Conceptions of Immigration

The thread on Feministe about European anti-Muslim racism has a lot of good ideas and a budding debate about the extreme right in Europe, but also some misconceptions about European self-conception. I wrote a long comment about everything, but it’s being held in the moderation queue for now, so I’m going to repeat parts of it and expand on them.

First, there’s a difference between jus sanguinis and jus soli. You can get the basic concepts from Wikipedia, but in short, jus soli means right of soil, i.e. citizenship is determined by where you were born; jus sanguinis means right of blood, i.e. citizenship is determined by your parents’ citizenship. The US has jus soli (but see Zuzu’s comment for clarification): if Katie gets pregnant and gives birth in the US, her child will be a US citizen even though she isn’t. Germany used to have pure jus sanguinis: I have a German citizenship because my mom’s father’s family was German, emigrating to Palestine in 1933 for obvious reasons (the law was changed in 1990; now non-residents can only pass a German citizenship on if they became citizens before 1993/1/1).

The thing is, although most of Europe is jus sanguinis, France used to have American-style jus soli, except for people born to tourists. It’s moving in the German direction, while Germany is moving in the French direction, but Jill’s comment is wrong as a characterization of France (it’s right about most other European countries, though).

I’ve criticized the French conception of nationality a lot, but that conception accepts immigrants and ethnic minorities, in principle. The problem with it is not official ethnic discrimination as in Germany and Italy, but enforcement of race-blindness. French law forbids the government to take ethnic statistics on any sort, which means that there’s no way of knowing if an employer is discriminating against minorities. Further, while the US, Canada, and even Britain accept hyphenated identities and divided loyalties, France does not.

American conservatives love to compare blacks to Italians, Jews, and Irish, who they say didn’t need affirmative action. In fact, the comparison to these minorities is a good explanation why the liberal American conception of ethnicity is the most workable. Italian-Americans didn’t integrate in a day, or for that matter in 20 years. They imported their own civil society structures from Italy, from the family up to and including the mafia. The US, whose conception of immigration accepts hyphenation, let them, while not foisting these structures on them the way Britain does.

In contrast, in France, whose conception of ethnicity is the same as mainstream conservative opinion in the US (as opposed to extreme conservative opinion, which is racist), attempts to foist French culture on immigrants. Its textbooks say things like, “Our ancestors, the Gauls,” even in former colonies it annexed like Guyana. Its government’s policies have then actively suppressed the formation of an Arab-French civil society, which would serve as a springboard for integration into French society.

Jus sanguinis countries are even worse. Between the World Wars, France had a massive influx of immigrants, who successfully assimilated because racism against them was nowhere near widespread enough to prevent assimilation. Germany, Spain, and Italy can’t even look up to something like that in their histories. In Russia, adopting the French-style “one citizen nation” conception is considered a progressive plank.

It’s common in some parts of Europe, namely the Netherlands and Scandinavia, to pin race problems on Islam. In fact, the racial problems follow directly from the suppression of ethnic civil society structures, and the lack of a crackdown on racism. The 2005 French riots were triggered by the accidental electrocution of two Arab-French youths and were very much like a 1960s race riot in the US rather than an attempt at a revolution. That Pim Fortuyn supported gay marriage doesn’t mean he wasn’t in denial about the real problems facing Moroccan-Dutch people.

This is what’s wrong with the comment on Feministe that,

I think the problem is that the radical Islamic community thrives on the kind of european liberalism that [Alon] is talking about/promoting. They can set themselves up in an immigrant community and recruit members by pointing at American actions and equating them with an anti-Islamic agenda. Then when the state intervenes, they can say, ‘you see, western governments are all anti-Islamic deep down.’

First, what I’m talking about isn’t European liberalism, which tends to gloss over racial issues. It’s exporting American liberalism to Europe when it comes to ethnicity. Just like the US would do well to imitate Europe’s welfare and health care systems, so would Europe do well to imitate North America’s policy on ethnicity.

Second, radical Islamists can set up mostly because of the lack of any secular civil society structure. I don’t remember who noted about fundamentalism in Iraq that Saddam squashed the entirety of Iraqi civil society, leaving only the mosque as an alternative to Ba’athism. It’s the same in Europe: if continental European governments permit expressions of Arab or Turkish cultural identity and crack down on racism in employment, housing, and policing, there will be enough alternatives to religious fundamentalism for Muslims. It’s not surprising that there’s extremism and resentment among European Muslims, whose unemployment rates are in the same ballpark as those that helped catapult Hitler into power.

