What Americans Can Learn From The Paris Riots

by John Hawkins | November 9, 2005 11:43 am

There’s an important question that Americans need to ask themselves about the Paris Riots: Could the same thing happen here?

Granted, there are some significant differences between this country and France. We do a better job of assimilating immigrants, have a much lower unemployment rate, a less cushy welfare system, tend to be much more aggressive in dealing with rioters, and percentage wise Muslims make up 8% of the population in France as compared to roughly 2% of the population in the US. So, it’s unlikely that we’re going to see Muslim rioters running wild in the streets here in the US anytime soon.

Still, the French riots reinforce a number of ideas and concepts that have been brought up many times before in immigration debates in the US.

#1) It is important that immigrants respect our laws: If we allow illegal immigrants to become citizens of the United States — or even guest workers — we’re teaching them that it pays to break our laws. As they’ve found out in France, having immigrants in your country who care little for your nation’s laws and traditions can have terrible consequences.

#2) It is vitally important for immigrants to speak English and be assimilated in our culture. When you have enclaves of people in this country who live with other immigrants, spend all their time with other immigrants, live in an area populated almost entirely by other immigrants, and don’t even speak the language, you may see a “dual culture” develop (i.e. “We’re in America, but we don’t feel like Americans.”) That’s part of the problem in France and it’s a problem in this country as well, although not to the same degree — yet.

#3) Our immigration policy needs to be updated for the 21st century. The United States is the strongest and most prosperous nation (of any size) in the world. Because of that, each year, there are far more people who want to come into this country than we can accept.

So, what’s wrong with being choosy about whom we allow to become a citizen of the United States? For example, why shouldn’t a computer programmer from India be given preference over a ditch digger from Mexico? Why couldn’t we take in a scientist from Jamaica instead of a lawyer from Germany? What’s the point of allowing a day laborer from Brazil into the United States when we could have a nuclear physicist from New Zealand instead?

Furthermore, we’ve got reams of data on every ethnic group that has been allowed into the United States. You can look up crime rates, average income, you name it. So what’s wrong with saying:

“Immigrants from country X make an average of $40,000 a year, only 3% of them are on welfare, and only 1% of them have committed crimes over a 10 year period. On the other hand, immigrants from country Y make an average of $16,000 a year, 19% of them are on welfare, and 11% of them have committed crimes during a 10 year period. Therefore, only carefully screened handfuls of people from country Y will be allowed to become citizens of the United States while many more people from country X will be allowed in.”

That’s exactly what we should be doing. Our goal with immigration shouldn’t be to bring in more day laborers, it should be to bring in the best and the brightest applicants from all over the world. Not only will that help keep America successful well into the 21st century, you can also be sure that it won’t be an Iraqi doctor or an engineer from Poland who’s out in the street throwing petrol bombs at cars.

Had the French made some different decisions 5, 10, or even years ago about how they were going to handle immigrants, these riots would have never happened. We should learn from their mistakes and correct our policies now to make sure we don’t have our own problems further down the road.

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