"The main noise (…) has been about asylum-seekers and how to keep them out. But the real issue is the immigrants, and their descendants, who are already inside. Integrate these, and European societies could cope well enough with the relatively few asylum-seekers." According to this sentence, taken from an article of the Economist (published in May 2003), the main problem with the burning issue of immigration is the implementation of appropriate integration policies. Indeed, the journalist implies that if efficient integration policies really existed, societies could easily welcome all the asylum-seekers without any problem. The study of the theories and practices of assimilation, examining the French and the American examples, can enable to us to reflect upon those issues of integration.
[...] Yet, sociologists argue that there is a crisis of the Republican institutions in France, particularly regarding public schools and public services. As a result, people have more and more the feeling that a cultural threat has reached France. They want to maintain their traditional national answer, the Republican ideal of integration. Yet, it cannot be denied that the institutions which guarantee integration no longer exist, therefore, using the reference to the Republican myth can be dangerous as it may be used in a repressive way, according to Dominique Schnapper, sociologist and member of the Constitutional council. [...]
[...] Indeed, in other countries, immigrants are free to assimilate to the national culture if they want to but compulsory assimilation as it is practised in France is often seen as a form of intolerance and xenophobia. Thus, the old and virulent debate on the right of school girls to wear headscarves at school a burning issue since the Stasi law was voted in 2003 is often considered as irrelevant or ridiculous in other countries. This French exception is a problem within the European Union, as most Europeans do not practise this kind of compulsory assimilation. [...]
[...] So the current definition of assimilation would be a system in which migrants should lose their specific differences to melt into their new society, of which they would become regular citizens, with the same rights and duties as the others. Today, assimilation appears as a political basis/theory, but the word itself is less and less used as it was used in colonial times, as it is now considered as a derogatory word. A more fashionable concept appeared in the 70's, the concept of “integration”. [...]
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