Immigration, assimilation, and trust

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It's happened twice this week. I've written long blog entries -- long essays with links -- and then hesitated to click the "publish" button. Ironically, the essay arose from a story about a sociologist reluctant to publish his findings because they may give aid and comfort to the politically incorrect.

Rather than leave you completely deprived, while I decide what to do with this latest piece, which is about immigration, here are some of the articles I read while writing it.

First, the item that got me started, by John Leo, on Robert Putnam's five-year study showing "that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating short- and medium-term influence on the social capital, fabric of associations, trust, and neighborliness that create and sustain communities." Leo reports that Putnam (best known for his book Bowling Alone) has expressed reluctance to publish his research:

Putnam's study reveals that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups themselves. Trust, even for members of one's own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friendships fewer. The problem isn't ethnic conflict or troubled racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: "In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to 'hunker down'--that is, to pull in like a turtle."

That led me to Roger Axtell's collection of books on "Do's and Taboos around the World" and an essay on missionaries and culture stress.

And from there, I went looking for Francis Fukuyama's work on trust, social capital, and economic development:

Social Capital and Civil Society (1999)
Social Capital and Development (2001)

Then there's this McClatchy news story from January 2010 on the devastation wrought by Haiti's lack of construction codes:

Most buildings in Haiti go up without engineers, standards or inspections. The earthquake is only the latest, and worst, tragedy to expose the largely unregulated and slapdash construction long accepted on the island -- practices that structural engineers believe added to a staggering death toll that could reach 200,000....

It wasn't just humble shacks and turn-of-the-previous-century icons like the historic Roman Catholic Cathedral of Port-au-Prince, but new and newly renovated schools, police stations, bank branches, high-end hotels and hospitals. The U.S. Agency for International Development reported Thursday that 13 of 15 government ministry buildings had been destroyed.

"This was pseudo-engineering. It was terrible," said Eduardo Fierro, a California-based forensic and seismic engineer who was among the first experts to survey the damage....

Most Caribbean countries, Haiti included, have building laws based on the Caribbean Uniform Building Code, said Cletus Springs, director of the OAS' Department of Sustainable Development in Washington. But in many places, rules exist only on paper....

Haiti has taken stabs at beefing up building codes in the past. Ironically, said architect Magloire, one expert brought in recently to work on the code died in the collapse of the Hotel Montana.

You may recall Tulsa City Councilor Jim Mautino's remarks from March 2010 regarding "taco trucks" and zoning, health, and tax enforcement:

City Councilor Jim Mautino said he had received complaints from constituents regarding six mobile food trailers. He said he was concerned about food safety and the city's ability to collect sales taxes.

"This is Third World stuff," he said. "When people come here we assimilate them (new residents of the country) into our lifestyle and our politics; it's not the other way around.

"And it seems to me like what's happening is we're being assimilated."

Mautino expanded on those comments in an April 28 UTW story:

As for new residents assimilating to the U.S., Mautino said this statement stemmed from what he was taught as a child.

"My parents came from Italy and their opinion was when you're in Rome you do like the Romans, when you're in America you do like the Americans," he said. "You come to this country and you don't change this country. You can add things that come from your country, but you abide by our laws."

And here's another immigration-related item, although not part of my essay, on the topic of immigration enforcement, a report that U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have no confidence that the agency's leadership is committed to enforcing the laws:

On June 11, 2010, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council and its constituent local representatives from around the nation, acting on behalf of approximately 7,000 ICE officers and employees from the ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), cast a unanimous "Vote of No Confidence" in the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton, and the Assistant Director of the ICE Office of Detention Policy and Planning, (ODPP), Phyllis Coven.

The letter from the president of the AFL-CIO-affiliated union that represents ICE agents explains that local law enforcement is really the only path to immigration enforcement at the moment:

  • While ICE reports internally that more than 90 percent of ICE detainees are first encountered in jails after they are arrested by local police for criminal charges, ICE senior leadership misrepresents this information publicly in order to portray ICE detainees as being non-criminal in nature to support the Administration's position on amnesty and relaxed security at ICE detention facilities.
  • The majority of ICE ERO Officers are prohibited from making street arrests or enforcing United States immigration laws outside of the institutional (jail) setting. This has effectively created "amnesty through policy" for anyone illegally in the United States who has not been arrested by another agency for a criminal violation.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 8, 2010 1:21 AM.

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