Immigration and Multiculturalism

Sunday, October 3, 2021
First Aired: 
Sunday, March 10, 2019

What Is It

Whether for economic reasons or to flee violence and persecution, immigration rates continue to climb globally. At the same time, opposition to immigration and intolerance of multiculturalism is also growing. Should cultural or ethnic identity ever be a factor in immigration policy? Do immigrants have an obligation to assimilate to the dominant culture? Or should we make cultural accommodations for immigrants who don’t share our values and traditions? Do the answers vary depending on how culturally diverse or homogenous the host country already is? The Philosophers lift the gate for Sarah Song from the UC Berkeley School of Law, author of Immigration and Democracy.

Comments (6)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, March 8, 2019 -- 10:48 AM

The questions asked in your

The questions asked in your WHAT IS IT tag beg a host of others, many with ethical implications. The world is very different to that which existed when my ancestors came to America. My own ethnic, racial and cultural background is diverse, ranging from Wales and the British Isles, to the Netherlands and Germany, as well as native American people right here in the USA. My family considered itself American first and the rest second, third, fourth and so on. There was no quibbling or squabbling over such questions as are now international news. Religious differences were secondary in nearly every instance because family matters were bigger than those. Yes, I come from simpler times and am most grateful for that reality. I am most certainly grateful for the life I have been given; trying to make the most of it without imposing my values on everyone who will listen.

I do not suggest that current circumstances might adapt themselves to antiquated views, custom or tradition. However, those who come to America, somehow expecting her to bend to their every whim and need, may be in for a rude awakening. Maybe even more than one. There is much being made of the "strength" of a new crop of legislators. Some of them are from other lands and one or two have been outspoken, getting on some folks'nerves. I hope they will not be too badly bruised by their own outspokenness. Much has also been made of the divisiveness we see today; with plenty of blame to go 'round. The thing about America is this: at bottom, one size fits all, multiculturalism notwithstanding. Also worth considering: there are many millions more of us now than there were in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is not the wild west, in the sense that people once thought it was. We have no need for dissension and malcontent. Inclusion is the new paradigm. But those who would BE included,need to want to be included. The street goes both ways.

beactive's picture


Monday, March 11, 2019 -- 10:24 PM

First, I would like to have

First, I would like to have known what was meant by Dr. Song's comment that immigrants are obligated to integrate. What does integration mean, and how is that contrasted to assimilation?

Second, I heard her say that immigrants' opinions have nothing to do with culture. What?? Did I hear wrong? If not, I don't get it because such opinions have everything to do with culture.

Now, she said that something to the effect that immigrants deserve full participation in America, and that this entails the right to change the culture. This is precisely where things become fraught. Again, what is "integration"? How much integration do we have a right to expect? What kinds of changes become intolerable?

I struggle with this question, and I'm wondering how other people see it?

Ganesh's picture


Tuesday, March 12, 2019 -- 1:05 PM

A discussion about

A discussion about immigration can't be complete without referring to the research by Tajfel and many others around in/out groups. The innate sense of superiority for those in the in-group was perhaps an evolutionary strength - it may have helped to bond tribes more closely together to win/retain resources. Today, though, our base instinct of loyalty to an in-group, I argue, is the root cause of many of the problems we see in public discourse around immigration. Morally or ethically or rationally speaking, why should one believe to be superior to others, based on pure chance of where we were born and to whom?

If I were Tzar of immigration, my first order of business would be to institute a new practice of "Get Over Yourself-ism". The central tenet - "Don't judge others except for their actions directly impact others." One of the hosts mentioned the challenge when deciding how to set the line for exclusion. He mentioned categories such as homophobia or racism. In "Get Over Yourself-ism" - you would be free to enter and assimilate so long as your beliefs do not negatively impact those around you.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 -- 1:29 PM

Hear! Hear! (or is that: Here

Hear! Hear! (or is that: Here! Here!?) We who read and love philosophy know there are and have always been 'philosophical problems', even those whose solutions are eternally intractable. It may be fair to say, at this time anyway, that immigration is THE problem for the twenty-first century. I hope my assessment is not too grandiose. beactive's question about integration vs. assimilation is spot-on for this discussion. At the risk of over-simplification, I think many people, when talking about this topic, probably use the words interchangeably. That is not exactly right, but the distinction may be thin. Ganesh goes to one root of the problem by reference to tribalism. But these are thought starters only. I am not a social scientist---only an opinionated, social critic. Someone's got to do it. I have been wondering, just for grins, is there really a material difference between ETERNITY and INFINITY? Just asking...

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, August 12, 2021 -- 11:55 AM

The Afghans are falling back

The Afghans are falling back under the domination of Taliban fanaticism. The US president sez they have to fight for themselves. If that were the fact now, it would have been the fact years and lives ago.. The Russians got their noses bloodied, asses kicked, years ago, UNDER A CRESCENT MOON. Good book. USA interests fell out of favor when leadership recognized the same path. Immigration and multiculturalism should not appear simultaneously in the same sentence. Not unless their presence IS simultaneous. In Canada, for example, immigration and multiculturalism complement one another. Or used to. I have not been there for awhile.

Anyhow, we finally recognized the folly of Viet Nam. Now, later, Afghanistan. There have been other places where we should not have stuck our nose. Consult your history books if you have doubts. Don't rely on your parents or grandparents. They bought the lie. Because they wanted to be good Americans. Many later regretted it.

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