The Washington Post has an article this morning about a new law being proposed in France that will crackdown on immigration in that country. It makes for some sadly familiar reading. Or does it?
The proposed French law is a bad law, but immigration in a country like France is different from immigration in the U.S. France and England and Italy are nations whose origins are lost in the mist of time. There was a nation of France long before there was a nation-state called France. Indeed, Italy did not become a soveriegn nation-state until the middle of the 19th century. Not only does this mean that assimilation there is a different prospect sociologically than it is in the U.S. where everyone is from somewhere else, it means that France also lacks the historical narrative that we enjoy in the U.S. We are a nation of immigrants. You cannot write the history of the United States without bumping up time and again the manifold contributions immigrants have made to shaping our nation. Anti-immigrant fervor in France can be ugly, it can be bigoted, but it may not be un-French. In America, anti-immigrant fervor is, as a philosophic proposition, un-American.