10 Responses to Conceptions of Immigration

  1. zuzu says:

    The US has pure jus soli: if Katie gets pregnant and gives birth in the US, her child will be a US citizen even though she isn’t.

    Actually, the US has a hybrid; if you’re born on US soil, you’re an American citizen (this includes territories and possessions, like Guam and Puerto Rico), but you’re also an American citizen if either parent is, regardless of where you were born.

    Some countries also confer citizenship by marriage. I believe Italy is one.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    You’re of course right. When I said “pure jus soli” I was thinking of the near-complete lack of restrictions on the citizenship rights of those born in the US, rather than about US citizens born abroad.

  3. Axel says:

    For Germany, your characterization is a bit out of date because the red-green government reformed the German citzenship in 2000. Actually, there are elements like “Citizenship Through Naturalisation” and “Citizenship Thorugh Birth” included. Not so liberal as in the US bit not so outdated as pure jus sanguinis…

    See here and here and here.

  4. Alon Levy says:

    I know, Axel – as I said, Germany is moving in France’s direction somewhat. If I have children, they won’t automatically become citizens of Germany just because they’ll have a German-born great grandfather.

  5. Axel says:

    That’s right but I don’t understand your argument (sorry for my stupidity but it’s Friday…) If you and your partner actually aren’t German citizens why should your children be? You and your hypothetical children have a legal claim for German citizenship because you and they are “descended from a displaced person”. The only problem for you would be the common interdiction of two citizenships, overridden in special cases like emigration from the former Soviet Union or for some EU citizens (there are other loopholes and exceptions but I’m not a lawyer). AFAIK this was an unintended problem for young German jews emigrating to Israel because the new law values the alija as a voluntary disclaimer of German citizenship. It isn’t a problem for displaced persons so your German-born grandfather won’t have problems with a double citizenship.

    Yes, it’s a fairly recent thing. But now, children who where born after 1st January 2000 in Germany automatically get the German citizenship as long as their parents live, routhly speaking, legally in Germany for eight years at least. In cases of double citizenships they have to choose if it’s possible for them untill they are 24 years old. Expecially this modification and the option for whole families to naturalize were a really hard piece of political work because a two-third majority for changing the constitutional law was necessary.

    On Feministe, you said that turkish unemployment rate in Germany is 44%. From where did you get this extraordinary high number? Seems for me that this is the unemployment rate only for Berlin! Typically, foreign unemploymend rates are as twice as high as for the whole population. I only found the data for Baden-Württemberg (2005) that has one of the highest foreigner rates (12%) in Germany, 83% are Turks. At the same time, only 16,7% of all immigrants are jobless because Baden-Württemberg has one of the lowest unemploymend rates of Germany. Even in Nordrhein-Westfalen, the state with the most inhabitants, only 25% or so of immigrants are jobless if I remember right.

  6. Raincitygirl says:

    I don’t think Alon is arguing that his hypothetical future children SHOULD get German citizenship because they had a German great-grandfather, he’s just pointing out that until fairly recently they would have been considered German citizens automatically. By virtue of a blood tie, someone whose family hasn’t lived in Germany in seventy years, and who may not speak a word of German, would have acquired German citizenship effortlessly, while someone who was born and raised in Germany but who can’t trace even one ethnically German ancestor (as would be the case for many non-white German residents) would have had tremendous difficulty in acquiring citizenship. My impression was that Alon was highlighting what he considers to be an absurd policy by showing how it applies to him, someone who couldn’t be considered German in any meaningful way.

  7. Raincitygirl says:

    Actually, come to think of it, I’d have qualified for German citizenship under those rules, too. My great-grandfather was a German Jew who moved to London as a young man well before WWI (and who was interned during WWI). If I had the slightest interest in doing so, I’m sure I could establish my bona fides quite easily, despite never having visited Germany and not speaking the language at all. I can *sing* in German, but I can’t speak it. Unless conversational German is mostly about God, love affairs, and trout.

  8. Alon Levy says:

    Axel, the link I had to the 43-44% figure was in a year-old comment that got eaten in one of UTI’s many server crashes. I tried tracking the original article, but the stuff I got gave me rates from 25% to 31%, and the article that looks most similar to what I remember having read says it’s 25% nationwide and 38% in Berlin. Then another source explained that there was a difference between official and real unemployment, at least with respect to East Germany.

    Raincitygirl is right: I don’t think my children should be entitled to German citizenship. Hell, I don’t think I’m entitled to a German citizenship, though I’m happy to take advantage of the old law if it means having a passport that gives me the right to live and work in the EU and makes it a trivial matter for me to get visas to the US.

