgians and Dutch and other EU people said  and may still say to Poles when they go abroad, when they leave Poland. We do carry with us identity and this is sometimes the cause of conflict when we leave our home and go to another. If someone were visiting you in your home, wouldn't you want to know how long they were staying and if they were planning to stay, would they mind learning how you keep house.  In the US, the policy toward immigrants were sink or swim, melt in. It has changed since then. It has become more like European integration, catering to those who come in as a human rights consideration, not insisting that they melt in.  That is not wise. It is wise to integrate. Yet, it is difficult to consider the cost of integration whether we are talking about the EU or US. The question is- should it be a government program and government funded which means by the people already there. Yes,it should be but maybe it does not have to be a top down steered agenda. It is more difficult problem in the EU as it is a less clear agenda for Europeans since they have very different member states (Poland is unlike Germany, France or Italy) and costly since they cannot afford one program to fit all. So, the cost of integration falls onto member states, some more able to pay for better integration than others; though some EU wide initiatives have been discussed. In sum, it is wise to integrate newbies, it is wise to inform your visitor how you run your household.
* "Show around the House" is an integration initiative taken up by Poland as an EU member state.

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