    Raincitygirl, to my knowledge the old law requires a German parent, not an ancestor. When my mom’s brother wanted to get a German citizenship, his father had to get one first.

  9. Raincitygirl says:

    Whoops! Gotcha. So I wouldn’t be elgible, because my grandmother is dead (the daughter of a German national) and therefore my mother couldn’t claim citizenship because her mother had it.

    On the bright side, given that I have a British passport as well as a Canadian one, I can still work anywhere in the EU, or could if I wanted to. And it makes a lot more sense to me to have a British passport owing to my parents’ background than a German one owing to my great-grandfather’s background. Because even though I was born in the Netherlands and grew up in Canada, being raised by British parents and having relatives there to visit had an influence on me. I don’t really consider myself a British subject, but I’d probably slip into being one with a certain amount of ease if I were to take it into my head to leave Canada permanently. A lot more ease than if I moved to Germany.

  10. Axel says:

    Alon and Raincitygirl,

    thanks for your answers. Part of my confusion stemmed from Alon’s mixture of two different laws – the new nationality law and the constitutional law (Basic Law) where the deprivation of citizenship from 1933 to 1945 is nullified. The later isn’t changed or affected by the new nationality law.

    Interestingly, the new nationality law raised much more political controvery in Germany as the same-sex marriage law. Same-sex marriage was part of the political agenda for some months. Since its implementation nobody cares about it, even representants of the church accept it. And it has far-reaching legal consequences. The nationality law, especially the question of double citizenships and family naturalization, was a hot topic for years. One of my professors wrote an expert report for the government, dealing with ethnic stratification, integration, assimilation and necessary political reforms. It’s like a primer of sociology of immigration with good empirical research…

    Someone who was deprived of his German citizenship between 1933 and 1945 because of political, rassistic or religious reasons can restore it if he or she wants. Double citizenships clearly are not a problem in this case. That’s Article 116 (Definition of “German”; restoration of citizenship), law text in English.

    The Bundesvertriebenengesetz (BFVG) [Federal Act on Expellees] concretizes the Basic Law with legal and historical definitions of refugees, ethnicity and a lot of other technical terms I can’t translate. So I think Alon was referring to changes of this law in the 1990’s, I found the following: “Since 1 January 1993, the Federal Expellees Act (BVFG) has the final say on who qualifies as a person admitted to the territory designated in Article 116 as an expellee of German ethnic origin, and since that date, persons may be granted only the status of ethnic German repatriate (Spätaussiedler).” (Ministry of the Interior)

    So that doesn’t mean at all that “now non-residents can only pass a German citizenship on if they became citizens before 1993/1/1”! It’s only relevant for expelless as a consequence of the Nazi period and WWII.

    Another quote: “Refugees, expellees, ethnic German repatriates and their family members who were admitted to Germany in accordance with Article 116 para. 1 of the Basic Law and granted the status of Germans without German citizenship were granted German citizenship by law on 1 August 1999. The special naturalization procedure for these groups no longer applies. Since that date, persons admitted to Germany as ethnic German repatriates are granted German citizenship by law when issued a certificate in accordance with the Federal Expellees Act.” (Federal Ministry of the Interior)

    Basic Law Article 116 declares that people who were deprived of their German citizenship between 1933 and 1945 *and their descendants* can restore it. According to the Federal Ministry of Interior:

    “Former German citizens who were deprived of their citizenship by the Nazi regime between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 on political, racial or religious grounds may have their German citizenship restored upon application or residence in Germany. The same applies to their children and grandchildren. ”

    At the moment, the son or the daughter of someone who was personally denaturalized wants and gets German citizenship, his or her children, if they want, get it too. That’s the logic of jus sanguinis but this makes sense because the denaturalization wasn’t a voluntary act and the “re-denaturalization” is voluntary. If Raincitygirl’s great-grandfather moved to London before WWI and voluntarily gave up his German citizenship I see no reason why the Basic Law should be relevant. If I voluntarily would give up my German citizenship my hypothetical children also would have no legal claim.

    By the way, there is also “the Immigration Act” that went into force on 1 January 2005: “The Immigration Act for the first time provides a legislative framework for controlling and restricting immigration as a whole. The new law also contains measures to promote the integration of legal immigrants in Germany.” (Immigration Act Homepage of the Federal Ministey of the Interior)

    Hell, jurisprudence is too complicated to me. Bayes factors and Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods are much easier to understand…

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